Catastrophes can come in all shapes and sizes. First responders are critical to any community’s infrastructure, but natural and manmade disasters such as Hurricane Sandy and the Boston Marathon bombing, serve as powerful reminders that police officers, firefighters, paramedics and EMTs need to be increasingly adaptable and resilient to help a community recover.
After these catastrophes disrupted infrastructure and civic life in communities across the region, seven community colleges in New Jersey, New York, Connecticut and Massachusetts determined they would move forward to act on a shared commitment to build a more prepared and resilient workforce in industries central to preventing, responding to and recovering from disasters and crises. The Northeast Resiliency Consortium (NRC) colleges became the pioneers in the concept of workforce resiliency, by first defining resiliency as an individual’s persistent development and application of knowledge, skills and resources that effectively help one adapt to change and overcome adversity.
A $23.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) program, coupled with support from Achieving the Dream, a national reform network dedicated to community college student success, helps the NRC develop efforts that contribute to a highly skilled and resilient workforce in the Northeast.
One such program at LaGuardia Community College, located in Long Island City, N.Y., is called Supporting Adults through Vocational EMT Training (S.A.V.E. EMT) was designed to cultivate a strong, talented group of students who would make remarkable contributions as members of the local EMT workforce.
The S.A.V.E. EMT program targeted non-traditional, adult students (ages 21 and older) who showed a keen interest in serving their community, and prepared them to become certified EMTs quickly and efficiently. Combining vocational EMT coursework with basic skills instruction—to improve reading and writing skills—the program allows students to master EMT training materials while developing and reinforcing solid study strategies as well as academic skills. Participants must have a high school or equivalency diploma to enroll in the program.
“What truly sets us apart is that in addition to a comprehensive academic curriculum and hands-on job shadowing opportunities, we provide guidance counseling and courses on soft skills and study skills, to ensure that students are prepared for long-term success in their careers,” says Simone Sills, Adult Basic Skills Instructor at LaGuardia. “And our talent pool is filled with people of different skill sets and backgrounds—including a wide range of students of different ages, from early 20s to their 40s or early 50s—all of whom have a desire to be a vital part of the EMT workforce and serve their community.”
This course is intensive, with five consecutive months of competency-based learning, from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., four days a week. The focus is on a combination of lectures, practical skills labs and two basic life support clinical rotations on a 9-1-1 ambulance in New York City.
One of the program’s most unusual aspects is the pre-training that students must pass before they can be officially inducted into the full training program. During the pre-training class, a basic skills instructor delivers a curriculum that introduces the EMT content with an emphasis on healthcare sciences, including anatomy, physiology and medical ethics. Students earn CPR certification and build reading comprehension and study skills. To determine eligibility for entrance to the S.A.V.E. EMT class, students are assessed on their academic performance as well as their attendance and class participation.
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The full training program is both developed and taught by a basic skills instructor and an experienced EMT faculty member. The two instructors are able to address students’ basic educational and vocational skills simultaneously and therefore ensure their success in the training.
Graduates go on to be employed in the EMT field providing basic emergency care to victims of traumatic and/or medical emergencies and transporting them to the appropriate local medical facility.
Priscilla Rosa graduated from the program in August 2015 and is working as an EMT at Brooklyn-based Midwood Ambulance. “We didn’t just receive textbook learning,” Rosa says. “It’s been very useful, especially when we are working with difficult patients.”
Christina Guran was unemployed at the time she began the program. She graduated from S.A.V.E. EMT in April 2015 and now works for SeniorCare Emergency Medical Services in New York. “We were prepped technically for our jobs, and the career counseling gave us guidance with resumes and interviewing skills,” says Guran, who was class salutatorian and also garnered honors for technical skills and perfect attendance. “The program found me at a defining moment in my life. It restored my self-esteem, confidence and belief in myself that I could do something better with my life.”
The TAACCCT grant that funded S.A.V.E. EMT for the past three years will soon end, and a new funding source is needed in order for the intensive certification preparedness program to continue. Successfully integrating this new yet much-needed concept of resiliency into the curriculum of community colleges helps to ensure that colleges and employers can better adapt in times of crisis. A stronger community, healthy workforce and culture of learning and adaptability are fundamental supports in light of the tragedies and disasters that have impacted so many millions of Americans across the country. Led by a committed community and workforce, LaGuardia Community College is paving the way.
Achieving the Dream
Achieving the Dream, Inc., is a national nonprofit that is dedicated to helping more community college students, particularly low-income students and students of color, stay in school and earn a college certificate or degree. Evidence-based, student-centered and built upon the values of equity and excellence, Achieving the Dream is closing achievement gaps and accelerating student success nationwide by 1) guiding evidence-based institutional improvement, 2) leading policy change, 3) generating knowledge, and 4) engaging the public.
Conceived as an initiative in 2004 by the Lumina Foundation and seven founding partner organizations, today, Achieving the Dream is leading the most comprehensive non-governmental reform network for student success in higher education history. With over 200 institutions, more than 100 coaches and advisors, and 15 state policy teams working throughout 35 states and the District of Columbia, the Achieving the Dream National Reform Network helps more than 4 million community college students have a better chance of realizing greater economic opportunity and achieving their dreams.