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Lexington explores plans to help with healthcare worker shortage

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Posted at 6:38 PM, Oct 04, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-06 10:27:13-04

LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government is exploring a $250,000 program to bring more workers to the local healthcare industry.

The "Accelerate Lexington" workforce program will provide free certified nursing assistant (CNA) training to 30 people and jobs with partner hospitals. It's a public-private partnership between Bluegrass Community and Technical College, Commerce Lexington, Baptist Health, CHI Saint Joseph Healthcare, and the University of Kentucky Healthcare systems.

Lexington Budget Committee Chair Amanda Mays Bledsoe says the idea was created out of a meeting with the health consortium, a group of local health care partners that meet regularly with city officials.

"It really came about in that conversation and what the city can do to help partner to really help address a workforce shortage here in Lexington in the healthcare industry," said Mays Bledsoe.

Mays Bledsoe says the pandemic highlighted how dire the need for workers is in the healthcare industry.

"There are hundreds of jobs literally in hospitals waiting to be filled," said Mays Bledsoe. "This is one way to remove the barriers, to bring people into the workforce sector here and just the healthcare industry, and to have opportunities to grow. You can start with a CNA degree and grow into RN degrees and grow into other areas in the healthcare sector."

Right now, several hospitals across the state have help from the Kentucky National Guard. That help will soon leave, and experts expect the shortages to only grow through 2025.

Through the Accelerate Lexington program, participants will be trained by BCTC staff in the evenings and on weekends to maximize participation in the training for individuals who might be currently working but wish to pivot their careers to the healthcare sector.

"Bluegrass Community and Technical College's Workforce Solution's Unit customized this training to meet unique needs of this specific job need. With funding available through KCTCS TRAINS, BCTC Workforce Solutions is assisting this group of healthcare providers by offsetting the cost of the nurse aid training by 75%," said Erin Tipton, Associate Vice President for Workforce Solutions. "We are excited to partner with our healthcare providers to offer this customized training solution."

Hospitals like CHI Saint Joeseph Health are considering the future impacts of what a pipeline training to career program can do.

"Anything that will help build a pipeline for healthcare workers," said Marty Keith, Market Vice President of Human Resources for CHI Saint Joseph Health. "We'd love to see more and more of those entry-level positions whether it be in nursing or lab, or support position come in."

Baptist Health is currently constructing a new hospital in Hamburg. They'll need 800 additional employees to fill those jobs when it opens in 2024.

"Thirty can absolutely make a difference," said Chief Nursing Officer Dee Beckman.

Beckman started as a student nursing assistant and worked her way to her current position.

"Providing this education for CNA's opens the door for them if they want to go into other healthcare job roles," said Beckman

The Lexington Budget, Finance, and Economic Development Committee passed the program last week. However, it still must go to the full council for final approval. Mays Bledsoe expects that to happen next week.

"The idea is to start with healthcare because that's the most critical need that we have right now, and we hope to replicate to other industries where we also have this workforce shortage," said Mays Bledsoe.

The program is expected to start with its first 15 participants in January 2022.

If you're interested in applying contact Betsey Dexter at bdexter@commercelexington.com. For more information on BCTC at 859-246-6666.