WMCAT offers health care training for low-income adults

October 3, 2008
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The nonprofit West Michigan Center for Arts and Technology, known as an after-school oasis for Grand Rapids high school students, also is throwing a lifeline to adults struggling with poverty and unemployment.

The four-year-old center at 98 E. Fulton St. provides free training for entry level health jobs to 24 unemployed, low-income adults, said Executive Director Luisa Schumacher.

The cost of the two 36-week, 40-hour-per-week medical coding and pharmacy technician programs is picked up through general donations to the center as well as contributions from employers, she said. The cost per student is $12,000 to $14,000, she added.

“Essentially, the No. 1 qualification is being an individual who wants to get engaged in a new career,” Schumacher said. Students also must meet income and unemployment guidelines.

“They have to have personal motivation,” Schumacher added. “They can only miss four days of class in 36 weeks. Our employers are making a sizable investment. We want it to be worth it for individuals and employers.”

Those employers include Spectrum Health, Saint Mary’s Health Care, Metro Health, Michigan Medical PC, Meijer Inc. and Walgreens, she said. The employers design the program to their own specifications.

“They pick out the textbooks and software they are using. We want to make sure we are training them to the specifications they’ll need,” Schumacher said.

“We’re really focused on serving a population that really needs the skills to success,” she added.

WMCAT has a budget of about $1 million.

The center takes the concept of blending art, music and job training that was pioneered in Pittsburgh by Bill Strickland, now president and CEO of the Manchester Bidwell Corp. The nonprofit Manchester Bidwell provides management expertise and administrative support to its subsidiaries.

WMCAT has seven full-time and 14 part-time staff members.

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