WADENA — Minnesota State Community and Technical College is offering free certified nursing assistant courses in Wadena, Moorhead and Fergus Falls.

The courses are part of Gov. Tim Walz’s initiative to recruit, train and deploy at least 1,000 new certified nursing assistants for Minnesota long-term care facilities by the end of January. The initiative will offer resources and support to those pursuing a CNA credential from the first day of class to the first day on the job. This includes covering costs for tuition, fees and materials, according to an M State news release.

Colleges across the state are offering free nursing assistant next generation courses, including Ridgewater College at their Hutchinson and Willmar campuses as well as Central Lakes College in Brainerd.

The Walz-Flanagan administration plans to use $3.5 million in federal American Rescue Plan funding to pay for the CNA program. The Legislative COVID-19 Response Commission will review this request.

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According to data from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, nursing assistants are the sixth highest in-demand job in the state. This need has only been exacerbated by the pandemic, and the current pipeline of students pursuing a CNA credential is not poised to meet the demand, as the release stated.

Walz is implementing a multi-faceted action plan to support Minnesota hospitals and long-term care facilities deal with staffing shortages and a spike in COVID-19 cases.

The CNA classes at M State Wadena start on Jan. 14, and space is limited. For more information, contact M State Workforce Development at 800-426-5603 ext. 6903.