FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- In the South Valley, a new partnership is expanding access to nursing education.
Kaweah Health is creating a new nursing program through Unitek Learning to help solve the nursing shortage.
Nurses are in high demand all across the country. However, in the past few years, the shortage has hit medical facilities in the Valley hard -- with some nurses leaving the field altogether or leaving to become travel nurses making more money.
"That continues today, even though the pandemic has calmed down some," explained Dianne Cox, Chief HR Officer at Kaweah.
According to Kaweah, the medical facility is still recruiting nurses from other states, but now the focus is on teaching and developing the skills of those already living in the Valley.
"We have probably hundreds, if not thousands, of individuals that live in our areas that want to be nurses," Cox said. "But we don't have enough educational resources in our area."
Over five years, Kaweah will make a $7 million investment to pay current employees to begin a newly-created nursing program through Unitek.
"It's kind of a blended learning program where their classroom portion will be virtual," said Kaweah's Director of Talent Acquisition, Jaime Morales. "Then they'll come to Kaweah on site to do their skills, their lab training and their clinical rotations within the hospital."
In exchange, the employees will be contracted at Kaweah for three years following the two-year program.
In a statement to ABC30, Unitek said the college wants to build communities by providing the education people need to get the high-skill jobs that are hiring right in their backyard.
"Our philosophy with this partnership is 'Live here, learn here, work here,'" said Bryce Greenberg of Unitek.
Officials expect to graduate 50 nurses every year, starting in 2023.
"There are registered nurses and nursing needs in the other local hospitals as well," said Cox. "So our goal is to really support the entire region, to the extent that we can."
The California Board of nursing will consider this program for approval in its October board meeting.