LANSING- Many of the state's jobless could get the opportunity to work in the medical field where help is desperately needed.
The state is working on several new programs to help unemployed people find jobs in nursing and health occupations and to encourage others who are looking for a second career.
Among the initiatives are accelerated training and matching job skills, said Diana Carpenter of the Department of Labor and Economic Growth.
"We have all these unemployed people and health care has openings, so we're trying to assess what their skills are to get them in the right place," she said.
For example, the state is tryinging to get people into health fields through the 13 Michigan Regional Skills Alliances, which in some areas are dedicated to solving job shortages in health care, and through the Michigan Opportunity Partnership, which attempts to match the unemployed with jobs that fit their skills, Carpenter said.
She said each local skills alliance has a task force of members from community colleges, labor groups and the state to tackle the challenge of getting more medical workers.
Barbara Kotal, director of nursing development and educational resources at Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, said it's a good idea to recruit people who are pursuing a second career in health care because of a growing demand for health workers.
Kotal said Beaumont has teamed with both Wayne State and Michigan State universities to run accelerated training programs for nursing jobs for people out of work or looking for a second career.
They are intense 16-month training sessions, but Kotal likes what she sees from the students who have completed the WSU program, which has been affiliated with Beaumont for about five years. The MSU program is new and has not graduated any students yet.
"We're very pleased with the people who have graduated," she said. "We like that they bring experience from a previous job or degree and they have a strong work ethic."
Carol Feuss, director of communications for the Michigan Nurses Association, atributed the shortage to older nurses retiring and an inability to keep younger nurses in the profession because of the stressful work environment.
" People are getting burned out," she said. "We need to improve the workplace because people are going into other professions three years out of college."
Carpenter said one issue facing the state is finding enough capacity to train people seeking a second career in health care, which is what the Michigan Regional Skills Alliances hope to solve.
Linda Thompson Adams, dean of the Oakland University School of Nursing, agreed, saying her school, which is in the first year of an accelerated training program, wants more students but doesn't have adequate facilities.
"Hospitals are having a hard time meeting the demand for training time," she said.
Despite the facility problems, Oakland is currently training 50 students who have chosen nursing as a second career in a 12-month, full-time program.
Adams said she would like to expand the program because of the high interest, but has to graduate the first class and place students in jobs before she does anything else.
Feuss said it's especially important to offer faster paced degrees, not only to reduce unemployment, but to ease the growing need and health workers.
She said training has improved over the last five years, but more needs to be done.
"There are lots of on-line programs, more partnerships between nursing schools and hospitals and many schools have been successful in increasing their size," Feuss said.
While the state is trying to get people into the medical field, Adams said, it's important to continue to invest in health care education. That would include more scholarships and grants to people who choose such career paths.
"Health care is a critical thing that we all will have to deal with at some point in our life," she said. "What people need to realize is that the quality of the person at their bedside is directly related to the care they will be given. The quality of the workers comes through good education."