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EMS education program expands to Gaylord and Alpena

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FreeImages.com / Julie Elliott-Abshire
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North Central Michigan College is expanding its paramedic certification program to help fill education gaps in northern Michigan.

The state is currently facing a shortage of emergency medical service workers, with more than 500 vacancies. One reason for the worker shortage is there aren’t enough places to get certified, especially in rural communities.

Now some classes will be available for students in Gaylord and Alpena.

Alpena Fire Chief Bill Forbush says programs are expensive to start up and often it doesn’t make sense with the small number of students. But remote instruction makes it accessible.

“Each community wouldn’t have enough to support a whole program,” he says. “By working together with these remote sites now we can make one class with a dozen, 15 people in it, which is a good class size to teach.”

Jim Cousino, the dean of career and technical education at NCMC, says the program will help providers find a pool of qualified paramedics.

“It’s unknown how many are going to want to move to a rural area in Alpena or other areas of the state,” Cousino says. “If they’re local individuals they’re more likely to want to stay near home.”

The state’s Michigan Reconnect program can pay for local students' tuition and some ambulance services will foot extra costs. Cousino says many employers are also offering sign-on bonuses and incentives because of the EMS worker shortage.