Empowered Through Opportunity

Published on 06 June 2018

St. Louis College of Pharmacy, in partnership with Jennings High School, has developed a program that helps high school seniors not only become nationally certified pharmacy technicians but also access opportunities for continued education in pharmacy and health care. In addition to providing growth opportunities for students, the College is fostering the development of a critical workforce to support pharmacists.

The STEM Health Science Academy’s innovative blend of academics and job training includes 16 weeks of classroom learning followed by a 12-week paid apprenticeship in a Schnucks pharmacy. Students who excel in their apprenticeships may remain on the job and continue honing their skills after the program ends.

The program is one way the College is supporting workforce development and the profession of pharmacy — by developing a base of skilled, experienced and certified pharmacy technicians. Though Missouri does not mandate pharmacy technicians become nationally certified, the College recognizes that certification is an impending requirement, and in a competitive job market, will give students an edge in the hiring pool while providing a highly qualified workforce.

“Being a nationally certified pharmacy technician is very appealing to hospital pharmacies, as well as community pharmacies,” said Valerie Stevens, coordinator of pharmacy pipeline development and technician training at the College. “By incorporating the certification exam into the program, we are giving these students a competitive edge as they embark on their careers.”

Following a successful launch last summer, 10 students graduated from the program and are continuing their careers as pharmacy technicians. On the heels of this success, the College has expanded the program to include additional high schools and apprenticeship locations. Through a grant from Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals, five students from the Collegiate School of Medicine and Bioscience in the St. Louis Public School District will join the academy in May 2018. Their training will place them in pharmacy technician roles at area Schnucks, CVS and Affinia Healthcare locations.

The value of this program goes beyond training future pharmacy technicians. For these high school students, the program offers a different path, and hopefully an inspired path to pharmacy. It offers a taste of what a career in pharmacy could be. It is an investment in the future and an opportunity to enrich the profession.

“We want the students going through this program to learn skills and also be empowered to pursue STEM studies and health care careers,” said Isaac Butler, Pharm.D., MBA, vice president for diversity and inclusion at the College. “With training founded in patient-centered care, the program encourages these students to go beyond building skills, by instilling the values that drive health care.”

Encouraged by the success of the program, the College plans to further expand the program to students in the St. Louis Public School District, as well as the Ferguson and Florissant School Districts.

As the program expands, it will play a key role in building a diverse and talented health care workforce that will be prepared to meet the needs of patients and the demands of a growing health care occupations industry.

This story was first published in the spring 2018 issue of Script. Visit stlcop.edu/script to read more and access previous issues.

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