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Building a Workforce through Innovation

Spring 2011 | Archives

MCC Partners with Employers to Move Students into Viable Careers

It started with a problem: Local employers were reporting high turnover rates among Certified Nursing Assistants. Some employees hit a dead end in their careers and moved elsewhere. Other employees faced life issues or job dissatisfaction that impacted their performance.

Metropolitan Community College's (MCC) Stacey Ocander, Dean of Health and Public Services, thought she might have the solution. If MCC redesigned its CNA program with an emphasis on student and employer needs, employers would gain more qualified nursing assistants, and students would have a path to a viable career with living wages.

Nursing students The Employability SmartStart program is anchored by strategic alliances with employer partners. Employers support the program financially, provide on-site experience and participate in an exclusive career/hiring fair at the end of the program. The program targets students who are identified through local welfare-to-work agencies; students who demonstrate interest in a SmartStart program must attend an information session and complete a series of success indicator assessments, including a background check. By front-loading success criteria into the admissions process, students are spared from training for a field in which their background would deny employment.

Additionally, instead of earning just one credential, students in the program earn multiple credentials—boosting employment opportunities and increasing wage potential.

The model didn't end there. "We also decided it was time to bring in employability skills to teach people the soft skills—what it's like to go to work on time, dress appropriately and engage in conversations with your coworkers and supervisor in an appropriate way," Ocander said. Students also met weekly with a life skills coach that guided them through issues that might interrupt their education, such as a lack of child care or transportation.

These types of wrap-around services create the foundation for student success. Originally implemented in the Certified Nursing Assistant program, the model is now incorporated into the Ophthalmic Assistant, Clerk Patient Care Technician and Soil Remediation Specialist programs. The completion rate shows its success: 91 percent of students in four cohorts completed the program and certifications. A year after program completion, 83 percent of all students are employed or are seeking further education, and 83 percent of students reduced their dependency on state aid after completing the program.

"That's the most profound for us," Ocander said. "That's what we set out to do: to help students reach a life that would be sustainable for them and their families."

Heartland Workforce Solutions
MCC is partnering with the City of Omaha in a joint public/private project expected to revolutionize workforce development in Omaha. Heartland Workforce Solutions brings together the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce, the United Way and other organizations to match employers with unemployed individuals skilled in areas essential to their specific business. MCC will partner to provide training to meet employers' needs.

Customer Connect
MCC continues to partner with Goodwill to train individuals as customer service representatives in the call centers of insurance and banking businesses. Participants receive case management for the duration of the course providing individual support and attention. So far, the program as served 52 students. Visit www.goodwillomaha.org for more information.


FUN FACT: Employability SmartStart was a finalist for the Bellwether Awards, which recognize innovative education programs.

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