One hard economic fact of the coronavirus pandemic is how unevenly it has been felt across industries. Physical distancing, dining and travel restrictions emptied hotels and event spaces, leading to widespread layoffs and furloughs in hospitality and service industries. Meanwhile, many overwhelmed hospitals and testing sites struggled to fill essential roles. Confronting those realities, a public-private partnership in southern Connecticut composed of community colleges, hospitals and nonprofits came together under the leadership of Bank of America and the philanthropic network Social Venture Partners. The goal was to retrain displaced workers in hospitality and other hard-hit local industries for high-demand jobs with significant career growth potential in the health-care industry.
Students could receive free training in a fast-tracked pilot program covering two growing career paths. Norwalk Community College offers certification to become nurse aides (CNAs), and Housatonic Community College to become sterile processing technicians (SPTs). Classroom work was done online, with hands-on training in Housatonic Community College’s sterilization simulation lab, in Norwalk Community College’s nursing-skills lab and in local hospitals for clinical rotations. The CNA program was condensed from 14 weeks to four, and the SPT program was also accelerated. After the training, 13 of the 15 students certified as CNAs and nine of the 10 newly certified SPTs found jobs.
Tapping CARES Act funding and further Bank of America support, this pilot program was expanded to provide training for an additional 180 displaced workers to fill gaps in high-demand roles across Connecticut’s health-care systems. Bank funding also supported “achievement coaches,” who worked with students one on one, and it helped with students’ transportation, housing, childcare, food, medical exams and technology needs — invaluable assistance for students to complete the training, get certified in their new fields and find work.
While the pandemic spurred the southern Connecticut community to create certificate-level, remote-training programs to fill a pressing demand for skilled health-care employees, these programs are just the starting point for long-term, skills-based training and hiring partnerships with the CT Governor’s Workforce Council — which is intent on building an equitable, inclusive and innovative workforce for the region. The support for this work is part of Bank of America’s $1.25 billion, five-year commitment to advance racial equality and economic opportunity.