Charlton Kirby sees a purpose in the hard life that left him unemployed, raising four boys, and struggling to make ends meet.

“I am a believer that things happen for a reason,” says the 49-year-old Des Moines, Iowa, resident. “After the life I have lived, I see now that I am here to care for others.”

The opportunity to return to the workforce as a caregiver came through Training and Educating Adults for a Career in Healthcare (TEACH), an initiative launched by association member Broadlawns Medical Center in partnership with Urban Dreams, a local nonprofit. TEACH, along with TECH (Training and Educating for a Career in Healthcare), a similar program for high school students, provide paid health care job training opportunities for people who, like Kirby, live in the low-income areas surrounding the Des Moines hospital.

“We really wanted to come up with a way to try to be an anchor for the community,” says Katie Wengert, director of marketing and public relations at Broadlawns, “specifically…in trying to not only address their health care needs as a medical center, but to address some of the underlying considerations that are precluding these people from optimizing their health.”

For many, those obstacles to good health include unemployment and poverty, so TEACH and TECH guide participants to health care jobs that often are hard to fill. Participants spend three weeks observing different departments at the hospital and developing customer service and professional skills through “soft skills” training, says Lindsay Fett, human resources coordinator at Broadlawns Medical Center. Participants then begin certified nursing assistant (CNA) training, which provides them with 150 hours of classroom and clinical experience that they can use for a future career.

TEACH graduation

TEACH Program participants gather at their August 2017 graduation. Photo courtesy Broadlawns Medical Center.

The first group of TECH students completed training in April 2017, and TEACH students graduated in August. Upon graduation, many find permanent jobs with Broadlawns, Fett says.  New TECH and TEACH classes convened in October. Kirby, among the new participants, says he looks forward to TEACH graduation and a job to support him and his sons.

For Shannon McGuire, 18, the TECH program was key in preparing her for a future career. She first heard about the program when Cody Hiles, Urban Dreams’ director of community engagement, spoke to her high school class.

“Since I’ve always been interested in health care, I was super excited, and it felt like it was meant to be,” McGuire says. “I thought it was an amazing opportunity, knowing I wouldn’t have had the money to pay for a CNA class myself, and that I needed a job.”

TECH graduation

Shannon McGuire was among the nine graduates of the inaugural TECH program in April 2017. Photo courtesy Broadlawns Medical Center.

Broadlawns hired McGuire as a technician after she graduated from the first TECH class in April 2017. “I love working there because they’re very flexible with school and everything else in my life,” she says.

Besides professional experience, she’s also gained valuable mentors.

“My coworkers are very friendly, and they also give me advice for the future,” McGuire says. “Cody from Urban Dreams has been like a father figure to our class, whether it’s dropping off lunch for us or giving us rides when we had nobody else.”

McGuire’s future looks bright. After graduating high school next year, she hopes to go to college for nursing and eventually become a midwife.

“It’s always been my dream job, so this opportunity has opened the door to my health care career,” she says.

Interested in learning more about Broadlawns’ TECH and TEACH programs? Broadlawns staff will share their experiences launching these programs in a members-only webinar on Dec. 6 at 2 pm ET. Register online here, and read more about the program at essentialcommunities.org.