Rio Salado College — Goal 2 Initiative Re-Skilling Adults through a Partner Pathway to Meet Healthcare Industry Need
A new partnership between Rio Salado College and Phoenix College provides underserved students a unique opportunity to co-enroll in Rio's non-credit adult education programming, such as English language courses or studies toward a high school equivalency diploma, and a Certificate of Completion in Medical Administrative Assisting with Phoenix College. Upon completion of the program, students are eligible to earn their first credential, Certified Medical Administrative Specialist (CMAS), and find entry-level employment in the industry.
Arizona's economic future depends on a skilled workforce. More than 500,000 people in Arizona over the age of 25 do not have a high school diploma. Of the approximately 4,155,500 people living in Maricopa County, 75.19% (3,124,636) are 18 years of age or older. Within that group, 13.27% (414,730) lack a high school diploma or high school equivalency credential. Additionally, 50,484 individuals ages 16 to 19 are not enrolled in school and do not have a high school credential. Further, 123,885 adults 18 years of age and older live in linguistically isolated households.
In FY2020, 55% of Rio's adult education participants were GED® test preparation students, and 45% were English language learners. Twenty-six percent of these students were opportunity youth ages 16 to 24, 65% were aged 25 to 54, and 9% were 55 and over. Rio's adult education program has an ethnically diverse student population, with the largest student groups being Hispanic/Latino (58%), White (18%), Black/African American (11%), and Asian (10%).
In Phoenix, the healthcare industry is projected to gain 40.1% more jobs between 2016 and 2026, nearly double the projected national growth of 22%. Medical/Clinical Assistant jobs are one of the top growing fields in Maricopa County and nationally. Projected employment growth for medical assisting in Arizona is 44% by 2029.
This innovative partnership increases students' access to high-value education and training that leads to livable wage careers. Students study academic content, contextualized to in-demand occupations, while also gaining essential employability "soft" skills and engaging in career training that leads to a certification. Successful completion of this secondary and postsecondary pathway will result in gainful employment opportunities for underserved and underrepresented community populations.
Rather than develop its own program to meet market demand, Rio partnered with another two-year college to rapidly deliver a robust solution and integrated education and training experience to the community. This partnership leverages both institution's strengths: Rio Salado is the largest provider of adult education courses in Arizona, and Phoenix College was recently identified as one of the most affordable institutions in the country to offer a medical assistant certificate. A significant highlight is that the Rio Salado College program team worked diligently with Phoenix College and Workforce Innovation and Opportunities Act (WIOA) partners, including ARIZONA@WORK - Maricopa County, to help students enroll and seek assistance with tuition, fees, and other wraparound support services.
Key Interventions and Milestones
This partnership program is customized for adult education student cohorts to support their success, including pre-assessments on student readiness, a two-week non-credit preparation course for college healthcare coursework (technology provided), and support from Rio's occupational instructor. Students can take advantage of wraparound services, including tutoring, library, success coaching, academic advising, counseling, and career services. They are provided hands-on training through a clinical externship, and Career Navigators assist students with interviewing and resume-writing skills.
The program's first cohort of 27 students launched in March 2021. Cohorts of 30 students will be offered every Fall and Spring semester. The target is eight cohorts to be offered annually, serving approximately 240-320 students annually, with potential for scaling at other institutions.
This initiative aims to increase enrollment, total attendance hours, and show measurable skills gains (on standardized assessment). The goal of the program is to graduate 90% of students from the two-week preparation course and 85% of students from the first course with a letter grade of C or better. The program also targets 5% attainment of secondary school diploma attainment, 65% attainment of the 18-credit postsecondary credential, and 70% pass rate for the Certified Medical Administrative Specialist (CMAS) exam for program completers. 75% or more of the students served will be from minority-reporting groups.