State funds EMT class for underemployed Pa. residents

More than 70 people applied, but the enrollment was limited to 25


Dave Sutor
The Tribune-Democrat, Johnstown, Pa.

JOHNSTOWN, Pa. — Ameer Stephens is a certified nursing assistant who wants to someday become an emergency room technician.

Amber Lautenbacher used to work at the Women's Help Center and is now "trying to find another career where I could help people."

The Conemaugh School of EMS offers initial certification courses in EMR, EMT and paramedic.
The Conemaugh School of EMS offers initial certification courses in EMR, EMT and paramedic. (Courtesy/Conemaugh School of EMS/Facebook)

Both took important steps toward those goals on Monday when they attended orientation for an emergency medical technician class, offered by Conemaugh School of Emergency Medical Services.

They were joined by 23 other students in the program for unemployed or underemployed residents of Cambria County that is being supported by the Johnstown Fire Department and funded with state dollars acquired by Johnstown Area Regional Industries.

Lautenbacher said her goal is to "mainly help the city of Johnstown" because "it's huge to actually help another person in the world, make their life better, maybe save somebody actually."

Classes will run between September and mid-January.

Training is being provided by Mike Rodgers, Conemaugh School of Emergency Medical Services' program director.

"I like doing this class because you can actually mold them and make sure that they know exactly what to do and how to do it," Rodgers said.

The instructions usually cost almost $1,100 per student, which Johnstown Assistant Fire Chief Jim McCann understands can be a "big burden" to many people.

So JARI directed some of its Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development Neighborhood Assistance Program money to the training, which enabled the class to be offered for free.

More than 70 people applied, but the enrollment needed to be limited to only 25.

Lautenbacher said she "would have not been able to take the course without that (funding)."

Stephens said having the cost covered is "actually really nice."

"It's definitely something that I haven't seen, especially in Johnstown," Stephens said.

"So to see that come here and be presented to us from the community, that's definitely something that's really inspirational, especially for me as a 20-year-old moving up into adulthood and really getting a feel for adulthood."

Debi Balog, JARI's director of workforce development, expects the students will be able to quickly find local jobs once they are certified.

"The need was critical," Balog said. "With (the DCED's) assistance and the fact the wages are moving up for EMTs, we were able to use this funding for that. But before, it was difficult because of the wages. But, right now, the wages are on the rise. and so, from my perspective, we have a critical need for EMTs. This was the best decision to use that money."

McCann said providing the training and getting people certified will not only benefit those individuals, but the local area as well.

"The fire department's in the community all the time," McCann said. "We're out in the neighborhoods. We're out in the community. and we see not only the need for EMS, and for EMTs and paramedics in our region, but we see a lot of untapped potential. We want to be able to provide this training to not only support the EMS, but to give people an opportunity to come into a field that's rewarding and that's needed. We need these people on the street doing this work."

McCann hopes future funding can be found for more classes, including paramedic training.

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McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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