A new public-private partnership is helping address our region’s growing need for medical assistants, while at the same time connecting low-income community members, people of color, and first-generation college students with living-wage careers.
On September 7, representatives from the City of Seattle, Seattle Colleges and Kaiser Permanente gathered with students at the Pacific Tower to celebrate the first year of the Kaiser Permanente Medical Assistant Career Launch Scholarship program. The program provides comprehensive, wrap-around scholarships for 18 students to attend the Seattle Colleges’ Vocational Institute Medical Assisting certificate program. The Seattle Office of Economic Development supports this partnership through its investment in the Seattle Colleges Center for Working Adults, which manages the partnership and coordinates program success.
“We know providing true economic opportunity in Seattle starts with providing great jobs,” said Mayor Jenny Durkan. “Investing in high-demand job training allows students to remain in the City we love while building a strong economy for our local businesses. Access to good, family-wage jobs like medical assistants is how we empower our young people, families and communities.”
“This initiative is a true cross-sector collaboration, with each organization bringing their unique expertise to bear to create a win-win-win for employers, community members, and the city at large,” said Kristin Economo, Director of the Center for Working Adults. “Kaiser Permanente knows healthcare, Seattle Colleges understands student success, and the City has provided public sector leadership. Together we are able to address challenges and create impact that no organization could achieve on their own.”
“Nothing is more critical to providing great health care than great health care workers. By teaming up with the Seattle Colleges to support these Medical Assistant students, we’re investing in the future of excellent care in our region,” said Susan Mullaney, President of Kaiser Permanente Washington.
A video shown at the celebration emphasized the very real impact that the scholarship is making for its 18 recipients. “To me, this scholarship is everything,” said one of the students. “I’m a mom, a single mom at that, and balancing school and a newborn is a lot. And just having Kaiser there to push me and have a great future and start an amazing career, I think is really great.”
Medical assisting is one of the fastest-growing occupations both nationally and locally. According to Emsi data, the demand for medical assistants is projected to grow 23 percent by 2022 in King County. Job training partnerships between employers and educational institutions have been shown to benefit students, educators, and employers, and help ensure that employers are able to find skilled workers to fill in-demand positions.
Medical assistants perform important services such immunizations and blood draws, and investing in their training is beneficial for the entire community. A recent study from Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute (KPWHRI) found evidence that investing in additional training for medical assistants and expanding their role in a patient’s healthcare can improve outcomes for the chronically ill.
Students, ranging in age from 18 to over 45, took pre-requisite courses this summer in preparation for beginning the medical assistant program this fall. The program includes professional development from Kaiser Permanente medical assistants, tutoring, one-on-one support from a Navigator from the Seattle Colleges’ Center for Working Adults, and wrap-around support in partnership with the Seattle Jobs Initiative and multiple community-based organizations.
The Kaiser Permanente Scholarship eliminates the financial barrier that may have otherwise prevented its students accessing the training they need to pursue this high-demand, living-wage career. Students will take part in a hands-on externship in a clinic during their final quarter, in partnership with a variety of healthcare employers. In addition to professional development, students will participate in team building, mindfulness workshops, and financial coaching, further supporting them for long-term success.