America’s Promise grantees are just over a year into their period of performance and they are already expanding partnerships, strengthening career pathways, and increasing opportunities for all Americans to prosper. The America’s Promise Technical Assistance team asked grantees about the lessons they learned and the successes, challenges, and surprises they experienced over the past year. 

Here are two stories from our America’s Promise community that focus on the healthcare industry.

Monroe Community College (MCC), Monroe, New York
Project Name: New York INSPIRE: Advancing Finger Lakes Forward
Program Manager: Christina Bakewicz

Project Description: The Finger Lakes United for Success Consortium is implementing a comprehensive program to connect underserved urban and rural youth, veterans, unemployed, and incumbent workers with quality middle- to high- skills training in top H-1B occupations in the Finger Lakes Region. The project is expanding accelerated completion, work-based learning, supportive services, and job placement. A key training strategy is harnessing employer engagement for expansion of access to training in high-demand industries and a regional Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA)-to-Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) bridge program with articulation to baccalaureate level Registered Nurse (RN) career pathways.

United Way of Central Iowa (UWCI), Des Moines, IA
Project Name: Central Iowa HealthWorks
Program Manager: Amber Ramirez

Project Description: The United Way of Central Iowa America’s Promise Project is directly addressing the need for qualified individuals to pursue a career in the H-1B healthcare industry. They are training for occupations in four progressive levels. Level 1: Home Health Aides and Personal Care Aides; Level 2: Nursing Assistants; Level 3: Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technicians and Certified Medical Assistants; Level 4: Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses, Surgical Technologists, and Registered Nurses. The careers included directly align with the healthcare industry sector targeted by the Central Iowa Careers in Healthcare Workforce Partnership.

What has been the impact on grant participants who have either started or completed your training?

Monroe Community College (MCC): The training the participants receive prepares them to work in in-demand industries in our region. They also have access to job search services, helping them navigate the job market once training nears completion. Thanks to our supportive services, several of our participants have also been able to remain in school despite facing tough circumstances, such as lack of transportation, food insecurity, and unstable housing.

United Way of Central Iowa (UWCI): Before we received an America’s Promise Grant, it was harder for populations with barriers to employment to attend CNA classes in Central Iowa. The community college had limited spots and the only other location that provided classes did not have financial assistance. The America’s Promise Grant enables us to help participants find classes that are convenient, navigate the prerequisites for each class, pay tuition and purchase the scrubs and medical equipment necessary for training, and provide gas cards and bus passes when transportation is a problem. With this grant we are able to help more individuals complete the training they need to get into higher paying positions and start on healthcare career pathways.

We also created a partnership with a local hospital to provide CNA training for people living in their own neighborhood right in the hospital. Many of these individuals have criminal histories and would not have the opportunity to work in healthcare without the support of the employer. In partnership with the America’s Promise Grant, the hospital is making healthcare careers more accessible to people in the neighborhood and they are gaining employees with different language skills, background experiences and cultural knowledge that will benefit the hospital and the people they serve.

What are some of the challenges your program overcame that made an impact on your targeted populations?

MCC: Our challenge was reaching our target populations: underserved, low-income urban and rural youth and adults, as well as unemployed and underemployed individuals, and veterans.  To address this, we have partnered with non-profits, the New York State Department of Labor (NYS DOL), our local career centers, and others to assist in reaching our target population and obtaining referrals.

UWCI: One challenge for us has been how to best assist participants who are English language learners to start their healthcare career pathway. Our first attempt was to provide a CNA class with support from English language teachers. With limited CNA spots and instructors in Central Iowa, this partnership did not work well. It was difficult to convince the CNA class to change their model to support a certain group when they do not have enough instructors to teach students who do not need extra supports. As a solution, we partnered with a direct care provider class instead that had an instructor with extensive experience working with diverse populations. This approach turned out to be highly successful.

Because of this experience, we plan to train new instructors to be able to offer Direct Care Provider Training for English Language Learners. This class increases participants’ knowledge in healthcare skills and terminology and serves as a feeder into other healthcare training courses. 

What are promising practices you have incorporated into your America's Promise Grant and how did your partnership contribute to this promising practice. 

MCC: Partnership with our local workforce development board (WDB) is a critical part of the success of our students and the overall project. We introduce our participants to our WDB representative at the very beginning of the application/enrollment process. The WDB representative informs participants of job opportunities that will be available to them once training is complete, guides them through the application/enrollment process, and provides them with job search assistance such as resume assistance, interview advisement, and more. Participants know from the very beginning that training is just one part of the seamless and encompassing support they will receive throughout their entire journey to a better career. The NY Inspire project team maintains close, regular contact with WDB representatives. Problem solving and research about additional community services takes place in a collaborative manner, which allows for leveraging of other community supports. 

UWCI: A promising practice we have incorporated into our America’s Promise Grant is to meet monthly with both our employer and community partners. Our Central Iowa Careers in Healthcare Meeting has had great attendance from our employer and training partners including the three local hospital organizations, long-term care facilities, clinics, and in-home care providers. Our partnerships have been key in our success with recruiting. Our employers have referred incumbent employees that would benefit from more training. They have referred employees working in other areas like food service or laundry that would be great in the healthcare field if they had the correct training. They have also referred job seekers that come to them looking for work, but do not have all of the training needed for the positions.

We also hold monthly Job Developer Meetings with our community-based-organization partners and they also referred many qualified participants to us. Our community partners sent us individuals that have interest or experience in the healthcare field and would benefit from training. We have been contacted by over 500 candidates thanks to the partnerships we have in the community at both employers and community organizations.

What does the success of the America’s Promise grant look like in your community and what are the key differences your organization and community have seen over the past year as a result of the grant?

MCC: Success of the America’s Promise grant in our community means individuals with barriers to employment and training have equal access and support to not only enter training, but also complete it. It also means a clear, personalized path to self-sufficiency for participants.

UWCI: Of the 112 enrolled participants at the end of the third quarter, 77 participants (69%) are minorities, 51 participants (46%) are refugees or immigrants, eight participants (7%) have a disability, 26 participants (23%) are single parents, 12 participants (11%) have little work history, seven participants (6%) have a criminal record, 42 participants (42%) are low income and 107 participants (96%) live in households at 250% or less of the federal poverty level.

We are hoping to change the face of healthcare in Central Iowa to more accurately reflect the population that is being served. We have made a good start with that by training qualified individuals and have started to see these individuals getting hired. We are also hoping to raise the incomes of the individuals entering in our program. By providing more stability one family at a time with good health care careers, we are benefiting the whole community of Des Moines.