Career Readiness

MedCerts Launches CTE Model Allowing Students to Earn Career Skills, Credentials, and College Credits

Pennsylvania District First to Implement MedCerts Program, Offer Students School-Based CTE with Industry Certification

Stride subsidiary MedCerts, a global provider of healthcare and IT training and certification programs, has developed a public school Career and Technical Education model that allows high school students who are not college bound to graduate high school with an industry-recognized credential, career-ready skills — and college credits to boot, should the student opt to attend college later on.

MedCerts today unveiled the MedCerts Healthcare Training Program for high schools, following a two-year pilot with more than 900 students; the model allows students to study for and earn a nationally recognized credential in a variety of allied healthcare and health IT careers, the company said. 

The online portions of the training are provided by MedCerts, which has been awarded college credits for its healthcare and IT CTE programs from a number of academic institutions, including:

  • Excelsior University

  • Franklin University

  • Capella University

  • Strayer University

  • University of Phoenix

  • American College of Education

  • Trine University

“MedCerts, in partnerships with schools and local healthcare employers, is building an early talent pipeline directly from high school into well-paying, entry-level healthcare jobs,” said Jen Kolb, National Director of Workforce Development at MedCerts. “Students in high school can get their training and clinical experience completed in their senior year so that when they graduate from high school they can go immediately into a skilled career.”

MedCerts’ new high school CTE program aims to help K–12 school districts better prepare students who are not college-bound to graduate high school with career-ready skills and the credentials needed to immediately land a job that pays a living wage and then some, MedCerts SVP Rafael Castaneda said. 

“This is a proven pathway for real human beings who don’t have pedigreed backgrounds, where they can go through school and starting in the 11th grade have an opportunity to begin a MedCerts certification program and take courses online through their school,” Castaneda said. “And by the time they graduate high school, they’re prepared to take a nationally recognized certification exam and immediately enter jobs paying them upwards of $38,000 to $40,000 a year on average — for their first job out of school.”

How MedCerts’ High School CTE Pathway Feeds into Both Careers and College

Similar to Advanced Placement courses wherein students can earn college credits for passing high-rigor courses and passing nationally recognized exams, CTE programs may partner with an institution of higher education for a Prior Learning Assessment. 

CTE training providers in a number of industries — in healthcare, IT, construction management, and others — are increasingly leaning into the Prior Learning Assessment process, according to recent reports, as training providers up their game in an exploding online training marketplace, seeking to attract new learners and meet workforce needs while not directly competing with higher ed partners. 

During the PLA process, an accredited institution of higher education assesses the training provider’s instructional platform, curriculum, assessments, and delivery methods; then the institution determines the value of the training course in college credits. 

Thanks to the articulated credit system and credit-transfer agreements within higher ed accreditation networks, one institution’s assignment of college credits to a particular CTE course means that students who earn the CTE credential can later enroll and use their credits toward a degree or transfer their credits to a long list of colleges, Castaneda said.

The timing seems perfect for MedCerts’ healthcare CTE model for high schools, he said, as workforce shortage alarms grow louder with every monthly jobs report, and as college enrollment among new high school grads continues to trend downward.

“Our goal has been to build this learner-centric pathway — to make it as beneficial as possible for the students,” Castaneda said. “Again, this is the so-called non-traditional route for high school students who aren’t planning to go to college or the military. With this program, they can graduate high school and — if they’ve earned that certification — they’re immediately valuable to healthcare employers, and they’ve got good jobs waiting on them.” 

The new high school CTE pathway combines online training and, if needed as part of the certification, workplace learning or, for healthcare certifications, clinical “hands-on” learning in a healthcare setting guided by healthcare professionals, which often doubles as on-the-job experience; these workplace-learning hours can be supplied through MedCerts’ employer partners or through the school’s existing partners, MedCerts said. 

Pennsylvania High School Implements MedCerts’ Healthcare CTE Program 

Emerge Education, a national workforce development firm based in Mechanicsburg, Penn., worked with a regional healthcare system and school administrators to launch the state’s first public school-based healthcare certification option; 50 students at Cumberland Valley High School are enrolled in the MedCerts Healthcare Training Program this semester. 

Emerge, which partnered with the nearby University of Pittsburgh Medical Center to provide the clinical portions of the students’ training, said the implementation is not a heavy lift for school districts, especially if they are already investing in Career and Technical Education programs for some students. 

A high school offering the MedCerts Healthcare Training Program will need a career or guidance counselor to usher students into and through the healthcare CTE program and support them through passing their certification exam, said Emerge SVP Lauren Holubec. MedCerts provides the coursework, and the cost per student for a district to offer any of the 16 available tracks is about the same an individual would pay if they enrolled independently in a certification track — about $4,000 apiece, according to the MedCerts website.

Holubec said Pennsylvania has a need for more CTE spots for high-schoolers, because demand among students has outstripped the state’s CTE capacity; a change in state law now allows students to substitute an industry-recognized credential for certain Keystone exams required to graduate, resulting in a surge in CTE programs’ popularity.

“In Pennsylvania, there's not enough spots for enough kids in career-tech programs; each district gets a certain percentage of seats,” Holubec said recently. “But Cumberland Valley School District is very big, and 140 students who signed up for the local career-tech program didn't get in (for this fall semester). The CTE program (that the district sends students to) has expanded from one allied health instructor to five over the past five years, and they just can't keep up with the demand.”

Cumberland Valley School District already had the infrastructure in place, with guidance and career counselors on staff, she said. One of the high school principals is leading the MedCerts CTE initiative, working closely with Emerge. 

Holubec said some school districts may be able to divert already-budgeted CTE funds — particularly if a school’s students are not able to attend the closest career-tech campus — and districts also might consider grants to fund healthcare or IT tracks for students, since both sectors are facing critical labor shortages in recent years.

“Local workforce development board funds are sometimes applicable to cover programs like this,” she said. “We're working within those systems, and we are also leaning heavily into our employer (network) to ask them to help subsidize the cost for schools to implement these new programs, because the employers will benefit from this, too.”

Emerge is in early planning stages with a couple dozen other school districts wanting to offer MedCerts’ healthcare courses to their students, Holubec said. She expects them to be in high demand once word spreads about the program’s inaugural class at Cumberland Valley. 

“We're creating the exemplar because we're doing what employers are asking for: giving high school students a way to earn verified credentials that are career-ready and stackable or transferable for future career growth through higher education,” Holubec said. 

That credential portability is the key ingredient, she said: “If UPMC is not here tomorrow, or not hiring next year for example, a student can still go land a great job at another health system, because this program is aligned not just with that one particular health system that’s providing the clinical training locally. This program and the credentials that students can earn are nationally recognized.” 

MedCerts said it has opened the program to public and private schools for the current school year, to be managed through career centers, vocational training, or existing healthcare training programs and academies. Secondary educators and administrators can learn more by emailing [email protected].