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Forbes, Boy Scouts partner to present teens program on career choices

Patrick Varine
| Thursday, Dec. 8, 2016, 11:00 p.m.
Wind blows through the hair of Franklin Regional student Brooke Aston, 17, as she sits in a LifeFlight helicopter on Thursday, Dec. 8, 2016 during Forbes Hospital’s “Exploring” program, which introduces interested students to healthcare careers.
Steph Chambers | Tribune-Review
Wind blows through the hair of Franklin Regional student Brooke Aston, 17, as she sits in a LifeFlight helicopter on Thursday, Dec. 8, 2016 during Forbes Hospital’s “Exploring” program, which introduces interested students to healthcare careers.

Within the next five years, up to 30 percent of the staff at Forbes Hospital could look to retire, the president of the Monroeville facility estimated.

“We have 100 positions open right now,” Dr. Mark Rubino said. The hospital employs just over 1,400 people.

In an effort to attract future job candidates, Forbes partnered with the Westmoreland-Fayette Council of the Boy Scouts of America and on Thursday hosted students from Franklin Regional, Penn-Trafford and Norwin school districts as part of the Scouts' “Exploring” program, which introduces teens to various career options.

The program's first session took place in November, with 55 students from the three districts along with their parents. Monthly “Exploring” sessions at Forbes will run through the spring, with a second session planned to start next fall.

The current group started with a hospital introduction and Rubino quizzing participants on “how many careers are involved in treating a heart-attack victim,” he said.

Participants then observed more than a half-dozen technicians, nurses, doctors and specialists involved in the treatment process.

“The goal here isn't really to recruit doctors, but rather to fill the tech and support-staff positions,” Rubino said, noting that many of the hospital's open jobs require an associate's degree at a minimum.

Franklin Regional is exploring the addition of healthcare courses into the district's “College in High School” dual-enrollment program, Superintendent Jamie Piraino said.

“We don't have anything right now, but we're engaging in some conversations with other local schools about how we can do that,” he said. “It's in its infancy right now, but there's certainly potential there.”

At the end of the program at Forbes, Rubino said he plans to organize a career day, inviting hospitals staff, community colleges and other interested groups to meet with participants.

The U.S. Census Bureau projects that the number of Americans 65 or older will jump 36 percent in the next decade, leading many to retire — including in the health care profession, where an estimated 600,000 nurses and 160,000 doctors have already or will retire by 2022, industry associations predict.

In addition to retirement, job growth at Forbes has been driven by recent expansions: Allegheny Health Network officials invested in an expanded emergency department, a fully-developed intensive-care unit and new operating room technology.

Rubino said it only makes sense for regional health care facilities to coordinate with local school districts.

“Geographically, I think we're very lucky to have these high schools within such a close proximity,” he said. “It really lends itself to having a strong ‘Exploring' program.”

Nationwide, the Boy Scouts' career-education program focuses on careers in 12 fields: arts and humanities, aviation, business, communications, engineering and technology, fire and emergency medical services, healthcare, law and government, law enforcement, science, skilled trades and social services.

The programs are open to boys and girls.

In addition to Forbes Hospital, the Boy Scouts' Westmoreland-Fayette Council also coordinates Exploring programs with Excela Health and the North Huntingdon Police Department.

“Across the country, the health care Explorer posts are among the most popular,” said David Slusarick, district executive of the Westmoreland-Fayette Council. “I think Forbes' interest and the dedication they've shown in putting it together shows that they're very invested in our community, and we're excited to work with them.”

Enrollment in the Forbes program has been capped but slots are still open in its Excela posts, Slusarick said.

Patrick Varine is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-850-2862 or pvarine@tribweb.com.

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