MARSHALL - Danielle Kack of Marshall was homeless not too long ago. After fleeing an abusive relationship in the Twin Cities - "I had to up and leave the Cities with my son who was 6 months old," she said - she was homeless for three-and-a-half months. After finding shelter and resources with the help of The Refuge: A Fresh Start, she was connected to the WorkForce Center in Marshall and Southwest ABE.
Now Kack is a certified nursing assistant and works at Avera Marshall Regional Medical Center. She went through the CNA class which is co-instructed by Minnesota West Community & Technical College faculty and Adult Basic Education instructors. She plans to go on to nursing school.
Kack and other CNA graduates, as well as area employers, told their stories to two visitors from the Twin Cities - Jennifer Weaverling and Karla Vien, who represent the Literacy Action Network, a professional organization for adult education.
Photo by Karin Elton
Muna Mohamed talks about how a FastTRAC Adult Career Pathways program is helping her realize her dreams. She was a participant in a forum Wednesday morning, along with ABE instructor, Vickie Radloff, right.
Weaverling and Vien plan to prepare a state impact report of what adult education does in the state of Minnesota, said Pat Thomas, the coordinator for Southwest Minnesota Adult Basic Education.
"A piece of adult education revolves around FastTRAC," she said.
In 2013, Minnesota FastTRAC (Training, Resources, and Credentialing) Adult Career Pathways received an allocation from the Workforce Development Fund in the amount of $3 million per biennium to serve Minnesota residents in need of career pathway training.
"The impact report will primarily go to legislators so they can see the value of the programs those tax-payer dollars have invested in and what a good return they get," Thomas said.
ABE instructor Vickie Radloff said the need for adult job training is receiving national attention. She mentioned a bill which Sen. Al Franken worked on, the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, which was signed July 22 by President Barack Obama after passing bipartisanly by the Senate and House. The WIOA addresses the nation's skills gap - where job openings go unfilled because businesses can't find workers with the right skills.
Jason Swanson, the executive director at Prairie View Healthcare Center in Tracy, said the FastTRAC program is needed.
"Our profession right now, we are going to see a dramatic increase in the older population and a dramatic decrease in workers," he said.
"We've been doing FastTRAC before there was even that word out there because of a grant that we had seven years ago," Thomas said.
By establishing relationships with Marshall employers, Southwest ABE was able to fit the program to meet their needs.
"Avera Marshall has helped design the program," Thomas said. "For instance math skills, they need to know military time. Another thing, they put all our students through virtual dementia. One of the reasons we are successful is because of the relationship we have with our employers - Avera, Boulder Estates."
Swanson has given input to the program and has hired ABE-instruction CNAs as well.
"It's a tremendous program they have going right now," he said.
He said the graduates he has hired are more knowledgeable and "more well-rounded."
Eileen Fuhrmann, recently-retired director of nursing at Avera Marshall, said math and computer skills are needed, so that is an added component of the class.
"Just Outlook, how to read your e-mail," she said. "Some people don't have computers, because of their age or income. They might not have computers at home. Electronic medical records, they need computer skills for that. Math skills, you need to know intake and outputs.
"They need to be able to read and write. They need to write notes for their hand-offs, for continuity of care."
"The key is to listen to your employer and provide those skills," said Thomas.
"We like to hire students that go through this program," Fuhrmann said. "For one thing they do their clinicals (working with an Avera Marshall nurse at the nursing home) here so we get to know them."
For Kack, working with the Southwest Minnesota Private Industry Council, "it came to the part where it was 'what do you want to do with your life?' and the ABE CNA program came up," she said. "I thought, 'CNA, hmmm, I don't know about that.' I didn't realize how much I would love the health care field. I think it hit when I was doing clinicals."
Kack has gone on to get her TMA (Trained Medical Aide) through Avera. Nursing school is next.
"Because of this program, it's inspired me to go further," she said.
"That would have been wasted talent," said Thomas.
Muna Mohamed just graduated from Marshall High School in May.
"I got offered the CNA program and turned it down because I didn't think I'd like it," she said.
Needing to find employment to finance college, Mohamed changed her mind.
"Why not get my CNA and then my RN," she said.
After participating in class, "I really, really enjoyed it," she said. "I love to help people out... I never thought old people could be fun and interesting."
She would like to get her bachelor's science of nursing degree and then go on to law school.
"I always wanted to do something in the medical field and law," she said.
Mohamed said her large family is originally from Somalia and live in Marshall now.
"Right now, my dad is low income, but I wouldn't say we had it bad because I'm blessed to have a house," she said. "But I didn't have all the material things my friends had like iPhones or iPods."
Mohamed, who has been accepted at Southwest Minnesota State University, has received college credits for her CNA classes as do all the students.
Alixandra Lima was enrolled in early education special needs online, but it didn't work out because there were too many distractions at home.
"It was too hard, too expensive so I dropped out," she said.
"My mom didn't approve (of me dropping out)," Lima said. Her mother mentioned taking the CNA class through ABE.
At first she didn't want to do it because so many members of her family are in the health care field.
"But then I said I would do it just to get her off me," Lima said.
She flourished in the classroom setting. She soon realized that she enjoyed health care.
"My mom wants me to get my RN," Lima said. "I may get my TMA but for right now I don't want to go any further. I want to stay where I'm at. I love my clients. I love how they appreciate me and want me to be their nurse. Down the road, maybe I will continue on in my career. But for now I'm content where I'm at. I love working at Boulder. It's a great place. Great staff. I would recommend it to anybody."
Weaverling and Vien also visited Redwood Falls with Thomas where there is a FastTRAC industrial maintenance (welding, boiler, electrical) course going on right now.