WATERVILLE — Students enrolled in a new partnership between Mid-Maine Regional Adult Community Education, Kennebec Valley Community College and Northern Light can take the Certified Nursing Assistant course for free, and they’ll be paid to learn and are guaranteed a job upon graduation.

Tuition for the course is funded through grant money, and students get paid 40 hours per week for attending class. So long as they pass, students are promised a position at Northern Light Continuing Care Lakewood in Waterville.

“I think it makes all the difference in people being successful in their training,” said Elizabeth Fortin, dean of workforce training and professional development, who is in her seventh year at KVCC. “If they can’t work and continue to provide for their families, they can’t typically complete training. Knowing that they’re not just completing a paid training program, but they also have employment at the end of this is critical to their success.”

The six-week course begins in early November. Four students are currently signed up, but they hope to grow the enrollment to 10 students. Program leaders hope to run three more cohorts of classes before the end of June 2021. Students who complete the program are typically committed to working with Northern Light for at least one year.

KVCC applied for a Maine Quality Center grant to fund CNA training for the general public. Northern Light had approached KVCC previously. Northern Light is also applying for one of the same grants as a business. All of the state’s community colleges are offering short-term training under executive order 25, which was signed March 27.

“I don’t think KVCC has offered CNA courses in a long time, before my time, certainly,” Fortin said. “We had started down that path and the coronavirus interrupted it and we felt like the best way for us to deliver it with Maine Quality Center funding was with Mid-Maine Regional Adult Education.”

During the course, students work for 32 hours a week and spend eight hours as a unit helper at Lakewood.

“It’s kind of like a pre-CNA,” said Hannah Bard, director of Mid-Maine Regional Adult Community Education. “They’ll be getting experience as they learn on the floor.”

And after six weeks, so long as they pass, they’ll be retained

While many parts of life have been altered and in some cases outright stopped during the pandemic, the care at Northern Light Continuing Care Lakewood is unchanged.

Ryan Francis, an administrator at the facility, said they’ve seen more interest in the CNA role recently due to its variety of scheduling options and stability of the position.

Northern Light Talent Acquisition Specialist Robin Doody, who played a key role in striking up the partnership, said that Northern Light offers similar programs in nursing, certified surgical technicians, medical assistants, phlebotomy, CNA and more.

“These programs incorporate work time and education time which is paid as a full-time position and includes benefits and paid time off,” Doody said.

The partnership already ran a 12-student remote cohort during the summer, which Bard described as “really successful.” Eight of the students completed the course, and one of the students in the initial cohort is enrolling in the November course to finish up. About half of the initial cohort is working at Lakewood full-time right now.

“It was really difficult to navigate at first because we were still in the midst of being shut down,” Bard said.

The summer class, which was free but did not offer payment during the session until completion, were the first outside visitors allowed into Lakewood.

“We took that very seriously and so did the students,” Bard said. “We didn’t have any issues and the students got through just fine and all of them had really great things to say after the program was completed.”

Mid-Maine Regional Adult Community Education and Northern Light started a CNA program in 2015, but the Maine Community College System approached Bard in late April about partnering with KVCC. Because the summer session went so well, they all came together to offer the course with payment from the start, which helps support students from the outset of class.

Northern Light Continuing Care Lakewood is a 150-bed center on the Northern Light Inland Hospital’s campus. They have skilled rehab and nursing, long-term care services and long-term services focused on dementia care.

“This is a win-win program for both local people and Lakewood,” Francis said. “It serves as a feeder program to meet our staffing needs and give local people great job opportunities.”


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