It was little more than a year ago that Arkansas Tech University-Ozark Campus' Adult Education division began offering non-credit, Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) classes to students who had gone through adult education and earned their GED.
Fast forward to present day and the program has enrolled 75 students in 11 classes and expanded the program to adult education students in Fort Smith.
“We took a semester-long class, made it non-credit and condensed it to four weeks where students still get the hours required to become a CNA,” said Justin Smith, chief business and community outreach officer at ATU-Ozark Campus. "Upon finishing the program, students are recruited to serve in local nursing homes and hospitals including Mercy Fort Smith, Greenhurst Nursing Center and Ozark Nursing Home, who are among our industry partners.
"There were a lot of moving parts in the initial set-up phase, but it is now running full force and beginning to fill a much-needed workforce gap in the Arkansas River Valley," continued Smith. "Everything from recruiting well-qualified instructors, getting the program approved, navigating the switch to a new testing company during COVID and learning the ropes of a new scholarship that pays for each student were all hurdles we had to clear, but we were successful.”
Adult education programs in Crawford, Franklin, Johnson, Logan and Sebastian counties provide recruitment and registration for the classes, which are offered approximately every other month throughout the year. Certified Adult Basic Education instructors co-teach with the CNA instructor, Dusty Smith, and provide reading comprehension instruction, terminology and abbreviation practice as well as workplace readiness skills contextualized to careers in health sciences instruction.
Students also have access to a career coach who meets with them, addresses any barriers to participation and helps set achievable goals.
“The approach of obtaining scholarships and grants so the class can be free of cost to students, support of an industry instructor, basic skills instructor and a career coach while taking classes and provisions of scrubs and basic materials to begin work provides a perfect combination for students to start a new career pathway," said Regina Olson, director of adult education at ATU-Ozark.
Prospective students will receive assistance with the scholarship application process.
Learn more by calling the adult education location in Fort Smith at (479) 785-1232 or in Ozark at (479) 667-3520.
Visit www.atu.edu/ozark/adult.php to gain additional details about adult education opportunities offered through ATU-Ozark Campus.