MedCerts’ High School Training Program: Designed to Meet the Ever-Growing Demand for Entry-Level Healthcare Workers

Published on February 6, 2024

The High School to Healthcare Pipeline

A recent article in the New York Times highlights the growing demand for entry-level healthcare workers and the creative lengths some institutions are going to to meet that need. A new effort, spearheaded by Mass General Brigham—the largest employer in Boston—will develop a curriculum for high schoolers to gain the skills and certifications necessary for several in-demand healthcare jobs. The program is being bankrolled by Bloomberg Philanthropies, beginning with a $38 million investment into the Edward M. Kennedy Academy, a public high school in Boston with a current enrollment of 400 students.

The outline of the program is simple.

Beginning in their junior year, high school students will spend part of their academic time training in hospital labs, emergency departments, and other healthcare settings that match their chosen area of interest. Mass General Brigham, which currently has some 2,000 job openings throughout its ecosystem, will both develop the curriculum the students use and facilitate their entry into the professional world of healthcare. Students who complete the program will earn college credit, but they’ll also have the option to begin a career straight out of high school.

As part of this ambitious new project, the Edward M. Kennedy Academy plans to double its enrollment to 800 students. Bloomberg Philanthropies has pledged an additional $212 million over the next five years to develop similar programs in a host of other major cities, including New York, Philadelphia, Nashville, Houston, Dallas, Charlotte, and Durham.

The economic and workforce development benefits are immediately apparent, but the investment also reflects a changing cultural attitude towards postsecondary education. As part of its research the Times interviewed Howard Wolfson of Bloomberg Philanthropies. According to Wolfson, “There’s a growing sense that the value of college has diminished, relative to cost. This should not be construed as anti-college—every kid who wants to go should have the opportunity. But at the same time, we have to acknowledge the reality that, for a lot of kids, college is not an option, or they want to get on with their careers.”

Why The High School Market Makes So Much Sense

More and more high school students are taking a second look at career opportunities that circumvent the traditional college route.

A ECMC study from 2023 found that 35% of high school students do not believe postsecondary education is essential and that 63% are willing to consider non-four-year degree options. This most often takes the form of career and technical education (CTE): a rapidly growing offering in high schools across the country. Students who choose CTE courses are given highly practical training in skills that equip them to enter the workforce almost immediately.

For hospitals and healthcare providers this trend has the potential to be a massive boon. There are several advantages to pursuing high school students as the next significant labor force.

  • First, high school students are often more open to career choices than individuals who have already committed to a specific degree or area of study. If you can get in front of these students before they pick their career path, it will help ensure a better flow of talent into high-demand areas like allied health.. This presents a great opportunity for anyone willing to lay out the benefits and potential of a career in healthcare.

  • Second, among high schoolers there’s a likely perception that jobs in healthcare require a four-year degree. The realization that many fields don’t require that time commitment should come as a pleasant surprise, especially for students who are wary of committing resources to college without a clear trajectory in mind. Good healthcare jobs could be highly attractive to younger workers who would rather be earning than spending without an immediate career benefit.

  • Third, many of the hardest-to-fill jobs in healthcare don’t require college degrees. If the most in-demand skills are those that can be acquired via short-term training and certification, then why not find a population where availability and career flexibility are highest—recent high school graduates?

  • Finally, the job demand within healthcare is only going to increase. Whatever pressures and shortfalls the healthcare industry now faces, those barriers to hiring will only grow as our nation’s demographics shift older. By tapping into the high school labor pool now, healthcare providers have the opportunity to get ahead of the curve and protect themselves against impending challenges.

How MedCerts is Answering the Call

As a leader in the healthcare certification industry, MedCerts is thrilled to see this creative new push to recruit high schoolers. Given the huge potential it has to bolster our nation’s workforce we recently launched our own initiative to develop high school talent.

The MedCerts Healthcare Training program is specifically geared towards high school students who are interested in preparing for one of 15 in-demand healthcare careers, including dental assistant, medical billing specialist, phlebotomy technician, and surgical technologist.

Beyond the immediate benefit of high-demand career training, the program has several advantages for high-schoolers.

  • First, students who complete a course earn college credit. Optionality is key for young workers and our program is designed to maximize the choices available to the next generation. For our graduates, beginning a career right out of high school doesn’t have to mean saying no to college. In fact, it fits in perfectly with the growing availability of credit for prior learning offered by many colleges.

  • Second, our entire program takes place online. This is key, both for high schoolers with busy schedules and conflicting demands on their time, and for schools that don’t want to be burdened with extra administrative costs. It also means that location isn’t a barrier for students who don’t have easy access to transportation.

  • Third, because our proprietary courses are all online, we’ll never face capacity issues. Many academic healthcare institutions are already facing challenges due to staffing and facilities. A study from 2021 found that over 90,000 applicants were turned away from nursing schools simply for lack of space. Thankfully, that won’t ever be an issue for us.

  • Finally, as an established player in the healthcare space, MedCerts has relationships with numerous healthcare providers and education partners. High school students who join our program will have access to great opportunities from these partners, both in the form of careers and college credit. Whatever path they choose, we’re committed to setting students up for maximum success and developing the next generation of healthcare talent.

Interested in learning more about our high school development program? Reach out.

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Written by
Jennifer Kolb
National Director of Workforce Development

As MedCerts National Director of Workforce Development, Jennifer Kolb is responsible for overseeing strategy and business development efforts at MedCerts with an emphasis on the k-career pipeline.

Prior to MedCerts, Jennifer served in several leadership positions at Tallo and Hawkes Learning where she built and lead sales and marketing, new product launches, technology development updates and an entire product relaunch to be ADA compliant.

Jennifer has spent a decade within the workforce industry working with educators, state leaders, business and industry officials, post-secondary institutions and grant organizations from across the country, all with the mission of bettering people's lives. Coming from a long line of educators and with a business-centered mindset, Jen is passionate about student success and cultivating creative strategies for ensuring all talent has access to educational and career-related opportunities.

Jennifer earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Marketing and Psychology with a focus in business management from Clemson University.

Published on February 6, 2024

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