Free health care job training bootcamp at WCC helps address health care worker shortage

The program, which is now enrolling its second cohort, is a partnership between Washtenaw Community College, Michigan Works! Southeast, and several local health care employers. 
A free health care job training program at Washtenaw Community College (WCC) is seeking new participants after the successful job placements of its first cohort. The program, called the Foundations of Caring Bootcamp, is a partnership between WCC, Michigan Works! Southeast, and several local health care employers. 

Participants in the program receive two weeks' training in patient care, CPR certification, and additional soft skills that are essential for working in health care. They spend the next 30 days doing paid, on-the-job training with a participating employer. The cost of the training is split between Michigan Works! and the employer.

Participating employers include Superior Township's Vibrant Life Senior Living, Canton’s Waltonwood Carriage Park, and national agencies Homewatch Caregivers and Interim Healthcare. While Waltonwood and Vibrant Life provide long-term facility-based care, Homewatch and Interim provide more one-on-one in-home care. Participants in the program are given the chance to “interview” the employers early in the process and choose which type of care they would prefer to give. 

Lisa Frederick, a graduate of the program who now works at Vibrant Life, says it was the perfect way to facilitate her entry into the health care field. Frederick's background is in IT and she'd been laid off from the auto industry. After applying for over 120 jobs in her field during the pandemic, she began to reevaluate.

“After a while, I was like, ‘Do I really even want this?’” she says. “I decided I didn’t want to go back into working for the big corporations. I wanted something that brought me more joy.” 

After her initial job loss, she had been helping to take care of a neighbor’s elderly father and says she found it incredibly rewarding. 
Foundations of Caring Bootcamp graduate Lisa Frederick.
“I would go in and take care of him and do some light cleaning and laundry and cook for him," Frederick says. "I loved it, and I realized that there were a lot of skills that I could be learning that would help."

With little experience or training, she wasn’t sure where to begin. But she happened to see an advertisement for the bootcamp while visiting a friend at Vibrant Life, and made the decision to sign up. 

Frederick thinks she likely could have found a job in health care on her own due to the ongoing shortage of health care workers, but the knowledge and level of preparedness she felt going into her new job were invaluable. 

“All these little things just pop up in my head that I learned in the class,” she says. “I learned so much from the nurse who taught it."

Dean Solden, co-owner and founder of Vibrant Life, agrees that one of the program's most important functions is to provide a more solid foundation for those entering the field. 

“Hopefully they will be a more comfortable, more confident employee to the organization when they start and really understand health care," Solden says. "I think it’s worked already."

Solden says it can be challenging when senior living employees start out with no experience at all. One of the bootcamp's main goals is to make participants feel more comfortable before they even step into a long-term care facility.

“Our first program was successful because the people who completed the two-week training have all had successful onboarding experiences as they started their new jobs with their new companies,” he says.

Solden also says the recent worker shortage has given health care providers a chance to reevaluate some of their practices. He says the pandemic has shown that workers are looking for more incentives beyond pay and they "want the company to invest in them as they invest their time in a company.”
Vibrant Life co-owner and founder Dean Solden.
“The Foundations of Caring program shows people that we employers are investing in them from the start, and I think the long-term care industry is understanding that and going through transitions as well as many other industries," Solden says. "So this is one way that employers can now help employees find the right job, get the right training, and not have to do it alone.”

Another issue health care employers often face with new hires is a lack of preparedness for the day-to-day difficulties of an oft-demanding job, but Solden agrees with Frederick that the bootcamp does an effective job of preparing participants.

“They all received actual skill training in caregiving, such as how to transfer people and how to properly help people dress, groom, walk, and even with dietary needs,” Solden says. “But they also received training in communication, management expectations, and soft skills.  It really helped prepare them and succeed in a career in health care.”

The next two-week online session of the class is scheduled for Jan. 18th. Registration is available here.

Sabine Bickford Brown is a freelance writer and editor based in Ann Arbor. She can be reached at

All photos by Doug Coombe.
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