Unsung Heroes

Rio Salado College — Goal 1 Initiative Unsung Heroes

In partnership with CommonSpirit Health, Rio Salado College will design stackable, micro-credential pathways and short-term skills training to reduce unemployment, underemployment, and high turnover rates in frontline roles across seven geographic locations of the organization. The average age of the target population is 47 years, and the pilot program is set to launch in Arizona, where ~61% of the CommonSpirit Health employees are Hispanic and female. Over three years, this initiative may scale to over 5,000 students and span seven states.

These work-based learning opportunities will serve to attract and retain minority populations and primarily new-to-college/first generation adult learners. Long-term success will create social mobility by bridging new students and graduates with internship and career opportunities in healthcare.

Rio Salado College is honored to work with CommonSpirit Health and the Taskforce through our Unsung Heroes project. We have a long-standing tradition of making education affordable and accessible, with a particular focus on serving students who may not have the resources or support systems to pursue an education. We are pioneers and leaders in online instruction and developing partnerships with employers to create training programs for employees to gain up-to-date industry-specific instruction. We will use these strengths to create new educational pathways and training to help reduce unemployment, underemployment, and high turnover rates in frontline health-related jobs. I am confident, through our partnership we can help our country reinvent itself and recover from this economic crisis by creating new opportunities.

Kate Smith, Rio Salado College

Initiative Differentiators

Several differentiators set the Unsung Heroes initiative apart from others, including the commitments to: expand existing workforce development business models by partnering with the HR function directly to co-create employment and career progression; incorporate the educational pathway and program competencies into job descriptions and career ladder; develop skills badges where the partner provides the currency and validation to the learner; validate learning from multiple sources, including prior learning and non-accredited sources; partner with CommonSpirit Health to offer internships and experiential learning opportunities; and to promote social and economic mobility, despite the pandemic.

Key Interventions and Milestones

During the summer of 2020, Rio Salado College identified skill gaps within the healthcare industry. Moving forward, the initiative team will develop two in-demand micro-credential pathways and three short-term skill training options, with students enrolling in those opportunities beginning in the spring of this year.

Expected Impact

Long-term success of the Unsung Heroes initiative will create social mobility despite the pandemic by bridging new students and graduates with career and internship opportunities in the healthcare industry. Impact will be measured by industry validation of micro-credentials and the skills training developed, and we hope to see a student completion rate of 80%.