North Idaho College to create two healthcare programs with workforce development grant

North Idaho College to create two healthcare programs with workforce development grant

North Idaho College has been awarded a $207,590 Idaho Department of Labor grant to fund two new courses in the healthcare field: Medical Assistant Apprenticeship and Patient Care Technician.

The IDOL Workforce Development Training Industry Sector Grant Health Career Pathway Solutions Project allows the NIC Workforce Training Center to offer the new programs in conjunction with six healthcare industry partners: Kaniksu Health Services, Kootenai Health, Heritage Health, North Idaho Advanced Care Hospital, Northwest Specialty Hospital, and the Rehabilitation Hospital of the Northwest.

“All of these healthcare partners recognize the growing need for more medical assistants and patient care technicians. They’ve come together with NIC to address potential future workforce shortages in the healthcare sector,” said Dotty Heberer, NIC Health Professions coordinator. “This new healthcare grant will allow us to fill some gaps.”

The grant project is designed to upgrade 54 incumbent nursing assistants – 30 Patient Care Technicians and 24 Medical Assistants – in the next two years.

“One of the challenges to our organization is attracting and retaining staff with the credentials needed to run our facilities efficiently and affordably,” said Megan Forge, director of Human Resources for Kaniksu Health Services, which has offices in Sandpoint, Bonners Ferry, Priest River and Ponderay. “This would give our providers and patients more support during treatment, and will allow us to run more efficiently and affordably. This will also bring higher wages and opportunities for growth within our organization and the community.”

This grant is the latest of three major of IDOL grants since 2015 that total $892,672. In 2017, NIC was awarded $482,582 through the IDOL Workforce Development Training Industry Sector Grant to boost training for the wood products manufacturing industry. In 2015, NIC was awarded $202,500 through the same IDOL grant program to fund three new courses in the healthcare field: Mental Health Assistant, Restorative Assistant, and Patient Care Coordinator.

“Programs like the Medical Assistant Apprenticeship model will focus on removing barriers to training and career advancement for low-wage incumbent healthcare workers,” Heberer said. “Wage loss, transportation, childcare, tuition, and other costs quickly add up and make workforce training programs inaccessible for many in North Idaho. The apprenticeship model allows incumbent workers to ‘earn and learn,’ working towards certification and higher wages without having to temporarily drop out of the workforce. It will be the first healthcare apprenticeship in North Idaho.”

Employment for medical assistants in North Idaho is projected to grow 26.8 percent between 2014 and 2024, according to the Idaho Department of Labor. Healthcare support occupations are expected to increase 23.2 percent between 2016 and 2026, making them one of the fastest growing occupational groups in the country.

Statewide, healthcare companies added 46 percent to their payrolls over the last decade, and are projected to continue growing. Idaho Department of Labor Regional Business Specialist Ricia Lasso and IDOL Workforce Consultant Bonnie Niles became aware of the shortage of medical assistants in North Idaho seven years ago and have worked diligently to seek out a sound solution, Heberer said. The Health Career Pathway Project provides one solution to this shortage.

“The demand for these services will only increase, nationally and regionally,” Heberer said. “Regional growth and an aging population will continue to drive the demand for healthcare services and increase the need for a trained local workforce.”