GRAND RAPIDS — Grand Rapids Community College plans to use a $100,000 grant from the JPMorgan Chase Foundation to try to convince more middle school and high school students to consider a career in health care.
The college plans to reach out to schools to encourage eighth-, ninth- and 10th-grade students to enroll in a trio of week-long “Health Care Scrubs Camps” scheduled for this summer that will introduce them to health care jobs in the region.
GRCC hopes that Grand Rapids Public Schools students who participate in a Scrubs Camp and get introduced to the health care industry will start down a path in high school that leads them to study a health care profession after graduation, said Julie Parks, executive director of GRCC Workforce Training.
“There is a huge need in our community for health care workers,” Parks said.
GRCC will work through the Grand Rapids Public Schools, churches and community organizations such as the Grand Rapids Urban League and the Hispanic Center of Western Michigan to reach out to students. The program particularly hopes to reach underserved minority populations who have not traditionally gone into health care because “they think there are just doctors and nurses,” Parks said.
“They don’t realize all of the other occupations in a hospital,” she said.
The Scrubs Camp costs about $1,800 per participant. Students will pay only $25 and the JPMorgan Chase Foundation grant covers the remaining cost.
GRCC plans to host three camps this summer, with the first starting in June. The camps will involve learning at simulation labs, touring local care facilities, mentoring from health care professionals, job-shadowing and working with career coaches. Professionals from Spectrum Health, Mercy Health Saint Mary’s and Holland Home will provide instruction and work with students, Parks said.
After completing the camp, students are “going to have a good feel for what health care is,” she added.
“They’re going to get to experience all of those different careers and see them in action,” Parks said. “A big part of this work is career exploration, giving students hands-on, up-close looks at careers so they can be inspired and prepare for their future.”
The Scrubs Camp targets high-demand fields such as medical assistants, certified nursing assistants, surgical techs, sterile processing techs and phlebotomists.
In the Grand Rapids area, employment for medical assistants doubled from 2007 to 2017 and is projected to grow another 10.5 percent from 2017 to 2024, according to data in Grand Valley State University’s 2019 Health Check report. Medical assistant positions in the area paid an annual mean wage of $33,240.
Employment in the region for surgical techs grew 134 percent from 2007 to 2017 and is expected to grow another 15 percent by 2024, according the GVSU report. Surgical techs earn a mean annual wage of $49,363.
The grant to support the three Scrubs Camp sessions this summer was the fourth totaling $265,000 that GRCC received since 2014 from the JPMorgan Chase Foundation. Prior grants supported training in industrial sewing, logistics programs and health care. Ninety-three percent of participants who received training in programs funded by the foundation have secured jobs.
If the 2019 camps go well, GRCC will seek to continue the program with the support of health care employers, Parks said.
“We’re hoping that it’s very successful and that employers will want to engage in more of this work, and I think it will be,” she said. “Right now, they’re willing to pilot and see how it goes. If it pays off as they’re trying to get more individuals into their open jobs, then it’ll be a big win.”