Campus & Community

Partnership prepares displaced workers for health careers

Certified Nursing Assistant class of displaced workers benefiting from CareerSource scholarship
The special Belle Glade Cohort and future certified nursing assistants with their instructors, from left: Keelia Shortridge, Nikiis Tibbs, Rotasha Hill, Idriana Valdivia, Shameara Porter, Elizabeth King, Everqueshia Morgan, Torkita Williams, Shannon Daniels-McCloud, Teresa Mercado, Instructor Tracey McKelton and Instructor Suzanne Pinos

Ten students are now ready to embark on new health care careers after completing a special Palm Beach State College Certified Nursing Assistant program with scholarship support from CareerSource Palm Beach County.

The six-week program was offered at the Belle Glade campus, and all 10 students received scholarships funded by CareerSource through a National Dislocated Worker Grant from the U.S. Department of Labor. The scholarship targeted displaced workers, 18 and older with a high school diploma, who were recently laid off or no longer receiving unemployment. It covered tuition and additional expenses, such as textbooks and uniforms, equaling a value of about $1,200 for a Florida resident. The program concluded on May 17 but will be offered again in July.

CareerSource won the grant based on their Gateway to Geriatric Health Care proposal to create career pathways within the health care industry. The certified nursing assistant or CNA was chosen as the focus because it is an ideal career entry point. CNAs are in great demand, particularly in facilities catering to the elderly. After the relatively brief training, students are eligible to take the state certification exam, and upon passing, can start working immediately. CNA experience also serves as a springboard to other health care careers. It’s the first rung on the ladder to a nursing career, or can be the foundation for allied health careers such as phlebotomist and pharmacy technician.

Students receive hands-on training in campus labs as well as at local clinical sites. In the lab, student Elizabeth King portrays the patient, while classmate Torkita Williams takes her pulse.
Students receive hands-on training in campus labs as well as at local clinical sites. In the lab, student Elizabeth King portrays the patient, while classmate Torkita Williams takes her pulse.

Instructor Suzanne Pinos, who has taught PBSC’s CNA program for two years, is particularly proud of these students. Because it was a condensed version of the program—six weeks instead of eight—the days were long, but the students—all women—were up to the challenge.

“They were committed to it and worked very hard,” Pinos said. “I liked introducing them to the nursing profession and opening their eyes to a whole new world of opportunities. Adult learners sometimes question whether or not they’re able to go back to school, and I really love the fact that I helped them realize their self-esteem, that yes, they can do it.”

The students confirmed Pinos’ experience.

“I’m really happy that this opportunity came up because it was what I needed,” said Teresa Mercado, 46, who was laid off from a procurement position with the U.S. Navy. “The CNA program lit a fire in me and has given me confidence that I didn’t have before. I’m going to do other classes and be the best CNA, and then transition further into the nursing field. I’m going to be an RN one day.”

Nikkiis Tibbs, 23, had been working in security, but she realized she needed something more. “I love people, and with security, you can’t love people,” she said with a laugh. “This was a great program. You learn so much, you meet great people, and our instructors were really great. I think anybody interested in nursing should come here. I was nervous at first, but now I feel like I can do it, and I can do even more than this. I eventually want to become an RN. I don’t want to stop. I want to keep going.”

New session starts July 19; deadline to apply July 3
Katherine Bonner, director of Client Education and Training Programs for CareerSource Palm Beach County, oversees the grant and is pleased that scholarship funding is available for the next six-week CNA program beginning July 19 on the Belle Glade campus, with a program entry deadline of July 3. Prospective students interested in the CareerSource scholarship should call 561-340-1060, ext. 2698, or email Students who do not qualify for the scholarship are also welcome to enroll and can find program information on the PBSC Patient Care Assistant-Belle Glade Cohort webpage. An online information session for all interested students can be accessed from this webpage as well. (The eight-week program is offered on the Lake Worth campus, but is not supported by the CareerSource scholarship.)

“We’re excited about this accelerated program and partnering with Palm Beach State College,” Bonner said. “It helps people not only become trained and certified in the health care industry, but they get employed sooner. The program allows students to go from unemployment to a rewarding career in less than two months, and local health care employers get a much-needed infusion of qualified workers. Everyone benefits.”

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