JOHNSTOWN, Pa. — Ameer Stephens is a certified practical nurse who wants to one day become an emergency room technician.
Amber Lautenbacher worked at the Women’s Center and is “now trying to find another career where I can help people.”
Both took important steps towards those goals on Monday when they attended an orientation session for an emergency medical technician course, offered by the Conemaugh School of Emergency Medical Services.
They were joined by 23 other students in the Cambria County Unemployed or Underemployed Residents Program which is supported by the Johnstown Fire Department and funded with state dollars acquired by Johnstown Area Regional Industries. .
Lautenbacher said his goal was “primarily to help the city of Johnstown” because “it’s huge to actually help another person in the world, to make their life better, maybe to save someone in do”.
Classes will take place between September and mid-January.
The training is delivered by Mike Rodgers, Program Director of the Conemaugh School of Emergency Medical Services.
“I love doing this class because you can actually mold them and make sure they know exactly what to do and how to do it,” Rodgers said.
Instructions typically cost nearly $1,100 per student, which Johnstown Deputy Fire Chief Jim McCann says can be a “big burden” for many people.
So JARI earmarked some of the money from its Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development Neighborhood Assistance Program for the training, making it possible to offer the course for free.
More than 70 people applied, but registration was to be limited to just 25.
Lautenbacher said she “wouldn’t have been able to take the course without this (funding).”
Stephens said the assumption of costs was “actually very nice”.
“It’s definitely something I’ve never seen, especially in Johnstown,” Stephens said.
“So to see this come here and be introduced to us by the community, it’s really something that’s really inspiring, especially for me as a 20-year-old coming of age and really having a sense of adulthood.”
Debi Balog, Director of Workforce Development at JARI, expects students to be able to quickly find local jobs once they are certified.
“The need was critical,” Balog said. “With the help (from the DCED) and the fact that the salaries are increasing for the paramedics, we have been able to use this funding for this. But before, it was difficult because of the salaries. But, right now, wages are on the rise. and so, from my point of view, we have a critical need for paramedics. It was the best decision to use this money.
McCann said training and certifying people will not only benefit those people, but also the region.
“The fire department is in the community all the time,” McCann said. “We are in the neighborhoods. We are in the community. and we not only see the need for EMS, EMT and paramedics in our area, but we see a lot of untapped potential. We want to be able to offer this training not just to support EMS, but to give people the opportunity to enter a rewarding and necessary field. We need these people on the street to do this work.
McCann hopes future funds can be found for more courses, including paramedic training.
Dave Sutor is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. He can be reached at 814-532-5056. Follow him on Twitter @Dave_Sutor.