JEFFERSON TOWNSHIP — The growing need for health care workers has pushed the Ashtabula County Technical and Career Campus Health Care Academy instructors to work even harder to prepare students for future jobs in the area.
Marybeth Betteys (pharmacy technicians), Shannon Piper (dental assistants) and Ashley Gillette (nursing assistants) work together to give students at A-Tech a leg up on their careers. All three have spent many years in their professions and continue to stay up with the latest innovations in their fields.
The two-year program includes the three teachers working together to teach juniors the basics of all three fields and then focus with the seniors on their specialty. There are presently 34 students in the three programs.
Betteys is a 2004 graduate of Conneaut High School who then got her pharmacy technician certification from Great Lakes Institute of Technology and went to work for Walgreen’’s for nine years.
A-Tech decided to start a program for pharmacy technicians and she was tabbed to run the program 11 years ago.
“Every single year I have a student on early placement,” Betteys said.
The program was the fourth in the state of Ohio to be certified in 2020-21. That has helped the students get into the job market quicker.
“They can take their board exam and work before the age of 18,” Betteys said.
Each of the teachers have advisory boards of people in each of the three specialties who help keep the programs up to date and many give back to the programs as guest instructors.
“They get our kids jobs,” Betteys said.
Two of the pharmacy tech students have worked for many years and our preparing to finish their doctor of pharmacy degree (a six-year program) to become full-fledged pharmacists, Betteys said. She said Austin Reece and Dalton Talsu also continued to reach out to students at A-Tech.
The growth in need of health care workers was accelerated by the coronavirus pandemic.
“I am getting phone calls all the time,” Betteys said.
Shannon Piper graduated from the dental assistant program in 2000 after deciding to chase her passion instead of going the college preparatory route.
“I decided to come out here and it changed my life,” she said.
“My senior year I got a job at Ashtabula Dental. I still work there in summer,” she said.
She also got several certifications to improve her marketability and role at the facility.
Piper said there is a a major need for dental assistants. She said 17 are presently needed in the area and 10 are available.
“All of them have jobs,” she said.
The senior students do their academic work in the mornings and are at their jobs by late morning.
Ashley Gillette also started her career at the Ashtabula County Joint Vocational School, now A-Tech, and went on to get her licensed practical nursing certification and registered nurse certification at A-Tech after her assistant tech degree during high school.
She later finished her Bachelor of Science degree and decided to take the teaching route, but keeps her foot in the hospital world by working shifts in the Ashtabula County Medical Center emergency room when she can.
“I love the fast pace of the ER,” Gillette said.
She also enjoys teaching.
“I love seeing their faces light up,” she said of the students when they understand the material.
Gillette said COVID-19 increased demand for nurses and nursing assistants as many decided to leave the field. She said the nursing assistant program allows graduates to work in nursing homes, home health care and rehabilitation centers.
Dr. Michael C. Civik, of Ashtabula Dental, said there is a huge demand for dental assistants and the school is helping meet that need.
“A-Tech has been a great resource for us, past and present. It [dental assistants] is a very depleted market,” he said.
Civik said the students are trained in sterilization and then rotate between the different dentists.
Maddi Clint, a senior working at Ashtabula Dental, said she decided to give the field a try after having a difficult experience in a dentist’s office. She said hopes to help people have a better experience in the dental chair.
A-Tech Superintendent Scott Wludyga said the opportunities provided through the program are really amazing.
“We’re thankful for the many community partners who help us provide meaningful work based learning experiences. Our three instructors do a great job working with their advisory committees to connect our students with dental offices and medical facilities throughout the county,” he said.