SCHENECTADY : SCCC graduates 166 from health profession program
Rebecca Berschwinger said she never expected she would become part of the health-care industry.
The Duanesburg resident held various part-time positions, but now the wife and mother is a critical care technician in Ellis Hospital’s Intensive Care Unit.
“I love it. I’m able to be around people that are in need,” she said.
Berschwinger said this wouldn’t have been possible without Schenectady County Community College’s Health Profession Opportunity Grant program, which provides education to low-income residents. The program was funded through a $11.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. SCCC was one of just four institutions in New York state and 32 in the nation to receive the job-training funds.
Berschwinger was one of 166 certifi ed nursing aides and emergency medical technicians who received their diplomas at a ceremony Thursday in the college’s Taylor Auditorium. Not everyone could attend the event, but those who did heard from people who encouraged them to seek employment and continue learning.
Matthew Grattan, the college’s executive director of workforce development, said health care is a great fi eld to enter because it is stable and filled with opportunities. Grattan cited U.S. Department of Labor estimates that from 2008 to 2018 in the Capital Region, there is projected to be more than 1,000 new health care diagnostic, treatment and technician jobs.
Mark Olsen, administrator at the Kingsway Arms nursing home, said the grant came about four years ago when he was approached by officials at SCCC to help develop a front-line training program for certified nursing aides. That began a partnership that ultimately led to applying for the grant.
The college partners with the Albany Community Action Partnership, Schenectady Community Action Program and Northeast Parent and Child Society to train public assistance recipients and people with incomes up to 200 percent of the federal poverty level upstate.
Students get hands-on training in classrooms designed to look like rooms in a hospital or health care facility, complete with a bed and medical equipment. Olsen said the graduates will be well-prepared.
“You have successfully completed a difficult and rigorous program that can lead to a successful and rewarding career,” he said. “Use this experience to move up the career ladder if you wish, but remember, you can’t climb the ladder with hands in your pockets. Be proactive and search for future opportunities.”
More than 460 students have enrolled in the program since March 2011 and 90 percent have gone on to become licensed CNAs. College officials say more than 200 graduates have obtained employment in the first two years of the grant.
Amy Goldfarb, project director for the local program, quoted inspirational lines, including a line from rapper Eminem that got a cheer from the crowd.
“I’m not afraid to take a stand. Everybody come take my hand. We’ll walk this road together, through the storm,” she said.
New graduate Paula Harris said the program took longer than she thought. She had a habit of being late, she said, so she had to learn time management and grow up.
“You’ve got to stop making excuses for yourself. You’ve got to do it,” she said.
U.S. Rep Paul Tonko, D-Amsterdam, said the program is an offshoot of the Affordable Care Act to provide accessible and affordable health care.
“To make it work, we need the people. We need the trained clinicians, the service provider network I see before me,” he said.
Tonko added that this grant provides meaningful work to many people who have been affected by chronically high unemployment.
Friends Shenade Griffith and Shakira Grant, both of Schenectady, said they were anxiously waiting to find a job but were optimistic.
“I’ve already been called back for two interviews,” Griffith said.