AKRON, Ohio – An expansion of Akron Children’s Hospital’s tuition-reimbursement program will pay for entry-level employees, including respiratory therapists, to earn an associate’s degree in a high-demand field, and cover additional costs that may prevent them from pursuing higher education.
The “Career Launch” program with Stark State College is available beginning this fall to more than 1,000 hospital employees, as well as anyone in the community interested in a career at Akron Children’sHospital, according to Rhonda Larimore, the hospital’s chief human resources officer.
“We have employees that are in service-level positions that might make $12 or $13 an hour that have been here for periods of time, they’re great employees but they may have challenges to getting to a new role based upon their education,” Larimore said.
The hospital will cover all tuition and costs for participants to work toward becoming a medical assistant, respiratory therapist, EEG technician or licensed practical nurse. Each participant commits to working for Akron Children’s for two years after they complete their two-year degree.
Akron Children’s hopes to enroll about a dozen employees in the program this fall.
Administrators will also meet with program participants to learn more about their unique situations and provide assistance to remove barriers to successfully attending classes at Stark State.
“It might be a single mom who doesn’t have childcare,” Larimore said of the additional costs covered by the program. “Or if you have transportation issues, whether you don’t have a ride or you’re not on a bus line. It could be that you need a laptop to do your schoolwork on and you don’t have one. We will take care of that from our hospital IT department.”
Stark State is also committed to being flexible with students’ work and class schedules, Larimore said.
And if someone can’t complete the program or commit to working at Akron Children’s afterward, they won’t necessarily be forced to reimburse the program.
“If you’re a student, whether you’re an employee or community member, and you’re not able to commit because you’re not able to overcome a barrier, or you need to not complete the program right now for whatever reason and you’re going to start again in a year, we’re not going to collect in those situations,” Larimore said. “At the end of the day, this is about providing opportunities.”
Community members who are interested in the Career Launch program will go through an interview process and meet with hospital leaders in the field or fields that interest them, Larimore said. If accepted, Akron Children’s will offer them an immediate job in whatever capacity they can handle.
“We want to get them into employment right away at whatever hours they’re comfortable with,” Larimore said. “Maybe that’s just eight hours a week.”
The standard tuition reimbursement program at Akron Children’s covers up to $5,250 per year in tuition to study a hospital-related field, and has no work commitment.
For years, employees have taken advantage of the tuition reimbursement to further their careers and increase their earning potential.