Crystal ball for health care jobs in Ottawa County

October 3, 2008
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A new method for tracking employment needs in health care is expected to produce its first report in about six weeks, an Ottawa County education official said last week.

The Ottawa Area Intermediate School District contracted with the 13-county nonprofit planning agency Alliance for Health to survey health care employers and educational institutions in Ottawa County, Assistant Superintendent Sandra Dupuis said.

“I am hoping it really provides a snapshot of some trend areas, some direction areas for growth,” Dupuis said. “We’re looking at some exciting discussion about the possibility of expanding programs, and we need this information in order to make those recommendations to our various boards with good confidence.”

Craig Nobbelin, regional skills coordinator for the Alliance for Health, said the Workforce Forecasting Model process has involved both a survey and interviews of 21 employers in Ottawa County.

“We have been developing prototype methodology over there and we can hopefully use that information to develop one and apply it to the whole region,” Nobbelin said, a process that could take several years.

“Right now, we’re identifying what are the key factors. We’re surveying educators that serve Ottawa County residents, and we’re surveying a cross-section of employers in Ottawa County to gather information for a multiple-page survey.”

He said the interviews will follow, and then the methodology will be constructed to project employment needs.

“We’re hoping it will give an estimate of what the highest-need areas are and perhaps the level of demand that there is going to be for different positions,” he said. That information then can help educational institutions and Michigan Works decide how to allocate their budgets, Nobbelin said.

Dupuis said another major area is to detail health care training programs provided by public and private educational institutions. Some of that data is available “as a giant spreadsheet” at the Alliance for Health’s Web site, www.afh.org, Nobbelin said.

Dupuis said the report will be shared to support appropriate planning at educational institutions.

“My intention is to pull the educators together as one group and talk about how can we collaboratively plan together to make sure that we’re offering training in the areas it needs to be offered in, that we’re not duplicating that training unless it is necessary, and that we’ve covered all the bases?” she said.

“I will also meet with employers and share the information with them from their perspective and determine from their perspective what they would like to do with the data next. I know the Alliance for Health is planning to make this part of their bigger project they work on with WIRED.”

The OAISD conducted a request for proposals process that drew four bids for the project, and it was awarded to the Alliance for Health for $34,567, Dupuis said.

In addition to providing health care career education for high school students, the intermediate district runs training programs for adults on a fee basis, she said.

The Work-Based Learning Unit located at the Thomson M-Tec building at the Grand Rapids Community College Holland campus offers training for pharmacy technicians in conjunction with GRCC. OAISD also offers training in medical coding and medical office training.

The OAISD is looking to expand the three-week CNA training courses — now in Holland — to Zeeland and Grand Haven, Dupuis said. Also, an emergency medical technician program is under consideration.

Several hundred people use the programs each year, Dupuis said.

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