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State grant helps Douglas County students prepare for health care careers

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DOUGLAS COUNTY -- Thirteen Douglas County school districts will have the opportunity to benefit from a $432,000 career-readiness grant awarded by the state as part of an effort to match students with family-wage, high-demand jobs in the local health care industry.

The Oregon Department of Education this week announced awards totaling $10.3 million in Career & Technology Education Revitalization Grant funds. Douglas Education Service District is the fiscal agent for the $432,367 grant awarded to the Douglas Healthcare Career Pathways Program. The program is the result of a partnership with Douglas ESD, the school districts it serves, Umpqua Community College, and 14 local health industry partners.

Funds for the 18-month grant are earmarked for two types of health care pathways, according to Analicia Nicholson, Douglas ESD’s director of Education Services. She said one pathway allows students to complete a Basic Allied Health Certificate in high school. The certificate can help a student qualify for allied health careers, such as a medical assistant, or continue education for careers such as surgical, lab or pharmacy technicians.

“When a student applies for a job and has that certificate, it tells the employer that this applicant has taken classes and has a background in the subject matter,” Nicholson said. “It also signals the candidate could be successful in this position.”

The program’s second component is geared toward students on a path to careers that require more education and training, such as registered nurses, licensed practical nurses and physician assistants. It will consist of classes or other structured guidance to help students ensure they have enrolled in the necessary prerequisites and curriculum to follow through with their goals, Nicholson said. The program will also arrange for UCC staff to collaborate with high school teachers for students on both pathways, so that teachers are prepared to lead the classes their students will need.

Randy Hubbard, a registered nurse and main surgical services manager at CHI Mercy Medical Center, said the CTE grant approval and revitalization project will help create new and exciting educational pathways and career opportunities for local high school students.

“In health care, the demand for allied and nursing professionals far exceeds the supply,” Hubbard said. “The CTE grant, Douglas ESD, local health care facilities and efforts from leaders throughout the community – all will play key roles in building a highly skilled local talent pool.”

The program is also a boon to the local economy, helping employers fill job openings in a competitive field – ideally with homegrown workers.

According to the Oregon Department of Education, graduation rates for students in Oregon CTE programs are 15.5 percent higher than the statewide average.

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