Muskegon Community College will partner with four Michigan community colleges as part of a $5 million federal grant to meet regional healthcare demands for a skilled workforce.
The U.S. Department of Labor awarded the Strengthening Community Colleges Training Program grant to Grand Rapids Community College, which is heading a coalition involving MCC, Alpena CC, Lansing CC, Oakland CC, healthcare employers and workforce development organizations. The participating colleges will identify the most pressing healthcare job vacancies in their respective regions and then build the curriculum to educate and develop those students for those careers.
One college will be named the lead institution for each curriculum, but students at the five colleges will be allowed to take the any of healthcare courses online, providing a cost-saving measure that maintains the best educational opportunity.
In 2019, using funds from a $6 million America’s Promise Grant, the coalition hired a consultant to create and write a Surgical Tech curriculum and prepare the program for the initial accreditation through the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP).
Muskegon Community College will serve as lead for the Surgical Tech program, which will be offered beginning in Fall 2021 and will result in an associate of applied science degree. This program will be an apprenticeship program registered with the Department of Labor, similar to MCC’s medical assistant program.
“MCC will be responsible for hiring the full-time instructor, who will teach online for all member colleges through Michigan College Online,” explained Chris Patterson, director of Nursing and Health Programs at MCC. “The cost of the instructor will be shared by all participating colleges. Mercy Health and Spectrum Health have agreed to allow our programs to conduct labs and clinicals in house, making it possible to offer the program for a limited investment.”
“Muskegon Community College is also committed to creating a phlebotomy program, which will be offered for credit and result in certification,” added Patterson. “This program will be starting in Fall 2022 and will be an online program consisting of learning modules.”
The Strengthening Community Colleges Training Program grant, with about $700,000 targeted for MCC, will help to implement both healthcare programs at the college, including hiring the instructors and funding administrative time to set up and ensure articulation of the programs. Additionally, the grant would also provide student support through testing fees, distance learning equipment, and lab supplies.
“Muskegon Community College has a long tradition of supplying healthcare workers to our local healthcare agencies, the largest of which currently is Mercy Health Muskegon,” added Patterson. “As a college we rely on Mercy Health to communicate with us to determine their needs and how we can best meet those needs through training of essential workers. This associate-degree program is in the process of being created and will have to be approved by the individual colleges participating in the consortium.”
“The grant is a four-year commitment to get these programs up and running,” added MCC Dean of Academic Affairs Dan Rinsema-Sybenga, who oversees workforce development at the college. “It is anticipated that these programs will continue and be self-sufficient after the grant period is complete. These programs are part of MCC’s health profession offerings that include nursing, respiratory therapy, medical assistant, certified nurse assistant and others.”
“The cooperation and synergy between several community colleges and healthcare employers is exciting,” said MCC Vice President for Academic Affairs Kelley Conrad. “This grant enables MCC to create new opportunities for our students to prepare for high-demand careers in healthcare. Through this grant and the partnerships, MCC is building programs that will very quickly benefit our students and our community.”