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North Central Michigan College aims to fill emergency worker shortage

A college in northern Michigan is expanding paramedic education to communities without it.

It’s the latest effort to help fill a critical shortage of emergency medical service workers statewide.

According to the state health department there are currently over 500 open EMS positions in Michigan. One reason for the worker shortage is there aren’t enough places to get certified, especially in rural communities.

To fill those gaps North Central Michigan College is expanding its program to satellite campuses in Gaylord and Alpena.

Dean of Career and Technical Education Jim Cousino says many employers are also offering sign-on bonuses and incentives because of the EMS worker shortage.

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

Fire chief for the City of Alpena and leader of the county’s EMS Bill Forbush says that one of the immediate benefits would be that his employees won’t have to drive four-hours a day to get educated.

“Each community wouldn’t have enough to support a whole program ideally," Forbush said. "And so 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".

Instruction will come out of Petoskey and stream to satellite campuses in Alpena and Gaylord. The state’s Michigan Reconnect program can pay for local students' tuition and some ambulance services will foot extra costs.