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FIU teams up with City of North Miami and CareerSource to train contact tracers

FIU teams up with City of North Miami and CareerSource to train contact tracers

August 4, 2020 at 2:00pm

As the number of COVID-19 cases in South Florida continues to rise – with South Florida as the current epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic – the need for contact tracers has grown as well.

To help meet that need, FIU, in partnership with the City of North Miami and CareerSource, developed a free two-month training program for North Miami residents who want to work as contact tracers.

Contact tracers play a vital role in slowing down a pandemic. They identify and alert people who have been in contact with someone who has tested positive for an infectious disease such as COVID-19, so they can take steps to prevent the further spread of the disease. According to a
workforce estimator dashboard from George Washington University, Miami-Dade County needs about 15,000 contact tracers – if not more. With Florida and other states seeing record numbers of cases and deaths and predictions of a stronger second wave in the winter, the high demand for contact tracing is expected to continue.

FIU will train 60 participants during the initial training program. The eight-week program will be broken down in two phases: In phase one, taking place from Aug. 12 to Aug. 28, participants study at their own pace. Phase two, Sept. 8 to Oct. 5, is taught by Melissa Ward-Peterson, postdoctoral associate and epidemiologist in FIU’s Community-Based Research Institute. Ward-Peterson is a recent graduate of the Robert Stempel College of Public Health and Social Work.

“FIU is here for our community,” said Pablo Ortiz, vice president for regional and world locations and vice provost for the Biscayne Bay Campus. “We are leveraging our expertise to develop our workforce in a way that will have meaningful impact in the fight against COVID-19. Our hope is that participants in this program will have the tools to educate people in their communities about contact tracing and preventing the spread of COVID-19. We’re proud to partner with the City of North Miami and CareerSource in this innovative endeavor.”

The first phase will cover basic contact tracing skills and knowledge while preparing learners to work with remote platforms such as Zoom and Canvas. During the second phase, the training will delve further into issues that are particularly relevant to South Florida, such as navigating cultural norms around communication and sharing personal information, as well as the importance of building rapport and trust with impacted communities.

“North Miami residents seeking employment during these challenging times will now have the option to obtain a new skill set that is rapidly growing in demand nationwide,” said Theresa Therilus, North Miami city manager. “Earning a contact tracing certificate gives a competitive edge to our residents currently on the job market. The effects of COVID-19 have made this a very difficult time in our history; but I am pleased to see how our community partnerships and the innovation of our North Miami Community Planning and Development Department team are producing opportunities to boost our local economy, develop our workforce and further fight this devastating pandemic.” 

The City of North Miami is funding the course through the Community Development Block Grant funds (CDBG-CV) obtained from the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development, derived from its CARES Act allocation. Learners who complete the program will receive a micro-credential from FIU. CareerSource will help provide job placement. Given the current global health crisis, the city recognizes the need to educate its workforce and equip residents with skills and training to meet the current demand in the job market.

“COVID-19 has challenged the business community in a myriad of ways; pushing us to think of innovative approaches to the many roadblocks presented with a public health issue,” said Rick Beasley, executive director of CareerSource South Florida. “Contact tracing is pivotal to getting the County back to work and sustaining the progress as we transition through the phases of our new normal. CareerSource South Florida is excited to partner with FIU and the City of North Miami to identify, train, and put residents of the city back to work in support of this effort.”

Residents of North Miami can apply 
online to participate in the contact tracing training program.