Inside EmergyCare's building in Erie, 7 people are learning how to be an emergency medical technician (EMT). 

Karin Southwick is one of them.

After a career in nursing, she's ready for a change to “something a little bit more exciting and a little bit more of a first responder role,” she said. 

That change starts here, at EmergyCare's EMT academy. It's a program to get more EMTs on staff.

“We haven’t gotten too far into things yet. But, as of right now, it’s really great,” Southwick said.

They have fewer employees than they used to. That's been happening at other EMS services across the country.

“Less people are volunteering, less people are going into EMS,” said Karen Jakiel, director of community development at EmergyCare.

“More often than not, our largest source of attrition is just people retiring after a long career in this industry and we don’t have the number of people to backfill,” said Justin Kolar, director of clinical quality at EmergyCare.

25 people applied for this year's academy. 7 of them got picked.

“We are lucky in being that we are an EMS agency and we also are an accredited education program,” Jakiel said.

“We can build our own EMTs.”

Once the academy ends and the students take a certification test, they'll work for EmergyCare for a year.

It's work and a change of pace that Karin is ready for.

“Day-to-day can get a little bit mundane for me in my role,” she said.

“I’m just looking for something that’s a little bit more interesting and a little bit more of a chance to see what happens before people come to the hospital.”

And a chance for EmergyCare to grow their team.

“[The] biggest responsibility for us is to identify people that we want out in the community providing care and this academy really lets us focus in on those quality providers,” Kolar said.