Defining the Problem that Brought the Team Together
According to the 2010 census, 31% of Aurora residents speak a language other than English at home, 20% are foreign born, and 37% of Aurora’s foreign born population arrived in the U.S. since 2010. Immigrant workers in Aurora experience challenges with being prepared for and obtaining jobs that pay livable wages and offer career pathways. A majority of the population lacks English language skills basic literacy and math skills and many have cultural misperceptions and/or lack of understanding of U.S. workplace norms. Finally, academic credentials and professional experiences are not readily transferrable. Moreover, local employers possess cultural biases and misperceptions of the immigrant community that further inhibit hiring from this population.
Home to Children’s Hospital of Colorado, University of Colorado Hospital, University Physicians, Inc., the University of Colorado’s health sciences schools and research centers, and the Veterans Affairs Medical Center, the Anschutz Medical Campus employs approximately 19,000 individuals. However, fewer than three percent of those employees are residents of the surrounding neighborhoods. Immigrants comprise a significant population of these neighborhoods and offer language and cultural skills that are in increasing demand in hospitals and health-care settings. This partnership came together to look for strategic and cost-effective ways to help close the gap between employer hiring needs and the immigrant community’s employment aspirations.
Description of the Partners
The Community-Campus Partnership (CCP) was established by the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus in 2013 to build connections between the Medical Campus and the surrounding community to improve the health and quality of life of area residents. Because job opportunities and long-term career pathway options are a key determinant of individual and community health, CCP’s first initiative was the “Hire Local” program. This goal of this initiative is to expand access to jobs on the Medical Campus to community residents.
The Community College of Aurora (CCA) is a public, two-year institution of higher learning in Aurora. CCA serves 12,000 students annually offering ABE/GED, English as a Second Language (ESL), and an array of technical college certificates and associate degree programs.
The Learning Center (TLC) is a community-based, nonprofit organization located in Lakewood, CO that operates over 30 programs in the Denver Metro Area serving over 2,000 students annually. TLC promotes and provides ABE, GED, and ESL educational opportunities through collaborative partnerships for adults and families.
Original Work Plan
In the fall of 2014, the partners, along with a number of other organizations in the area, came together to develop a shared vision to increase the number of Aurora residents employed on the Anschutz Medical Campus. The partners envisioned the design of a “Healthcare Bridge” program that integrated ABE, ESL, job readiness, healthcare skills training, coaching, supportive services, and job placement services. This program was developed and piloted in April 2015.
The three partners came together for the BCPIW initiative in order to learn first-hand from nationally recognized programs about effective services and models to strengthen and expand the ESL Healthcare Bridge program. The team identified five goals that they hoped to achieve as part of BCPIW.
Develop an overall goal and strategies to improve outreach to immigrants.
Assess immigrant community needs and develop future programs, referrals and collaborations.
Explore new models for building career pathway programs and design healthcare programs at CCA that align with occupations and employer’s needs on the Anschutz campus.
Research funding opportunities to support the Healthcare Workforce Bridge.
Identify and develop collaborative efforts with local and metro-wide agencies with the immigrant communities.
The Aurora BCPIW initiative includes two Healthcare Bridge programs offered by CCA. The ABE Healthcare Bridge focuses on training residents of two neighborhoods immediately surrounding the Anschutz Medical Campus. The ABE Healthcare Bridge is a combination of several classes: ABE/HSE, Job Readiness, Medical Terminology, Customer Service in Healthcare, and Computers in Healthcare. Two tracks were added as a part of the BPCIW initiative: Patient Services and Sterile Processing. While it is composed of several different classes, students go through the program as a cohort and must take all of the classes to complete the program. Immigrant students who possess the literacy and language skills enroll into the ABE Healthcare Bridge.
The ESL Healthcare Bridge program focuses on preparing immigrants and refugees who do not possess basic language and literacy skills with these skills in an integrated curriculum designed to assist them in pursuing certificate programs in healthcare such as Integrated Nursing Pathways, CNA, Phlebotomy, EKG, and Patient Care Technician.
To improve the effectiveness of the ESL Healthcare Bridge, college staff are exploring effective models, such as the I-BEST model and other models for effectively delivering contextualized instruction in order to improve student success. Currently, discussions are underway about what professional development is needed for staff, and how to effectively create a pathway for students between the ABE and ESL Healthcare Bridge programs and into college certificate programs.
One of the most important outcomes of the initiative has been maturing the current partnerships and adding new partners. The City of Aurora Mayor’s Office of International and Immigrant Affairs, Colorado Welcome Back, the CO Department of Human Services - Refugee Services Employment Programs, the Asian Pacific Development Center; Aurora – Sister Cities, and the African Community Center have all joined the partnership. These new partners will aid in recruitment efforts, ensure appropriate programming, expand supportive services, and help students establish residency.
Impact of the Initiative and Lessons Learned
The Community Campus Partnership developed relationships, hiring processes etc. with the employers on the Anschutz Medical Campus, which was essential to the successes to date. CCA provided the education and training necessary for preparing individuals for employment, however, structural barriers to employment for immigrants existed that could only be removed internally by the employers. CCP worked with the employers to develop strategies and processes for identifying and removing those barriers so that a resume that may otherwise be tossed aside due to name, backgrounds, etc. was considered for employment.
A key lesson learned was many of our refugees and immigrants did not possess the literacy skills to enter the healthcare programs. Furthermore, many individuals are unaware of all the opportunities available for employment. Additional wrap-around support, including career development and awareness, is needed to address these issues.
Future Plans and Sustainability of the Partnership
By bringing new partners to the table, the team has affirmed its commitment to serving the immigrant populations in their community. They plan to explore other partnerships and engage their new partners in determining how to make the ABE and ESL Healthcare Bridge programs more effective with smoother pathways for students. Possible future opportunities that are being discussed include whether the college should expand the bridge program model to other technical areas, and how the partners can build bridges from other community education partners to the CCA ESL Healthcare Bridge. As such, the partners are committed to supporting CCP’s “Hire Local” program by ensuring access to quality job opportunities and long-term career pathway opportunities available on the Anschutz Medical Campus.
Anne Petti, Director Center for Workforce Development, Community College of Aurora
Lisa Jensen, Campus Connections Director, Community Campus Partnership, University of Colorado of Denver Anschutz Medical Campus
Josh Evans, Executive Director, The Learning Source
Diana Higuera, Executive Director, Aurora Welcome Center