SOUTHERN COLORADO — Here in Colorado, billions of dollars have been spent on unemployment, but one business is trying to get people back to work in a field that could use the support.
NextStep is a virtual Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) program, that sets graduates up with jobs at local facilities. The company has been around for a couple of years, but has only been focused in Colorado this year. "We don't have nearly enough caregivers. And as America ages, we need lots more. And Colorado's a center of caregiving and nursing homes and senior living communities, so it seemed like a great place to start a business with a totally different vision of how to train people and place them in jobs," said the CEO of NextStep, Chris Hedrick.
Hedrick said their curriculum was primarily delivered in a mobile learning environment already, but was typically supplemented with practice labs and clinical sessions on the job. Those have been replaced temporarily with virtual sessions because of public health precautions.
Hedrick said they do not charge tuition for students, and are financially supported by scholarships from their partners who employ the graduates.
The Certified Nursing Assistant training takes about 100 hours to complete. The class is self-paced. There are around 70 different care facilities throughout Colorado that partner with NextStep. Three of those are in Colorado Springs, and two are in Pueblo.
He also said the pandemic has been challenging on several levels, creating a higher demand for caregivers. "The demand for skilled caregivers just goes up and up. And part of that has been because some have gotten sick, and had to be in quarantine for a while, or to be temporarily replaced," said Hedrick.
However, Hedrick said this program can help turn around unemployment rates. "We had a lot more people interested after many people lost their jobs," said Hedrick.
Almost 700 people in Colorado Springs and over 100 in Pueblo have taken or are taking the CNA training. One of those who just graduated is Denisse Godoy, who was without a job when she started the program in April. She graduated in October, and is working at a local nursing home. "Do it out of the compassion in your heart that you might have for others, not for the money aspect of it," said Godoy.
Hedrick added that NextStep collaborated with two other groups to produce the National COVID Ready Caregiver Certification, which is designed to make it safer to work in this field during the pandemic. This is a three hour certification.