Home ‘Local people for local jobs’: UVA Health, PVCC partnership creates career pathways in healthcare
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‘Local people for local jobs’: UVA Health, PVCC partnership creates career pathways in healthcare

Rebecca Barnabi
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Earn While You Learn is a partnership between UVA Health and Piedmont Virginia Community College which provides community members opportunities to earn an income in a chosen career field while learning more about the career.

“As a large employer in our community with a lot of healthcare needs, we knew we needed to do something,” said Wendy Horton, chief executive officer of UVA Health University Medical Center.

The program provides upward mobility for individuals interested in a career in healthcare, as well as diversity.

“We know outcomes are better when we have a diverse workforce,” Horton said.

According to Beth Mehring, manager of UVA Health’s Earn While You Learn program, training is available for individuals with no previous nursing training. Barriers prior to training have been eliminated because participants acquire no debt, no loans for their training.

The first was Pharmacy Technician and the most recent was MRI technician, which began in the fall.

“We have lots of programs in play,” Mehring said.

John Donnelly, vice president for instruction and student affairs at PVCC said financial support for program participants is leveraged from the Commonwealth.

“We’ve had long standing partnerships and programs with UVA since our founding in 1972,” Donnelly said. The short-term training program expanded a few years ago, including with programs in CNA and Phlebotomy.

“It’s a win-win,” he said. Participants receive financial support, training and an opportunity to work in the career field of their choice.

A partnership between PVCC and UVA Health is a natural fit for both, Donnelly said, because both want local individuals for local jobs.

“It’s what we do,” he said. The program enables local members of the community to gain employment and remain in the local community. “This Earn While You Learn actually gives opportunity.”

Participants can earn training for entry level or advanced level career positions.

Horton said that graduates of the program are “ready to serve the community and the Commonwealth through healthcare needs.”

Mehring said that as of February 2024, 400 have earned training through the program.

The key word for Donnelly is careers.

“But that’s not the stopping point,” he said. As individuals advance in their careers, they seek more challenges and opportunities to work their way up. “It’s building careers, I think, in this community that are really valuable.”

Horton said that the demands of healthcare will continue to grow.

“Our whole aim is really to inspire the next generation,” she said and to continue “building for the future.”

“I think it’s also a blueprint for the future. And, really, I think the best is yet to come.”

PVCC’s goal is to meet the healthcare worker needs of UVA Health throughout the region as the Valley population continues to age and grow.

“I think we still have a long way to go to meet the needs,” Donnelly said.

The program has expanded the number of graduates going into the local employment sector while allowing UVA Health to focus on healthcare, not on recruiting.

Mehring said she is excited about the quality of programs available which allow graduates to grow and develop as professionals.

“At the end of the day, the patients are the ones who are going to benefit from that,” she said.

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca J. Barnabi is the national editor of Augusta Free Press. A graduate of the University of Mary Washington, she began her journalism career at The Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star. In 2013, she was awarded first place for feature writing in the Maryland, Delaware, District of Columbia Awards Program, and was honored by the Virginia School Boards Association’s 2019 Media Honor Roll Program for her coverage of Waynesboro Schools. Her background in newspapers includes writing about features, local government, education and the arts.