LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — An Arkansas hospital system will be teaming up with students in Little Rock to tackle an issue created by the pandemic— the shortage of health care professionals.
On Friday morning, the Academies of Central Arkansas announced the establishment of the Baptist Health Academy of Medical Sciences which will be located at Little Rock Southwest Magnet High School.
This new partnership between Baptist Health and the school will allow students to get a head start in their careers and go straight into the healthcare industry after graduation, as well as serve as the core foundation of Ford Next Generation Learning (Ford NGL).
Ford NGL is a model of teaching and learning that aims to transform the public high school experience by combining core academics with technical and career education.
This model of teaching will be implemented in public high schools throughout Pulaski County and will take several years to fully build out.
“This is really about growing the future healthcare professional workforce and giving students an opportunity to be successful in a wonderful field that serves other people, " said Baptist Health President & CEO Troy Wells.
Wells said that with all the open healthcare jobs right now, it will be a great time to get younger people interested in the career field.
"We continue to have a shortage of active workers today, probably 1,000 healthcare jobs in a central Arkansas area alone today," Wells said.
Scholars at the Baptist Health Academy of Medical Sciences will benefit from enhanced learning opportunities throughout their educational journey at Little Rock Southwest.
"Our professionals will also serve as career mentors who will meet regularly with groups of scholars about career opportunities. The upperclassmen will have the opportunity to participate in internships and capstone projects working closely with our own medical staff," Wells explained.
It will be different than traditional textbook learning— students will be able to practice real techniques in the classroom.
"This academy can help get students excited about a rewarding career in helping others and making our community healthier for generations to come,” Wells added.
Freshmen scholars will get career exposure through classroom speakers and guest lecturers and attend an event where Baptist Health and other local businesses will showcase career opportunities.
Sophomore scholars will tour Baptist Health locations throughout the region to see different aspects of the healthcare industry firsthand.
Junior scholars will then be provided with a variety of job shadowing opportunities.
Capstone projects and internship opportunities will be developed for senior scholars in the 2023-24 school year.
This type of hands-on learning is a part of a bigger initiative through The Academies of Central Arkansas.
Baptist Health will also provide Southwest with curriculum, credentialing, mentorship, and insight on project-based learning featured in the coursework.
They will also provide the necessary equipment and financial resources needed for the implementation of the Medical Sciences pathway of study.
Teachers at Southwest will receive opportunities to participate in externships at a Baptist facility, dedicated prep time to collaborate across disciplines, and access to professional learning communities.
Dr. Jermall Wright, superintendent of the Little Rock School District, thanked Baptist Health for what he believes will be a game changer for students.
“This partnership will allow teachers to tailor instruction and educational experiences to align more with student interests, which will aid in student engagement, high school completion, and preparation for college and/or career,” Dr. Wright explained.
Jay Chesshir with the Little Rock Regional Chamber said that more partnerships like this are in the works at Pulaski County public high schools.
"It truly becomes a team-taught scenario where kids are learning through the lens of whatever that industry is that they're interested in possibly pursuing either from a college perspective or from a career perspective," Chesshir said.
Samuel Meredith, a local 11th grader, said that the partnership will help him prepare for his career in sports medicine.
"It means a lot to me because I get to be with more athletic trainers, so I can see what they do on a day-to-day basis, and it's good to know that a big company cares about us," Meredith said.
The Little Rock Chamber will be actively recruiting business partners for Southwest and other Academy high schools.
For more information, please visit the Academies of Central Arkansas's website.