n innovative workforce development program in Pflugerville, an Austin, Texas, suburb of 70,000 people, turns high school students into emergency medical technicians (EMTs), saves lives and equips the workforce of tomorrow with marketable skills.
High school students in the Pflugerville Independent School District (PfISD) are taking advantage of these programs. Many are earning industry certifications in a variety of fields from healthcare to manufacturing — a result of the Pflugerville Community Development Corporation (PCDC) and its workforce partners securing more than $1 million in grants for worker training.
The biggest gift came on November 7, 2023, when the PfISD received a fully functional, decommissioned ambulance to use as a Fire and EMT Academy Mobile Learning Lab, enabling students to learn EMT skills while working on the road.
How valuable is this training? Just listen to Hannah Remus tell her story. She is a recent graduate of the program. Today, she is in the field working as a certified EMT.
“Because of the education I received in high school, I am working for a private ambulance company in Austin doing interfacility transports now,” says Remus. “In the spring, I will be hired to work for Travis County to do 911 emergency response work in Austin. This would not have happened without the EMT training I received in high school.”
Remus believes in the life-changing power of this program so much that she volunteers her time to go back into the high schools and teach other students how to become a certified EMT. “I’ve gone back probably once or twice a week since they started,” she says. “I share stories about patients I have helped. I teach students how to apply what they’re learning.”
Remus says the education she received in school prepared her well for her career. “It was amazing because I received so much hands-on training,” she notes. “I got to learn from so many different people in the field. I also learned the pitfalls to avoid.”
From High School to EMT
Michael Anderson, deputy assistant chief of administration for the Pflugerville Fire Department, oversees the program. He says he’s gratified when he hears stories like Hannah’s. “This is an opportunity for young people to go directly into the workforce post-high school,” he says. “We introduce them to public service in the community; many of them now work as certified EMTs.”
Anderson notes that since the program began in 2020, “more than 40 students have received their EMT certification, and 12 became employed with us. Another six graduates are practicing in the field or are pursuing further medical training,” he adds.
One of them is Remus. She says she plans to continue her education and eventually become a fully certified paramedic for Travis County.
“A majority of the training is done right on the high school campus,” says Anderson. “With the ambulance, we’re able to train students on ambulance rides and at the hospital. Students go through the same curriculum that is taught at a community college, so they are receiving a college education in high school.”
Two students have already been involved in giving lifesaving treatment during the course of this program, so the difference in the community is already being made.
“Nobody else has an actual working ambulance in use in training,” says Traci Hendrix, Career and Technical Education (CTE) director for the Pflugerville Independent School District. “Ours is a fully functional vehicle that we can take around to the various high school campuses. We love going out there and seeing the kids’ eyes light up when they see this thing. Seeing students go from learning theory in the classroom to learning in the real world is so rewarding. You see the light bulb go off. We had two students perform lifesaving measures on patients.”
PCDC Nurtures Partnerships
PCDC played a vital role in making this happen. “The PCDC was excited to support our education partners and help put this program on the move so it can provide a realistic training program and literally roll it out at other campuses,” said PCDC Executive Director Amy Madison. “Our grant further amplifies the commitment of our community partnership with the PfISD and Travis County Emergency Services District 2 to nurture the next generation of medical professionals.”
“Seeing students go from learning theory in the classroom to learning in the real world is so rewarding. You see the light bulb go off.”
— Traci Hendrix, Career and Technical Education Director, Pflugerville Independent School District
Since the program’s inception in 2020, the Healthcare-EMT Academy has trained 59 students, while the Fire/EMT Academy has trained 41 students.
“We have also introduced an advanced manufacturing training program in the school district,” says Hendrix. “We are working with Austin Community College. Students can graduate from college manufacturing courses with a level one certificate when they complete their high school degree. They can graduate and already be a leg up in the career field at level two — not entry level. That education can also feed into an associate degree and a bachelor’s degree.”
Hendrix adds that “PCDC has been really helpful in introducing us to industry partners. PCDC connects businesses to our community and our school.”
Thanks to these partnerships, Hendrix says, the first group of students will graduate this year with level one certificates in advanced manufacturing from Austin Community College.
“We are in our second year, and we are seeing growth,” she adds. “This spring will be a heavy recruitment phase. It is now about building capacity.”
Anderson commends the school district for its leadership. “This program is another example of the vision of the school district to expose students to a new career path,” he says. “Pflugerville is working hard and is dedicated when it comes to workforce development.”
This Investment Profile was prepared under the auspices of the Pflugerville Community Development Corporation. For more information, contact Veronica Ramirez at email@example.com. On the web, go to www.pfdevelopment.com.