Federal grant will boost in-state health care training

A total of $20 million will go to community colleges across the state.

Thirteen Missouri colleges have received grants totaling $20 million as part of a statewide initiative led by Gov. Jay Nixon to educate 4,600 Missourians for jobs in health care, one of America’s fastest-growing industries, according to a news release.

The federal grant was announced Sept. 26 as a result of a collaborative effort between 12 community colleges, Linn State Technical College, the Missouri Department of Economic Development and the Missouri Workforce Investment Board to apply for the federal money, Nixon’s spokesman Scott Holste said.

“Because we presented this as a united package of the community colleges around the state working together on this, it helped tremendously in being able to get this money,” he said.

The $20 million will be distributed according to the programs proposed in the initial budget sent to the United States Department of Labor, who provided the funding, Zora Mulligan, executive director of the Missouri Community College Association, said.

She said the grant’s main purpose is to help move Missourians who are currently unemployed or underemployed into occupation in the health services and health sciences sector and to rethink the way associate degree granting institutions serve adult learners.

“Health care jobs are in demand right now,” Holste said. “This is going to help meet that need which will not only provide good-paying careers for Missourians but it will also help the overall health of the state by making sure that we have more people out there who can help take care of the health needs of their fellow Missourians.”

Nixon’s “Big Goal” is to increase the percentage of Missourians who hold a postsecondary credential from 37 percent to 60 percent by 2010, according to a news release. In his letter to the U.S. Department of Labor in April, he stated he is committed to supporting the changes necessary for improving Missouri’s higher education system.

Jefferson College President Ray Cummiskey said the money will help community colleges develop high-impact health care programs and focus on re-servicing the health care industry with highly-skilled workers.

For Jefferson College, the grant will be used specifically toward strengthening the development of the school’s radiological technology program and enhancing the school’s information technology courses.

“We expect that the permission will come back right away, and we’ll start by hiring staff to get the curriculum lined up,” he said.

Cummiskey said the grant will also be used to develop online simulation software for reinforcing learning. The programs will mainly service low-skilled and lower-wage adult workers who need to improve their credentials to work in the health care field.

“The idea is to make it possible for them to come back to school and get re-employed in health care with new training,” he said.

Some specific occupations the grant’s training will target include certified nursing aides, pharmacy technicians, phlebotomists, mechanical technicians and licensed practical nurses.

"Missouri's health care industry is growing quickly, and hospitals, clinics and other employers need more nurses, lab techs and other workers with the right education and skills today,” Nixon said in a news release. “By expanding educational opportunities for Missourians in these fields, we'll open the door for employment for more folks and keep our economy growing.”

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