CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) – The University of Charleston is helping Emergency Management Services professionals enhance their skills to continue being leaders in their communities.

The university has launched a leadership certificate program for West Virginia EMS professionals. According to UC officials, the program is part of West Virginia Governor Jim Justice’s Emergency Management Services Initiative, also called the ” EMS WV: Answer the Call Program,” and was created to help enhance first responders’ leadership skills.

UC officials say the current session of the 21-week program is currently underway, but they do plan to continue the program with future sessions.

According to the university, those participating will complete five seven-week courses in a time span of 21 weeks. Completing the program will earn the participants an EMS Leadership Certificate as well as 15 college credits to apply toward a leadership degree program, UC says.

“This is the perfect opportunity to leverage UC’s deep expertise in leadership training to address the critical need for professional growth of the state’s first responders, on whom all of us rely every day,” said UC President Marty Roth. “We are honored to partner with the state on this initiative.”

University officials say the program content is tailored with a flexible delivery for first responders and to meet the needs of working adults. The university organizes the participants into regional cohorts to engage online with experienced faculty from the industry.

According to UC officials, the “EMS WV: Answer the Call Program” that UC’s program is a part of was designed to help attract, develop skills for and retain emergency medical service professionals to enhance the quality of emergency services in the state. The program is backed by funds from the CARES Act.

“We are excited to offer such a robust training program to EMS professionals at no cost to them individually or to their community offices,” shared Dr. Cynthia Persily, Vice Chancellor of Health Science for the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission. “The state is fortunate to have these resources available and to have such a valuable education partner in the University of Charleston.”

UC has multiple leadership programs for associate, bachelor, master, and doctorate degrees with more than 1,500 working adults currently enrolled. Some of the university’s partners in the program include Toyota Manufacturing, the U.S. Navy Seals, the U.S. Army Rangers, the WV Department of Transportation and the West Virginia National Guard, as well as other national organizations.