Uncertainty surrounds Bridges' future
Even though Bridges to Healthcare, a program that helps train low-income people for careers in health care, is succeeding, supporters argue, a cloud of uncertainty hangs over the program.
A big part of the problem is the way such programs are funded, said Guy Finne, Mayo Clinic’s director of workforce development. Each year, the state of Minnesota spends millions of dollars in grant money on workforce development programs. Many of those programs don’t work and go away.
But many of them, such as Bridges, do work, but they die anyway because "nobody wants to grant to an existing program," Finne said.
"It’s not very logical," Finne said. "Why would you watch a program that works die on the vine without funding? Watch it go away? Then two years later, someone else picks it back up and re-grants it. The cycle has been going on forever."
Two years ago, with the program at risk of being dismantled due to lack of funding, the Legislature saved the day by providing a $250,000 appropriation. At the time, the program served 250 people in a year and had a waiting list. This year, supporters are seeking $350,000.
The money covers scholarships for students, support services, navigator support and prep classes, officials say.
Officials say the program will have to be reduced without state support.
"We’ve already talked about what can maybe be sustained — not even half. Maybe, we can sustain the CNA program," said Nadine Holthaus, progam manager at Hawthorne Education Center.
But Finne remains upbeat, largely because of Bridge’s record of success.
"I feel confident that we’re going to be OK, but again, you just don’t know. The legislative session is the legislative session," Finne said.