By Steven J. Yelton, P.E., CHTM
I enjoy reading posts in the AAMI Educator’s Discussion Group. Recently, a popular topic is the placement of graduates. It seems that a growing problem is that students are accepting positions prior to graduation. Many, and I expect most, programs are experiencing 100% placement. It seems that employers are competing for graduates of some HTM programs. This is a good problem for college programs to encounter since it helps with recruiting, funding from the institution and more. However, it is a difficult situation for employers looking for qualified applicants to fill openings.
At Cincinnati State, we have had this problem off and on for many years. We always have a good number of students and 10 to 15 graduate each year. This has varied somewhat but has basically been in this range for years. This seems to be a comfortable number of graduates for our program to place each year.
Educators have discussed ways to attract more students into existing programs as well as help develop new HTM programs. If we could make this happen, we could provide more graduates to “needy” employers. The interesting part is that we seem to have similar issues no matter where we are in the country. One idea is that rather than make programs larger, there should be more programs available in numerous locations throughout the nation? We have found that graduates, for the most part, want to stay close to home.
Cincinnati State is a cooperative education (co-op) school and as such requires students to have work experience directly related to their field of study in order to graduate. Our program requires a minimum of one semester (15 weeks of 40 hour/week work) of cooperative education to graduate in addition to the academic requirements. Most employers would prefer at least two semesters of co-op experience prior to hiring them full time. The majority of our co-op employers are local to the college. The co-op positions at Cincinnati State are paid productive positions. The co-op student employee is productive and is a possible full-time employee upon graduation.
Why don’t all employers require two semesters of experience in order for applicants to be hired full time? The short answer is “they would if they could.” Some of our students are being hired full time before graduation because the employer has a need. I have heard this from other educators, too. A hospital has an open position and there may not be available experienced applicants available at the time. A co-op student may be working with them that they really like and they want to bring them on full time right away. Usually the stipulation is that the student will finish their degree in a timely manner. Sometimes this goes according to plan and sometimes it doesn’t.
What are we all doing to help fix this problem? Believe it or not, we are working very hard to remedy this problem and provide ample graduates for everyone. As I mentioned earlier, additional programs could be part of the answer.
For an educational institution’s administration to consider adding a new program, it must be convinced that there is a need, support is available, there will be enough students interested to justify the program and graduates will be placed are a few criteria. We are working hard to provide this support for anyone interested in starting a new program. I believe that the first step is for anyone interested in entering this endeavour to get involved with AAMI. There are numerous networking opportunities and lots of help within the AAMI family.
AAMI is made of many constituents who are willing to help support established and new programs. The Healthcare Technology Accreditation Activities Committee (HTAC) is responsible for the program-specific accreditation activities associated with The Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET). The group strives to strengthen the academic experiences of HTM professionals, and promotes collaboration among educators. The HTAC committee is also working to improve the number and quality of HTM programs.
Educators, employers and working HTM professionals can find more information at https://www.aami.org/professionaldevelopment/content.aspx?ItemNumber=4798.
I have found that the key to success of any program is cooperation between employers and educators. I often read in discussion groups about how established professionals in the HTM field work together with educators to attend job fairs, visit local high schools, guest lecture in the HTM programs, etc.
Lastly, I suggest that employers set high expectations for new hires. Don’t settle. I know that isn’t as easy as it sounds, but if educators and employers can work together it will be attainable. Support your local programs, create alliances and accept interns or co-op students. Please try to fund HTM scholarships. It will pay off.
Steven J. Yelton, P.E., CHTM; is a Senior Consultant for HTM in Cincinnati, Ohio and is a Professor at Cincinnati State Technical and Community College where he teaches biomedical instrumentation courses. He is the Secretary-Treasurer of AAMI’s Board of Directors, AAMI’s Foundation Board of Directors, Chair of AAMI’s Technology Management Council (TMC), Chair of AAMI’s HTAC Committee and is a member of the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET), Board of Delegates.
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