Dec. 10, 2019 GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Aruna Khadka arrived from her native Nepal with a dream of working in healthcare.
With help from Grand Rapids Community College Workforce Training, the Ottawa Area Intermediate School District and West Michigan Works!, Khadka completed the Certified Nurse Assistant training program, is working in the field and plans to continue her education.
Khadka’s success -- and the collaboration supporting her journey -- earned GRCC Workforce Training its third Impact Award in five years from West Michigan Works!
The Impact Award recognizes significant economic accomplishments and showcases the impact of new jobs, transformational training and talent pipeline development. GRCC received its most recent award during a ceremony Monday at Frederik Meijer Gardens.
GRCC connected with Khadka, who moved to the United States in 2017, through its partnership with the OAISD. Ryan Nykamp, a career coach with West Michigan Works!, said Khadka had earned a bachelor’s degree in Nepal but didn’t speak or understand English very well when he first met her. She was working as a housekeeper.
GRCC awarded her a scholarship to help make the CNA program affordable to her. OAISD providing educational support, while West Michigan Works! provided career coaching.
After successfully completing the CNA program in 2018, Khadka was immediately hired by Medilodge of Holland through a job event hosted by West Michigan Works!, Nykamp said.
Khadka earns an additional $4.56 per hour as a certified nurse assistant and has planned her next step: a bachelor’s degree in the United States.
“Her long-term plan is to get a master’s in social work,” Nykamp said. “I believe she wants to work in a hospital setting.”
The collaboration that made Khadka’s success possible is funded through the America’s Promise grant. GRCC was awarded one of only two of the U.S. Department of Labor grants awarded in Michigan in 2016, receiving $6 million.
“Aruna's story -- and the partnerships that played a role in helping to make it happen -- are really at the core of the America's Promise Grant,” said project manager David Lovell. “The West Michigan healthcare industry has a critical need of diverse, talented individuals. Unfortunately, the barriers and income restrictions that Aruna faced are not uncommon for many people across West Michigan, preventing highly capable individuals from accessing these opportunities.
“Through the America's Promise Grant, we aim to reduce and remove those barriers -- through partnerships -- wherever possible.”
Julie Parks, executive director of Workforce Training, said GRCC has one of the top-performing America’s Promise grants in the country.
“We still have more than a year left in the project, and we have already attained our participant goal,” she said. “Our job placement is at 94%.”
During the past three years, GRCC has partnered with 12 organizations across seven counties, connecting more than 1,500 people with career coaching and tuition opportunities. The program has also helped more than 1,000 people enroll in healthcare training programs, with more than 600 obtaining employment or advancement.
GRCC’s program centers on the idea that there is no wrong entry point to a healthcare career, Parks said.
“You can start at any partner location to get involved, whether that is West Michigan Works!, the Ottawa Area ISD, GRCC, or any of our nonprofit partners,” she said.
GRCC received the Impact Award in early 2019 for the Sterile Processing Apprenticeship program and in 2016 for the Medical Assistant Apprenticeship program.
Grand Rapids Community College has been offering educational opportunities in West Michigan for more than 100 years. Established in 1914, the college offers degree courses, certification and training programs, and workshops and personal enrichment classes. Offerings are held on GRCC’s downtown Grand Rapids campus, and at several locations throughout Kent and Ottawa counties, as well as through distance learning.