Open Calendar


Opportunity In Action | MIC | UCM-LS | University News

"Earn-as-you-learn" Partnership Offers a Win-win for UCM, John Knox Village, Full Employment Council and Students

By Janice Phelan, September 3, 2021

CNA Grads 2021Recent CNA graduates celebrate at a recent ceremony with their instructor and John Knox Village officials. 

Thanks to a successful partnership involving the University of Central Missouri, John Knox Village and the Full Employment Council, adult learners have the opportunity to participate in an earn-as-you-learn program that helps fill critical healthcare needs.


Through this collaborative effort, area certified nursing assistant (CNA) and certified medication technician (CMT) students earn their certification while working full time as health services assistants at John Knox Village. The Village pays these employee students to attend class and clinicals while also providing them with benefits. To make earning this high-demand certification even more accessible, the Full Employment Council offers scholarships for qualifying individuals.


“This program allows us to have home-grown talent that has completed a high quality educational experience,” said  Trisha Pepper, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, Village manager of recruitment/employment. “Immediately after training completion, the new CNAs hit the ground running and continue to build on those relationships with our residents.”


This innovative partnership started during the COVID-19 pandemic, said Clarinda Dir, UCM Center for Workforce and Professional Education program manager. 


“We couldn’t get students in facilities for clinicals unless they were employees, and the CNA pool was shrinking,” Dir said. “These partnerships allowed facilities to feed their talent pool thanks to out-of-the-box thinking to address these challenges.”


So far, approximately 50 CNAs and CMTs have been trained through this partnership with the majority of the new healthcare professionals working at either the Village Care Center or Village Assisted Living. During the pandemic, UCM offered one CMT and four CNA classes in cooperation with John Knox Village and the Full Employment Council. 


“As we all experienced early on in the pandemic, change was the constant,” Pepper said. “However, I feel like we didn’t really skip a beat. We certainly had to make some changes to our processes, but have continued to provide training”


Both students and John Knox Village have benefited greatly from the partnership, Pepper added. Through the earn-while-you-learn program, the students progress through the John Knox Village pathway from health services assistant to CNA student to CNA fairly quickly and begin making an impact, she said. 


“We are able to train them to use Village-approved approaches and techniques for providing care and, more importantly, we know that they are dedicated team members who have already formed relationships with the people they serve and work with,” Pepper said.


Working with UCM has been a positive experience for both the Village and the students, Pepper added, especially with a UCM campus located in Lee’s Summit, approximately 1 mile from the retirement community.


“It’s been a very smooth process to work with UCM and they’ve continued to be flexible to meet our needs,” she said. “The students are able to complete all components either on our JKV campus or just down the road at the state-of-the-art Missouri Innovation Campus facility.”


“We are grateful to John Knox Village and the Full Employment Council,” Dir said. “The partnership allows students to establish a career path and is really a win-win for the organization and the student.”  


“I have worked with the Full Employment Council for over 20 years to assist with funding opportunities, supportive services and to develop the first CNA and CMT registered apprenticeship programs,” Pepper said. “UCM also has a long history of partnering with the FEC, so pulling the three organizations together made perfect sense. The partnership with UCM also has enabled the Village to reach even more individuals who want to begin a career in nursing by expanding its professional network to include the Community Services League of Independence and the Truman Heartland Community Foundation.”


Individuals interested in enrolling in the CNA or CMT certification programs may visit the UCM Center for Workforce and Professional Education webpage or contact Dir at 


The University of Central Missouri operates campus locations in Warrensburg, Online and Lee’s Summit with UCM’s Workforce and Professional Education programs housed at the Missouri Innovation Campus in Lee’s Summit. 


John Knox Village is a life plan community located in Lee’s Summit, serving about 1,200 residents on its campus and about 5,000 additional community members. The Village offers a full continuum of care, including independent living, assisted living, skilled nursing, home health and hospice. The Village Care Center provides 24-hour licensed nursing services in two long-term care units, a memory care unit, a Medicare-certified rehabilitation unit and Village House, which provides short-term, in-patient hospice care. Village Assisted Living offers 24-hour nursing care, regular housekeeping, three meals a day, planned activities and assistance with activities of daily living as well as three dedicated memory care units.


  • facebook
  • twitter
  • youtube
  • linkedin
  • instagram