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'Earn While You Learn' initiative looks to fill EMT shortage

Ambulance photo

According to the State of Michigan, the coronavirus pandemic has led to a shortage of emergency medical technicians, commonly called EMT’s. And in an effort to recruit more health care workers, the American Medical Response Monday announced it will pay its students while they train.

In what officials are calling an “unprecedented public health challenge,” the demand for EMT’s in West Michigan is at an all time high, and at a time when it’s not the most glamorous career path to go into. EMT’s are working on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic, deal with the gravely ill, and have daily, direct contact with people who have tested positive for the coronavirus. 

To make the job more appealing, on Monday the American Medical Response (AMR), a company that supplies Ambulances and emergency medical responses across the country, announced the “Earn While You Learn” initiative in Grand Rapids, which allows students to be paid as full-time employees while they take their certification courses. 

And officials are sweetening the deal, once students graduate, they are promoted and given a raise.

It’s a call to be one of the heroes, says Michigan Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist Tuesday, who had a message for the students who will take part in the initiative.

“This program is so exciting,” Gichrist said. “Not only does it allow people to pursue a new career path while receiving a paycheck, it also removes barriers for people who have been historically unrepresented as EMT’s. 

Since launching the “Earn While You Learn Program”  in 2018, AMR has graduated over 350 EMS professionals. Officials say, diversity and inclusion are major underpinnings of the “Earn While You Learn” program  and have helped the company recruit high numbers of women and people of color.