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Northeast Kentucky AHEC Receives Grant Funding to Add Virtual Reality Simulations and Workforce Training to its Health Careers Programming

Northeast Kentucky AHEC Receives Grant Funding to Add Virtual Reality Simulations and Workforce Training to its Health Careers Programming

The Northeast Kentucky Area Health Education Center (NE KY AHEC) is one of seven centers across the nation that will receive federal funding intended to support workforce development programs that prepare young people and help them access good-paying careers.

In May, the National AHEC Organization (NAO) applied for a Workforce Pathways for Youth grant from the U.S. Department of Labor. It was recently announced that NAO’s proposal, titled “PAVE” (Pathways by AHECs using VR Education) was selected for nearly $2 million in funding.

Project PAVE will enhance and expand health career exploration programs, postsecondary education/training, and workforce development opportunities for youth ages 14 to 21 from rural and underserved communities.

Over three years, AHECs across seven regions will increase access to hands-on and experiential learning by integrating virtual reality (VR) simulations into their out-of-school-time pathway programs. PAVE also will enable AHECs to advance partnerships to construct a more robust pathway that will support students toward unsubsidized employment opportunities. The NE KY AHEC’s project partners will include St. Claire HealthCare, the PrimaryPlus clinic system, and the TENCO Workforce Development Board.

“We are excited to be bringing advanced technology, such as virtual reality simulations, to our rural, underserved area,” said Whitney Cornette, the NE KY AHEC’s Lead Health Careers Coordinator. “These activities will give students a hands-on feel – they will learn what healthcare truly has to offer, and we’re confident their interest in health careers will continue to grow.”

The following AHECs were included in the grant application (resulting from the call for applicants NAO released in May) and will each receive funds (approximately $70,000 per year) via a subcontract with NAO to expand their pathway programming:

  • Hawaii/Pacific Basin;
  • High Sierra AHEC (Nevada);
  • North Central Wisconsin;
  • Northeast Kentucky;
  • South Central Montana;
  • Southern Vermont; and
  • West Central Alabama.

This project starts Oct. 1, 2023, and will go through Sept. 30, 2026.

“We are thrilled to have this opportunity to provide our students with advanced education and work experience in healthcare,” said Hannah Little, the NE KY AHEC’s Health Careers Coordinator, assigned to this project. “Our health careers team has been very involved with bright, young students across our region, and we look forward to seeing them showcase their talents and abilities via the PAVE project. This grant will enable us to immerse students into the healthcare field more than ever before.”

The NE KY AHEC has a mission of enhancing access to quality healthcare within its 17-county service region. The NE KY AHEC is hosted by St. Claire HealthCare.