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New opportunities in healthcare

Above, students attend a skills-training workshop to become certified home care aides. A new grant from KeyBank will fund additional job pathways for immigrants and refugees, such as medical assistants and pharmacy technicians.

One by one, students settled into ReWA’s Home Care Aide training classroom in SeaTac one rainy morning last month. They pulled out their study materials and reviewed the supply kit at their table: towels, model dentures, a plastic basin. Many of the immigrants and refugees who come to ReWA for job training have limited English and lack formal employment experience. Most have overcome obstacles: fleeing conflict and war zones or immigrating with their families to find a better life. Some have overcome homelessness.

However, what they all share is a desire to learn new skills and find work to support their families. Also, many have experience caring for family members. For them, the entry-level home care aide work is a great fit: it gives them a chance to improve their English while gaining experience with American work culture.

And now, thanks to a $300,000 grant from KeyBank, ReWA is partnering with Renton Technical College to offer additional training for those who want to go further and train for higher-paying medical roles like pharmacy techs and medical assistants.

Left to right: ReWA staff, Sean Power, Crisann Brooks and Executive Director, Mahnaz Eshetu (front) met with KeyBank’s Corporate Responsibility Officer, Caleb Stephens and President, Matt Hill (far right), November 2021.

Matt Hill, KeyBank President and Commercial Banking Sales Leader – Seattle Cascades said, “This program fits well with our mission of helping our clients and the community thrive by achieving financial wellness, which comes from improved workforce opportunities. Training for in-demand careers will lead to greater economic stability for the families that ReWA serves.”

According to the Seattle-King County Workforce Development Council, by 2028 employment in the Puget Sound region’s healthcare industry is expected to grow by 24%. The demand for Medical Assistants is predicted to grow by 38% and for Licensed Practical Nurses by 32%.

ReWA Job Readiness teacher Marie Kjeldgaard agrees. “There is definitely a demand—at least 20% of our students are interested in further education.”

“Training for in-demand careers will lead to greater economic stability for the families that ReWA serves.”

Matt Hill, KeyBank President

In the SeaTac classroom, two training mannequins lay on tables ready to help students practice caring for clients. Over the next few hours, they would learn how to comfortably reposition a client in bed, provide hygiene care, transfer a client to a wheelchair, and perform a range of other skills.

This hands-on skills training is required in order to receive their Health Care Aide training certificate. This coveted certificate—which can cost up to $700 through other training centers—will open doors to employment and independence.

ReWA’s eight-week HCA training program includes four weeks of job readiness classes, followed by the 75-hour HCA basic training, then two weeks of review, preparation for the exam, and employment assistance with ReWA staff. The job readiness class and employment assistance is important to help them overcome barriers: transportation, childcare, and practicing job interviews. Kjeldgaard said some twenty percent in those in the HCA training will use the certificate to care for family members.

“Some students may complete the training, but don’t go to work right away. But just having the certificate gives them options when they are ready to work.”

Currently, ReWA assists at least 30 clients a year to gain employment as state certified home care aides. With this new funding, ReWA will hire a career coach to help 15 more clients each year advance in their health care careers.