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Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center - Houston, Texas

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VA Offers Unique Education Opportunity for Employees

April 13, 2004

VA Offers Unique Education Opportunity for Employees

Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center is the only VA facility in Texas to offer unique School-At-Work Program

Released: 2004/04/13

HOUSTON, TX - "I haven't been to school in 30 years, this is helping me to gain the confidence to go back," said Michael E. DeBakey Veterans Affairs Medical Center (MEDVAMC) employee Lenise Marshall-Harvey. The School-at-Work (SAW) program is about helping MEDVAMC employees prepare for continued education and growth, both personally and professionally.

MEDVAMC partnered with a distance-learning program to provide a School-at-Work project for entry level hospital workers. The goal of SAW is to arm these individuals with the basic skills needed to move into higher level positions.

Employees attend an eight-month program, consisting of a two-course schedule of classes conducted via live television broadcasts at the medical center. The first course addresses essential skills such as reading, math, communications, and basic computer skills. Upon successful completion of the first course, employees chose one of two classes: one focusing on providing clerical support in a hospital environment or one focusing on the clinical side of operations. SAW students are typically employed as file clerks, nursing aides, food service workers, or housekeeping and environmental service workers. The program enables employees to build the confidence and skills needed to pursue a higher level of education.

Interested employees must complete an application and take a written test. "SAW is an innovative and unique way to educate the hard working employees at our facility These students have a high level of excitement, enthusiasm, and are motivated to go the next step. We are proud that our students tested among the highest in the nation and that we have 34 employees in the current class," said Ralph DeVaul, Ph.D., site coach.

Coaches are an important part of the SAW program. They provide support and encouragement to each student. They also provide feedback to help the student learn and grow with each accomplishment. MEDVAMC also has an informal mentoring program, where students are encouraged to seek out a mentor they respect and trust. This person guides them in their career development. MEDVAMC has made a formal proposal to SAW to incorporate a formal mentoring program with Houston as the benchmark facility.

The goals of SAW are to raise employee skill levels, reduce turnover, increase employee job satisfaction, enhance employee loyalty, and increase the "promotability" of loyal, hard-working employees. This program will help open doors for other opportunities. I have taken the initiative for my own growth through SAW, said another participant.

The School-at-Work program is another opportunity for MEDVAMC to achieve the facility's goal of being an employer of choice. This is a stepping stone to a better future, said one SAW participant.

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Point of Contact: VHAHOU Public Affairs

04/30/04 04:51