Prospective students in Pierce County will soon be able to obtain a paid healthcare apprenticeship while attending classes in-person and virtually at Clover Park Technical College thanks to a partnership between Clover Park, the Health Care Apprenticeship Consortium, and the Virtual Healthcare Institute.
By using modern technology, the Virtual Healthcare Institute is able to create a virtual reality classroom where students can hone their medical skills. Paired with soon-to-be healthcare apprenticeship cohorts and Clover Park, future students will have one of the most flexible, accessible Medical Assistant programs available in Washington.
Brandon Rogers, Associate Dean of Instruction at Clover Park Technical College, sat down to talk with the Training Fund about what excites him the most about this partnership.
Training Fund: Tell me a little bit about Clover Park Technical College.
Brandon: Clover Park is one of the state’s five technical colleges, we’re a part of the 34 community colleges here in the state of Washington. Although, we kind of defy easy definition, because we are also a Technical High School and a baccalaureate institution. So, it’s one of the few places in the state or the region where you can earn a high school diploma, you can earn an associate degree, and you can earn a bachelor’s degree, which is pretty neat. We’ve been around for about 80 years. We offer about 50 programs and our main campus is located in Lakewood, Washington.
Training Fund: Would you share why Clover Park partnered with the Training Fund and the work with the Virtual Healthcare Institute?
Brandon: The partnership supports our mission and our core values in a number of ways. Our mission is to educate the workforce of tomorrow so we’re constantly trying to think about innovations and disruptions in the workforce and economic development system, and certainly we’ve seen that over the course of the last year. One of our core themes is workforce education. And if you’re not familiar with apprenticeship there’s probably no better method of workforce education than apprenticeship because participants earn a living wage and benefits right from day one and over the course of their apprenticeship. They leave with a certificate or a degree. They leave with a resume and they leave with the first job on the path towards a career.
I would say in terms of the Training Fund the other thing that really appeals to us is the Training Fund’s emphasis on building a diverse workforce. Equity is a core value of ours. So, with that in mind, the partnership with the Training Fund is just a really good fit.
Training Fund: Can you tell me a little bit about what excites you for Clover Park and the virtual education aspect of this.
Brandon: As I mentioned earlier, innovation is something that’s very exciting for us. Moving to the virtual arena is something we’ve talked about in our system for years and years.
The last year has really put a spotlight on the importance of looking at distance learning and virtual instruction. Not as a sort of plan B that you break out in the case of emergency, but as a core application of education and training.
What’s really exciting for me as a dean and as an administrator is having the opportunity to conduct observations of our faculty in an online setting where they’ve really figured out how to build engagement and apply adult learning principles.
It’s been pretty remarkable and we know moving forward into the new normal this is going to be a part of our core mission. We’re really excited about what we’ve done in the past year and what that bodes for the future.
Training Fund: You talked a little bit about this last year and the COVID-19 pandemic. How has that pivoted apprenticeship programs, how has that changed it?
Brandon: You know that’s a really good question. If you’re not familiar with apprenticeship, you may not understand that apprenticeship is employment and education. In order to have an apprenticeship, you have to have an employer-employee relationship, there has to be a job. So, in a pandemic, or recession, or another disruption, if the jobs go away there is no apprenticeship, you have to have employment. Foodservice is a good example, it has been much more impacted by COVID-19 than, for example, the industries that are historically represented by apprenticeship here in the state of Washington. On a positive note, those traditional fields such as construction, firefighting, and now healthcare, that are growing into apprenticeship have done a good job historically of protecting the safety of their employees.
[These professions] have a sense of safety, they have a good sense of personal protective equipment, and they’ve historically weathered the storms a little bit better. They’ve resisted pandemics and recessions, although they’ve seen a slight dip in employment. They’ve still been relatively robust and have a pretty bright future. From the on-the-job training perspective, there hasn’t been that much of an impact relative to other fields.
For the related supplemental instruction, sort of the classroom piece, the pivot has really occurred with moving more of that instruction to an online format. And I think we’ve been able to do that pretty well. We’ve been able to move a lot of the theory into online delivery and distance learning, so we haven’t seen quite as much of a disruption in apprenticeship, as non-apprenticeship programs and fields that have been more directly impacted by the pandemic.
Training Fund: Tell us a little bit about the classroom that we’re sitting in. How did it come to be?
Brandon: When [Training Fund Executive Director] Laura Hopkins reached out to us and talked about a partnership with the Training Fund, we were really excited. I will also say I was a little nervous, because at that point, especially prior to COVID-19, we were kind of bursting at the seams. We have a dozen healthcare and nursing programs here at the college. Even with a 55,000 square-foot facility, which is only about 10 years old, we didn’t have room for all of the students and staff and faculty that we had at the time.
Coming up with a good space a suitable space was something that worried me just a little bit. However, when COVID-19 really hit, we moved some of our classroom instruction to an online modality. Some space did open up and one of those spaces is this particular classroom. We had some other equipment lying around so we were able to design a suitable classroom, we put in a little bit of sweat equity to make it look suitable for the students. We also received some grant funding to purchase equipment and supplies.
Training Fund: How can someone get trained in a healthcare program without being on campus at all for all of their classes?
Brandon: Back in my days as an admissions counselor, talking to prospective students about their career choices sort of underscored with me that we have sometimes a myopic vision of what that field actually is.
My mom was a nurse, and I was at one point a firefighter and EMT, so I suffer from that as well. I think of healthcare and I think of direct patient care. But the field of healthcare is broad. There are a number of opportunities for prospective applicants to look at, fields other than say, nursing. I think the Training Fund has done a fantastic job of envisioning an apprenticeship portfolio that includes both clinical and non-clinical opportunities. They’re doing some good development in pharmacy technician, central services, and sterile processing.
Over the last year, we partnered with the Training Fund on a grant application to the Lieutenant Governor’s Office, received funding, and have recently developed a non-clinical pathway. [We are] using apprenticeship and distance learning for behavioral health.
If you’re concerned about a field where you’re going to have to be in a person-to-person classroom setting or on-site, talk with one of our advisors, go to our website cptc.edu, or talk with the staff at the Training Fund, and just be prepared to be amazed. There are lots and lots of opportunities in healthcare that you may not have thought about and I’m sure if you investigate you will find something that’s going to be a good fit for you.