Single Moms Head Back to School
WFCO Grantee Trains Pueblo Women for STEM Careers
Health Information Technology Certificates and Degrees Offer Promising Career Paths
With fall almost here, one usually thinks of kids going back to school, but it’s also a reality for women of all ages. In fact, 25 women in Pueblo will be heading back to school as part of Pueblo Community College’s (PCC) DualStar Project to help them find careers in health information technology (HIT).
The DualStar Project is dedicated to helping women earn certificates and degrees in three distinct HIT fields: medical coding, HIT management and support, and HIT network security. The program will “recruit and train women to enter STEM career fields to ensure livable wages,” said Linda Tremblay, PCC grant writer.
There is a wide gender gap in STEM industries. In 2017, women accounted for slightly more than half of all college-educated workers, but accounted for only 25 percent of college-educated STEM workers. Pueblo Community College, The Women’s Foundation of Colorado (WFCO) direct-service grantee — one of 23 grantees that is part of the WAGES cohort — is doing its part to close it.
STEM fields have more men but with the WFCO grant we can now recruit more women specifically to enter male-dominant field.
“STEM fields have more men but with the WFCO grant we can now recruit more women specifically to enter male-dominant fields. They have so much to offer, but they need the education, the money, the guidance, and opportunities to enter those kinds of fields,” said Kathleen Collins, PCC business/technology coordinator.
The Institute for Women’s Policy Research has found that single mothers comprise more than 11% of college students today. Many DualStar Project students are single moms looking to better their lives through education. While some participants have part-time jobs, others are encountering barriers to employment.
“WFCO has provided us with emergency funds or scholarship dollars where if a student can’t pay rent or afford child care, we can help make sure they stay in the program,” said Tremblay. Along with scholarships, the DualStar Project prioritizes accessibility through its online platform that gives students the option to enroll full-time, part-time, or ¾-time. Additionally, the grant is meant to help with program recruitment and retention.
Demand is expected to rise to 6 million cybersecurity job openings by 2019. After students earn their HIT certifications, a two-year degree program is a possibility. With a STEM degree, students can enter high-paying, entry-level positions. Starting salaries with an HIT degree range from $17-$18 per hour, or a base salary of $37,440.
In addition to education, the DualStar Project helps students navigate career pathways with internships in their respective STEM fields. In fact, 135 hours of hands-on training in facilities is offered after the completion of the degree program.
“Placement has been highly successful, especially through internships. There are multiple employment possibilities in hospital facilities, long-term care facilities, insurance companies, community health programs, and private practice,” said Marianne Horvath, PCC HIT faculty coordinator.
The start of a new school year brings endless possibilities for the women of Pueblo who are looking to transition from jobs to careers. As Marianne reflects: “Wonderful things are in the making. Students who began the program with no confidence are starting to bloom.”