SULLIVAN — It’s no secret that Maine is the oldest state in the nation. And in a tight job market, that makes health care one of the state’s growing and in-demand industries.
It’s also an industry with a large array of specific jobs, ranging from patient care to billing processing to administrative work.
In Sullivan, Regional School Unit 24’s (RSU 24) adult education program offers a certified medical administrative assistant (CMAA) course. It focuses on the administrative aspect for those looking to enter the health care field.
“Our goal in designing this was to help people who were either new to the workforce, or were changing careers for whatever reason. Maybe their job was eliminated, maybe they just decided they wanted to do something else,” said Ander Thebaud, RSU 24’s adult education director.
The program, now in its fourth year, is three months long and meets twice a week. It’s split between general employability skills, such as digital literacy and communicating with patients, and technical training on programs used in medical offices.
“There are a lot of programs for people who want to do the patient care aspect,” Thebaud said. “Health care, because it’s the fastest growing industry in Maine, we wanted to broaden that past just the clinical side, like a first step getting your foot in the door into the health care field.”
Jodi McAuliffe of Milbridge started the program in 2016.
“Well, one day I was driving back from Ellsworth and just stopped in,” said McAuliffe, who now works as a dental assistant. “I needed a career change because my old job closed down. What I was doing wasn’t working, so I came in here one day and said, ‘I need to go back to school. I need to do something more.’ And it really kick-started my career.”
Lorna Konyak was a shelter manager at The Ark animal shelter in Cherryfield for 19 years before taking the CMAA course last year.
“I first heard about it through the career center in Machias, and I enrolled last spring,” said Konyak, who now works as an administrative assistant at the Harrington Family Health Center. “My experience ended up being wonderful. The teachers were well informed, and really want to see you succeed and find a job.”
Building on the employability aspect, a portion of the CMAA program does include having the students shadow employees at clinics, as well as prepping them for job interviews.
“We do want to focus on employability skills for people,” Thebaud said. “And it can also serve as a first step for people who’ve been working but also want to go back to school and get their high school equivalency. So it’s building skills for whatever path they want to take.”