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8/15/2000

Training Program Leads to Job Guarantee

Cheryl A. Thompson

With properly trained pharmacy technicians in high demand but short supply, a major drugstore chain is guaranteeing employment to graduates of an ASHP-accredited technician training program who pass the national certification exam.

Rite Aid Corporation and the Detroit branch of Michigan Works, a state agency, have joined with the Wayne County Community College District to train more people to work locally as pharmacy technicians. 

To better meet students' needs, the college district recently shortened its program from a full academic year to a six-month accelerated schedule, says Dick Kuschinsky, director of the ASHP-accredited pharmacy technology program. Attendees can earn 34 hours of credits toward a college degree. 

In the initial offering of the accelerated program, says Kuschinsky, about 90 percent of the nearly 30 students are from the state's welfare-to-work program and 10 percent are traditional full-paying students. The groups attend class together and, he says, do not differ "intelligence-wise or knowledge-wise." 

"Some of our students [from Michigan Works] have two to three years of liberal arts" college education, says Kuschinsky. That type of college education, however, has not been sufficient for those people to earn a real living. 

But add 31 credit hours of liberal arts courses to the 34 hours from the technology program and a student has earned an associate's degree while advancing toward a career, Kuschinsky says. In fact, he expects his current straight-A student to continue her education and become a pharmacy student. 

Even without a college degree, graduates of the pharmacy technology program "will have a respectable career," says Kuschinsky. 

Classroom instruction is accompanied by six weeks of experiential training in a hospital and a community pharmacy. The state-assisted students work at a Rite Aid pharmacy for their community experience. Although associated with Henry Ford Hospital, the training program sends students to various Detroit area hospitals. 

Students also train twice a week in a dispensing laboratory with pharmacy students at nearby Wayne State University. 

"The pharmacists-to-be will realize [from this experience] that the pharmacy technicians will be of real help in the real world," says Kuschinsky. 

Rite Aid, with 25 stores in the Detroit area, has guaranteed the students employment, at a starting wage of $10 an hour, after graduation from the program and certification by the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board, Kuschinsky said. 

Through the grapevine, he has heard that the Rite Aid pharmacists "are saying for the first time that they have someone to talk to" who is knowledgeable. 

Publicity about the program has generated so many inquiries that Kuschinsky expects the second session to have a 50-50 mix of state-assisted and traditional students.