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Job Corps program set for expansion
The Brunswick Job Corps Center has scaled back some of its programs in recent years in response to the changing job market.

But the center is also adding programs for the same reason.

The center recently added a patient care specialist program, where certified nursing assistants can get training for more specialized care for those hospitalized or visiting emergency rooms for treatment.

Mel Gaines, the center's director, said patient care specialists are in high demand in the health care field, and he has had no problems finding employers waiting to hire his graduates.

The program takes about four months for a certified nursing assistant to complete.

Gaines said the Brunswick center has the distinction of being the only one of 123 Job Corps centers in the nation to offer the program, which is so popular another classroom will be renovated so more students can take the classes.

He said funding for the program wasn't enough to pay a contractor to renovate an old classroom and transform it into a replica of a hospital emergency room and a patient's room.

That was not a problem. Students in the center's construction programs did the electrical, plumbing and other work and will do the renovations on a second classroom to help expand the popular program, Gaines said.

Carol Grant, the center's career technical training manager, said the intent was to give students an opportunity to advance their careers in the health field.

"A patient care technician has more hands-on (training) for patient care," Grant said. "Patients have more specialized care, and it frees up LPNs to do more administrative work."

Another advantage: "Students can leave here and go on to be an LPN if they choose to," Grant said.

Grant said some graduates complete the program and continue their education in college.

Students are between 16 and 24 years old and must come from economically and socially disadvantaged families, Grant said.

One big motivator is the pay. Gaines said students who complete the patient care specialist course earn about $4 an hour more than a certified nursing assistant, or CNA.

"It expands your employment opportunities," Gaines said. "Many emergency rooms have patient care technicians. They can do a lot of hands-on patient care."

Gaines said he is excited about the prospect of adding a second course to meet the growing demand for the training.

"Students are excited about it. We are, too," Gaines said. "We're sure the government wants us to expand to two programs."

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