first responders

CERA Program Trains And Hires EMTs For American Ambulance

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that there will be nearly 21,000 EMT jobs opening each year over the next decade as professionals leave the field. CERA aims to fill those gaps.

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There is a new program in Connecticut that is creating jobs in an industry where it is really needed.

The program is called the Community Emergency Responder Academy, or CERA. It trains EMTs and prepares them to drive ambulances right away.

American Ambulance in Norwich is taking applications right now.

When there’s an emergency, every second counts, and the EMTs at American Ambulance are ready to respond. It is one of the few family-owned ambulance companies left in Connecticut. American Ambulance aids local hospitals and provides emergency and non-emergency medical transportation.

“Whether that be discharged from a hospital after you've had an illness or an injury back to home or to a nursing home for rehab. And it also encompasses we do a lot of critical care,” Robert Rautio, American Ambulance Director of Operations, said.

Now, the company is preparing a new generation to hop into one of the 20 vehicles in the fleet.

“When you get in the back of the ambulance, you’ll notice these are vein ambulances, they’re not the big box ambulances that you typically see,” Rautio said. “Getting in you have obviously you have the ambulance stretcher, we have a stretcher that we use for carrying people up and down stairs that aren't able to do that themselves. And then all of our medical supplies are stored in cabinets.”

The training is through the CERA program.  

“We’re hiring and paying students to go through an EMT class, and then they’ll be full time employees when they're done,” Gregory Allard, American Ambulance vice president, said.

The rigorous seven-week program was piloted this fall. Now American Ambulance is looking to fill 12 spots for the class that will start February 1.

“It’s just like any other EMT course that we run. However, this one's a little bit more specialized, where it's a little quicker,” Damian Rickard, American Professional Educational Services director, said.

Initially, students will train in the classroom with American Professional Education Services.

“So we set up equipment like they would have on the ambulance with the response bags that have oxygen and bandaging materials and anything that they'll need on scene of an emergency,” Rickard said.

Then they get hands-on experience with the company. The program is free to students. Those who completed it this fall walked right into a job.

“We were able to remove all the barriers that you would typically see to entering a new industry,” Rautio said. “We were also have also been able to provide the ability for people to do things like provide themselves with stable, more stable housing, better transportation.”

Seven graduates have already completed the CERA program. Not only is it creating job opportunities, but the program is also serving a huge need in Norwich and the surrounding areas.

“Unfortunately, there's a great need within the community for emergency medical technicians and paramedics,” Allard said. “Even prior to the Covid pandemic, the number of people working in our field was diminishing.”

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that there will be nearly 21,000 EMT jobs opening each year over the next decade as professionals leave the field.

People in the industry say the arrival of Covid-19 has only accelerated those departures.

“There is a shortage nationwide for emergency medical technicians and paramedics,” Allard said. “So we're doing more with less and so we needed to come up with a way to try and bring more people into the business.”

That is what American Ambulance is doing now through CERA: staying prepared even in the changing landscape of the pandemic.

“If 2020-2021taught us anything, it's that change is something you have to deal with, you have to adapt, you have to overcome it,” Rautio said. “And in this industry, our industry in general health care, all of the essential responders have been incredible with adapting to change.”

The deadline to apply for the CERA program is December 31.

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