On Tuesday, August 23, 2022, community partners and students gathered at Copley Hospital for the graduation ceremony of the first cohort of the Copley Hospital Healthcare Career Pathways program. Seven students participated in the Copley program, which was developed in partnership with the Community College of Vermont (CCV), HireAbility, and the Vermont Department of Labor.

J.T. Vize, recruiter at Copley, sparked the idea for this program last year. While he said the initial objective was to fill positions in the hospital, he reflects that the concept grew after working with community partners: “this is so much bigger than just filling departments. This is about helping somebody grow their career.”

The Healthcare Career Pathways program follows the “earn while you learn” model of education, where students are able to learn in the classroom, earning college credits, while also earning a paycheck. This first cohort  was 12 weeks long, running from May to August 2022, and consisted of taking the Introduction to Health Care course at CCV and shadowing various jobs in the hospital. At the completion of the program, students earned three college credits, the OSHA 10 and Infection Control certificates, and received hands-on, paid experience in the hospital setting.

The job shadows were focused on areas outside of the clinical realm, such as schedulers, registrars, nutritional services, billers, and patient access. “I wanted to introduce these positions that individuals can right [away] apply for,” said J.T. “There’s nothing special they need, but a little bit of medical terminology….infection prevention…OSHA 10 certification would help.” Students were hired as employees at Copley at the start of the program, allowing them to be paid for their time shadowing. Participants were treated as potential coworkers by hospital department staff, and they were able to interview current employees throughout the process.

Amara Gates is one of the students in attendance at the graduation celebration. After completing two years of college to pursue athletic training, she said she fell out of interest in the field and wanted a new major. Knowing she still wanted to work in healthcare, she found this program which she said “sparked my interest…so I thought about applying, and I did.” Now, after completing the program she has plans to apply to radiology school in the fall, which she said this program helped her to do. “It’s definitely given me that foot in the door that I really needed. I made a lot of connections in the hospital through J.T. himself and in other departments that I was able to shadow,” she said. “I think that really helped me branch out in the community and in the healthcare world. I have a lot better understanding now than I did before this program.”

CCV President Joyce Judy joined the graduation ceremony and addressed the students: “On behalf of CCV, congratulations to all of the graduates. You are the people who invested all of your time and energy. We put this out, the collective we, but you are the ones who did the hard work and made it happen.” Judy asked the students who were in attendance how they felt when they started the program versus how they felt that day receiving their certificate of completion. They shared the similar sentiments of feeling nervous or scared at the start, but now being “proud” and “glad” of what they’ve accomplished. “There is nothing more powerful than investing in yourself and continuing your education,” Judy told them. “This opens up so many opportunities for you.”

Mike Keogh, director of business engagement at CCV, helped develop this program in conjunction with Copley. “Healthcare is one of our most critical resources in Vermont and the influences of an aging population and Covid have created more demand for new workers than ever before,” he said. “Now, whether you’re new to the workforce or a career changer, this program offers a singular entry point for anyone to get the skills, the certifications, and the experience to launch their healthcare career pathway. Copley truly invests in its people and its community and this program is a testament to that commitment.”

Kristy Allen is another student who completed the program, and is someone who has seen the opportunities firsthand. She received her LNA license her junior year of high school through the allied health program at GMTCC and completed the Copley Healthcare Career Pathways program during her senior year. Knowing she wanted to work in healthcare, she said this program was eye opening, remarking that “sometimes it’s easier to find the things you don’t want” as she shadowed each department. This led her to know what she does want to: be a floating LNA. The day of the graduation, Kristy formally received an offer for that position at Copley, saying that she’s “so excited” for that career.

J.T. says that Kristy’s job offer is just one of many ways that “we are already seeing results” from the program, and he  is hopeful that there will be another cohort in 2023.

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