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January 21, 2024 | Tom Ballard

Ballad Health leading effort to accelerate healthcare career pathways

The Ballad Health Academy is designed with the unique rural nature of the Appalachian Highlands in mind.

Ballad Health, several community colleges and career technical education (CTE) centers, and five local school districts have announced an unprecedented partnership that will launch a region-wide initiative in Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia to create a regional program dedicated to accelerated pathways into healthcare careers.

The innovative school-within-a-school approach, called Ballad Health Academy, addresses the unique rural nature of the Appalachian Highlands by providing access to accelerated education and training in a healthcare career, while maintaining the benefits of attending a child’s community school. The new program will incorporate in-person, virtual and in-hospital education and integrate healthcare career knowledge and job training with a high-quality, well-rounded high school experience for students throughout the Appalachian Highlands. Graduating students will have the opportunity to move directly into high-demand healthcare jobs with family-sustaining wages upon graduation from high school.

This initiative is part of a first-of-its-kind $250 million effort led by Bloomberg Philanthropies that is connecting healthcare and education systems to create new CTE high schools in 10 urban and rural communities across the country. Ballad Health disclosed plans to begin the program with six schools across five local school systems – Greeneville City Schools, Sullivan County Schools, Kingsport City Schools, Bristol Tennessee City Schools and City of Elizabethton Schools – as well as academic partners including the Tennessee Colleges of Applied Technology (TCATs) in Elizabethton and Morristown, Northeast State Community College, Walters State Community College and East Tennessee State University.

The health system then plans to scale the initiative throughout Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia, opening the opportunity to students in any school or school system in the region as the initiative moves beyond its initial pilot phase. Ballad Health’s efforts to launch accelerated pathways began in Wise County and Norton, VA, where the health system led the development of a career exploration program for fifth- to eighth-graders. This program helps children advance in high school to enroll in Certified Nursing Assistant Courses through local CTE schools. The program also assists high school seniors in becoming employed by Ballad Health and furthering their education at Mountain Empire Community College or the University of Virginia’s College at Wise.

The program is planned to open in fall 2025 and could serve more than 400 students, expanding to potentially touch thousands of students throughout the Appalachian Highlands once scaled to every community where Ballad Health has a presence.

Click here to read the Ballad Health news release.


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