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Axis Health Systems, Pueblo Community College receive state workforce grant

Philosophy behind program is work-based learning model
Axis Health Systems and Pueblo Community College have received money for an Opportunity Now Colorado Grant. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald file)

Axis Health Systems and Pueblo Community College are the recipients of the Opportunity Now Colorado Grant, a state initiative with a pool of $85 million for programs aimed at creating “transformative change” in the state’s workforce.

Axis Health and PCC were awarded $1.3 million that will allow the institutions to launch Healthcare Education Access Launchpad Southwest, an integrative education program that will allow students from PCC to work in Axis facilities.

“We really are thinking about it in terms of allied health and partnering with access and other members of the community to really talk about what is needed,” said Lisa Snyder, executive dean of PCC.

Haley Leonard-Saunders, Director of Communications at Axis, told The Durango Herald that the health center is no stranger to the national shortage of health care workers. However, she hopes this program will be a first step in addressing the gaps.

“This was an opportunity to really look at what strengths do we have and what partnerships could be put in place … to create opportunities for local people to develop careers that are in hot, significantly high demand for health care organizations across the region,” said Leonard-Saunders.

The program will offer students the opportunity to train in several fields and earn certificates and credentials that are “stackable,” including a phlebotomy and Emergency Medical Responder certificate.

These credentials will give students a leg up in the field by allowing them to pursue a degree with the credits they’ve earned or qualify for an internship or apprenticeships.

Snyder said the philosophy behind the program is a work-based learning model where students “can see the different fields of allied health that are available to them.”

“Students can work side by side with the professionals at Axis, understand what life in that field, in that career field actually looks like on a day-to-day basis,” she said.

PCC hopes to offer a Patient Care Technician pathway for students starting in high school, which will help them determine which area in medicine is right for them.

“That pathway has a lot of a sort of experimentation built into it. So students can explore different opportunities within allied health, before they make a commitment,” Snyder said.

A big focus of the grant is ensuring that colleges are building a diverse workforce, something that administrators at PCC and Axis Health are keenly aware of.

“We want to make sure that we have a diverse workforce,” said Nicole Glaser, a grant writer for Axis. “ (We want to ensure) that people from tribes, or the LatinX community, and people who have low income, that those students don't have barriers to education.”

The program will focus on outreach to potential students and asking residents how they think they will best benefit from it.

“It’s a beautiful thing,” said Glaser said.

Eliza DuBose, a senior at American University, is an intern for The Durango Herald and the Journal in Cortez. She can be reached at the edubose@durangoherald.com.

An earlier version of this story gave an incorrect dollar figure for the grant awarded to Axis Health System and Pueblo Community College.

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