By Lori Nichols, NIMAA Director of Business and Partnership Development
At NIMAA, we believe that by focusing on creating equitable career pathways, eliminating barriers to employment, and contributing to a positive social return on investment, we can help achieve a critical and fundamental change. We can build health care teams back up, not only to where they were before COVID-19 ravaged our communities, but to be even better and stronger than before the pandemic. In the words of Nelson Mandela, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
In several states, including Colorado where NIMAA is headquartered, the economy is growing fast, yet poverty is not decreasing in rural or historically excluded communities. The issue of workforce equity and economic mobility is more critical than ever as our communities recover from the devastating and inequitable economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Part of NIMAA’s mission is to provide equal opportunities for career success and growth regardless of race, culture or economic status.
Fortunately, there is research on how programs can successfully create more economic mobility for low-income and BIPOC families. This information can guide our efforts to create obtainable and sustainable career paths through entry points such as that of the Medical Assistant (MA). Roger Low, Founder and CEO of the Colorado Equitable Economic Mobility Initiative (CEEMI), recently sat down with NIMAA to share three of CEEMI’s guiding principles for building workforce equity, which align closely with NIMAA’s efforts:
- Solutions should include strong equity components, focused on low-income, rural, and/or BIPOC learners.
- NIMAA was founded by two leading Community Health Centers as a workforce solution for medically underserved communities. We continually establish new clinic partnerships in low-income, rural and/or diverse communities to provide rich externship experiences. We enroll students that reflect the culture, race, ethnicity and age demographics of the externship communities in which they live.
- Programs must strive to eliminate barriers to employment to achieve economic self-sufficiency.
- NIMAA breaks down many of the barriers of a more traditional education path by providing a distance-based educational program coupled with hands-on experience at externship organizations in students’ own communities. The asynchronous schedule for the majority of the coursework allows students to successfully complete their coursework on the days/times that work around family obligations, a part-time job, or childcare schedule.
- Efforts should provide positive social return on investment.
- NIMAA helps individuals enter a field that has tremendous growth potential, benefiting the community as much as the individual. Currently over 60% of NIMAA graduates accept employment at their externship site, demonstrating that our graduates are well prepared to quickly become valued employees and are ready to hit the ground running after completing the program. In the words of a NIMAA graduate, “Before NIMAA, I thought I knew exactly what I wanted, but learning and going though NIMAA I realized there’s so much more I can do.”
NIMAA believes that when a diverse population can access affordable education that opens doors and moves the needle of their economic earning potential, we see a ripple effect that endures long after graduation. They become the inspiration and role models for generations to come.