First medical assistant apprenticeship students graduate today

GRCC students in the state’s first registered apprenticeship program for medical assistants will graduate on Dec. 16.

GRCC, U.S. Department of Labor/Office of Apprenticeship, West Michigan Works!, Mercy Health, Cherry Health, Spectrum Health, Montcalm Community College and Muskegon Community College worked together to launch the program in January. Sixteen students will celebrate successfully completing it during a ceremony at 4 p.m. at Tassell M-TEC.

Linda Witte, program developer and manager of health programs for GRCC Workforce Development, said the new medical assistants meet an urgent need in West Michigan’s health care workforce.

“We formed great partnerships with the employers in our community, our local workforce development agency and our neighboring community colleges to provide this innovative training,” she said.

The apprentices attend classes for two days each week of the yearlong program and work at area health care employers for three days. They are paid, and West Michigan Works! collaborates with employers to cover the students’ tuition. As the apprentices progress in learning and competency, their responsibilities and pay increase.

“At the end of the program, each apprentice commits to remain employed with his or her current organization for a specified amount of time,” Witte said. “If they choose to terminate their employment prior to the agreed-upon time period, they must refund the employer for their tuition.”

It is the first Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs accredited medical assistant program in the nation to be offered as a registered apprenticeship.

Julie Parks, GRCC’s executive director of Workforce Training, credited the program’s success to the collaboration among the agencies involved.

“It has been an honor to work with the health care employers who were willing to take a model used in manufacturing and make it work in health care,” she said. “Apprenticeships are the true ‘earn-and-learn’ model, where everyone wins — student, employer and community.”

The 16 graduates in the medical assistant apprenticeship program lean against a wall in the parking ramp.


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