Mercy Flights has been awarded $267,813 in the first round of Future Ready Oregon Workforce Ready Grants to create an Emergency Medical Services (EMS) apprenticeship program in Southern Oregon. The program is designed to expand and diversify the pool of EMS professionals and contribute to addressing the forecasted healthcare workforce crisis.
The Higher Education Coordination Commission (HECC) has awarded $10 million in grants supporting a total of 42 projects that focus on underserved and vulnerable populations. Mercy Flights is modeling the apprenticeship program after a longstanding trade sector apprenticeship models, such as a plumber, electrician, etc., where enrolled students can earn a livable wage while learning the profession.
Sheila Clough, Mercy Flights, CEO states, “Over the last three years we have seen the strain of the pandemic hit the EMS sector of healthcare in a way we never thought was imaginable. To put it simply, there are not enough healthcare professionals to meet the demand of the communities they serve. This isn’t just a Southern Oregon problem; we are seeing this across the county.” The apprentice program will assist in facilitating awareness of EMS careers, recruiting and employing future EMS providers, and simplifying the coordination of educational needs for students to meet their goals. This model will bolster EMS professionals in Oregon, not only at Mercy Flights, but in other healthcare settings such as hospitals, health clinics, fire agencies, etc.
The program will be advertised in rural and vulnerable populated areas, increasing the visibility and opportunity of employment in the healthcare industry. The program will provide hands-on education, mentorship, and streamlined access to local EMS resources. Students will also earn a livable wage through job placement in local EMS organizations, gaining critical on-the-job skills, relationship building, and a better understanding of the industry.
“With the high need for EMS professionals across the state, students will likely have job offers before graduating. Mercy Flight has a long history of investing into their community, and we are grateful for the opportunity to broaden the scope of how we serve our community,” states Clough. Mercy Flights will be working with local colleges, schools, hospitals, and other EMS professionals to create a robust network of collaborators on this project.
The project is currently underway with the first phase focusing on designing the program with our community partners.