CHESAPEAKE, Va. (WAVY) — If your job has been lost or disrupted because of the pandemic, you might want to consider healthcare.

The largest healthcare provider in Hampton Roads is offering a limited, but free, program at a time when these important jobs need to be filled.

“There are many openings within the Sentara system and other hospitals around our area,” said Dr. Angela Taylor, executive director and Dean of Sentara College of Health Sciences in Greenbrier.

It’s that landscape that has Sentara and the Virginia Ready jobs program offering a free re-training course. The January semester at Sentara’s College of Health Sciences is already full. Forty people from our area will learn to be patient care technicians at no cost.

“They will be responsible for taking patients’ vital signs, they will draw blood for lab work, they may start I-Vs,” Taylor said.

The technicians work alongside nurses, and while they won’t be able to vaccinate anyone for COVID-19, they will relieve the stress on other health care providers by dressing wounds and helping with EKGs.

Virginia Ready co-founder Glenn Youngkin says the timing is right.

“We need more people in our healthcare system across Virginia with this skill set,” he said.

The non-profit Virginia Ready jobs program emerged as a response to the pandemic. It’s working with Sentara, the Hampton Roads Workforce Council, and community colleges to get people back to work.

Graduates of the course will have a credential that will travel to other areas if they choose.

“These kinds of collaborations where we can in fact find in-demand jobs and retrain people for them is such an important part of our overall post-COVID recovery plan,” Youngkin said.

All 40 slots for the January semester are filled, however Sentara is taking names on a waiting list, and if funding allows, it hopes to continue the free training program with additional courses slated for May and August of next year.