Healthcare certificates are by far the most popular of those offered, though there are dozens available in several areas, many of them through Andrews. [stock photo]
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, labor force participation rates are at generational lows. Baby boomers (individuals born 1946-1964) are leaving the workforce at much higher rates (3 million per year, compared to 2 million per year pre-pandemic), and the population is growing at its slowest rate ever.
“Many people quit their jobs during the pandemic, and the deficit is particularly obvious in entry level positions,” comments Stacy Sweeney, SVP of academic operations at Core Education, PBC, and executive lead for the professional workforce development certificate initiative for Adventist higher education in the North American Division.
As an example, Sweeney recalls a time when she had to take her mother to the emergency room of a major hospital system. Once admitted—after waiting for hours before being seen—a full day could go by without her mom being attended to as there were only two patient care techs for over six floors of the hospital.
“It is a very real problem,” she adds.
And it’s a solvable problem. Which is why Core has partnered with seven Adventist institutions* of higher education, including Andrews University, to provide workforce development certificate programs in various high-demand fields.
Since the pandemic, Americans have expressed a consistent preference for non-degree and skills training options.(1) The certificates offered through this new partnership speak to this trend, as they are non-degree and non-credit.
“These short-term certificates teach skills necessary to be successful in entry-level positions,” Sweeney explains. Programs range in length from 6-33 weeks. “It’s the perfect opportunity for people to upscale their careers, and for employers to upskill their employee base—especially if the pandemic forced employers to promote workers who weren’t quite ready.”
AdventHealth, for example, has put over 300 of their employees through certificate programs so far, with hundreds more enrolled.
Healthcare certificates are by far the most popular of those offered, though there are dozens available in several areas, many of them through Andrews. These include project management, cyber security, EKG technician, health unit coordinator, software development, data science, and healthcare administration, among several others.
“According to our research, the Lake Union region is in need of entry level workers particularly in jobs such as medical assistants, behavior technicians, phlebotomists and patient care technicians,” Sweeney says. All of these certificates are available through Andrews.
The beauty of this program, though, is that students don’t have to be anywhere near Andrews (or any of the other participating schools) to participate. Students are self-directed and can learn online on their own schedule, and if outside connections—such as clinical placements—are needed, Core helps students find what they need in their own home area.
With fewer high school graduates wanting to leave home for college, and many uninterested in seeking a four-year degree, workforce development certificates may also benefit younger students.
“At the recent NAD Educators' Convention in Phoenix, we met a number of principals, parents and teachers who expressed interest in the certificates for high schoolers who aren’t yet interested in pursuing a college degree,” says Chris Fitch, program manager at Core, who has been working closely with the NAD. “Some have even been discussing embedding these certificates in their curriculum.”
To sit for the certifying exam, students must have a high school diploma, but seniors can complete the program during the year and take the final exam after graduation.
“Many will have jobs waiting when they leave high school,” Fitch expounds. “And if they choose to go on to college, they may well be in a better position than their college peers in regards to stable employment.”
These trends not only impact the workforce; they also deeply affect higher education across North America—an industry which has for the past many years seen enrollment drop and cost skyrocket.
“Campuses are seeking to broaden their revenue streams in order to keep tuition costs manageable for students,” explains Andrea Luxton, associate director for higher education for the NAD. “Core provides one avenue for this.”
To start this program, the seven participating institutions pooled their resources. As students enroll in the program, a small portion of the revenue goes to the NAD for development of collaborative projects, and the remainder is distributed amongst the seven institutions.
“While it’s true that students could simply enroll at the certificate-issuing organizations for these programs, the difference with pursuing a certificate at Andrews or any of the participating Adventist institutions is that they’ll have an added layer of advisors and other student support through Core every step of the way,” Sweeney explains.
From the time a student enrolls, they have a success team to support them. Enrollment counselors help with onboarding; student success advisors monitor progress; and facilitators or subject matter experts answer questions about specific assignments or projects or assist in finding clinical placements. Their support team monitors their experience closely to ensure each student is successful.
Additionally, holding a certificate from a university is noteworthy. “Though they are significant in their own right, when offered through a university, there is instant value-added,” Luxton says.
Forging the necessary partnerships with certificate providers and creating the service structure to manage them is challenging for small institutions such as Adventist colleges and universities. By partnering with Core, the program becomes possible for all NAD campuses.
Alayne Thorpe, dean for the College of Education and International Services at Andrews, points out that this new partnership expounds upon what the university has always done. “It’s part of a broader initiative to expand our distance education offerings to serve a wider audience.”
And it’s not just about improving one’s marketability in a particular field; it’s also about mission.
“Through this program, anyone can further their skills in professions which allow them to more fully serve their communities,” Luxton comments. “This can open additional doors for different and greater service.”
Currently the seven participating schools are in discussion about ways they can offer students in the Core programs more directly mission-related courses.
Janine Lim, associate dean for online higher education at Andrews University, sums it up well: “Enabling more people to engage in career-focused training is just one more tool in the belt of those following in Christ’s footsteps as witnesses to and in service of their local communities.”
For information about the workforce certification program at Andrews University, visit workforce.andrews.edu, call 877-413-0075, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Special non-profit, zero-based interest loans are available specifically for students, faculty, and staff at Adventist colleges and universities.
* Participating NAD schools: Andrews University, AdventHealth University, Pacific Union College, Southern Adventist University, Union College, Walla Walla University, Washington Adventist University.
Becky St. Clair is a freelance writer.