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Student holding nursing scrubs

To fill a critical shortage of medical professionals in Hawaiʻi, some high school students are training at their schools to become certified nurse aides (CNA) through a partnership between Leeward Community College and the Healthcare Association of Hawaiʻi (HAH).

According to HAH, there were 3,873 open non-physician healthcare positions across 89 professions in 2022. HAH collaborated with Leeward CC for a pilot high school CNA training program in 2023, at Farrington, Waiʻanae and Kauaʻi High Schools that was funded by federal and private sources.

“Good experience, loved it,” said Farrington student Melody Agodong. “(It) teaches you about basic nursing skills to get the job. Labs were great. Employment support and [transition training] were super helpful.”

During the pilot year, students secured employment at various healthcare facilities, including Manoa Cottage Kaimuki, The Plaza Assisted Living, Garden Isle Rehab and Nursing and Waianae Coast Comprehensive Health Center.

Public-private collaboration supports healthcare workforce

Students smiling

With funding from Good Jobs Hawaiʻi (GJH)—a joint effort between the University of Hawaiʻi, and various federal, state, county and philanthropic resources, offering free skills training in high-demand sectors—HAH was able to work with Leeward CC’s Office of Workforce Development to set up Farrington High School as a Central Oʻahu hub and Waiʻanae High School as a West Oʻahu hub to host CNA training for more high school students.

Leeward CC provides the instructors and sets up mini labs at the schools for the CNA cohorts, and the GJH funding covers the cost of certifications and the externships provided through the HAH and their participating members. In addition, the UH Department of Geriatric Workforce Development Program provides additional lab space, equipment and training on caring for persons living with dementia.

In January 2024, Mililani High School seniors will begin CNA training at their school, while students from Farrington, McKinley and Kaimuki High Schools will train at the Farrington hub. Kauaʻi High School is also scheduled to begin CNA training. In all, more than 30 high school students will be trained as CNAs through the partnership.

“The program provides students with a unique opportunity to earn an industry certification before graduating and get a head start on their career and employment goals, while providing the industry with a new generation of skilled healthcare professionals,” said Colleen Leopoldino, HAH manager of workforce development.

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