Health Forward Foundation

Jill Biden Visits KC to Discuss Healthcare Workforce Initiatives

Local Partnerships Helps Train Workers for Health Care Professions

A soon-to-be launched curriculum at Metropolitan Community College holds out the promise of workforce partnerships with public health providers.

Plans call for the free classes to begin this summer through MoHealthWINs, which includes the state’s 12 community colleges and Linn State Technical College.

Funded with a $20 million grant from the U.S. Department of Labor, the program aims to retrain unemployed workers for health care jobs. Metropolitan Community College officials said they expect the college will serve more than a quarter of the roughly 3,200 workers Missouri has pledged to assist with retraining.

College officials addressed the public health angle after appearances Monday by Jill Biden, wife of U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, and Jane Oates, assistant secretary for employment and training with the U.S. Department of Labor.

The women participated in a roundtable discussion – held at the Metropolitan Community College-Penn Valley Health Science Institute – on the role of community colleges in helping train workers for burgeoning health care professions.

“We want to give students every opportunity that we can,” the president of the college’s business and technology campus, Deborah Goodall, said in an interview. “This is not tied to any one company.”
Goodall made the point after discussion that focused extensively on an internship program that Metropolitan Community College has developed with Cerner Corp., the health care information technology company based in North Kansas City, Mo.

School officials said the Cerner program was an example of the type of on-the-job training they would like to establish through MoHealthWINs.

With the program expected to serve as many as 30 students at a time, Goodall said the college wants to establish relationships with as many employers as possible to ensure there are good training opportunities.

“This the beauty of community colleges – it is all about jobs,” Biden said at the conclusion of the roundtable discussion. She holds a doctorate in education and teaches English at a community college outside of Washington, D.C.

“It’s not just the 18-year-olds coming out of high school,” she said. “It’s people of all ages who need to be retrained in this economy.”

Funding for MoHealthWINs is coming through the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training grant program. Oates said it’s too early to measure the program with hard data after only six months.

“But we have soft data,” she said. “We know people are tripping over themselves to get into these classes.”

Urban community colleges tend to attract students from their surrounding neighborhoods, said Clyde McQueen, chief executive officer of the Full Employment Council, a nonprofit group that addresses issues of unemployment and underemployment in a five-county area.

That could be especially helpful in producing public health workers, he said, because the students likely would be better able to understand the diverse cultural mores of an urban patient population.

Hilda Fuentes also attended the roundtable discussion. As chief executive of the Samuel U. Rodgers Health Center, Fuentes has hired University of Missouri-Kansas City interns to full-time positions.

Fuentes is a graduate of Northern Virginia Community College, the same school where Biden teaches. She said she understood the potential of MoHealthWINs for public health providers and the demand among them for trained workers.

“There is such a need for people who are interested in the IT world and the new systems and the new technologies that come about to implement and transform organizations through technology,” she said.

Ethan Roy is a former Metropolitan Community College student who participated in the internship program with Cerner.

He was one of three current or former community college students that participated in the roundtable, including a former pizza shop manager who went back to school at age 30 and is about to obtain a radiology technician degree from State Fair Community College in Sedalia, Mo.

As a high school student, Roy started his information technology training at the Herndon Career Center in Raytown. He parlayed his internship at Cerner into a full-time position as a system operations specialist.

“It was a really natural process,” Roy said of his transition from intern to full-time employee. “I woke up one day and said, ‘They are offering me a job.’”

Officials with the community college said providers interested in working with the school through MoHealthWINs could contact George Hudson, MCC’s liaison for employer partnership opportunities, at or 816-604-1538.

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