College News

Grant to CCCC funds free Harnett healthcare worker training

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LILLINGTON - Harnett County's "healthcare corridor" of medical care providers and educational institutions will create a boom in healthcare industry jobs of all types, according to Bill Tyson, Central Carolina Community College Harnett provost.

Many more skilled healthcare workers will be needed, he said - and that is where a $100,000 New Generation Careers Grant from the North Carolina Rural Center comes in.

The grant, obtained by the college in collaboration with its community partners, will fund the recruitment of and assistance to 75 young adults, ages 18-30, in becoming familiar with, obtaining training in, and finding work in the growing field of healthcare-related occupations in Harnett County.

Along the corridor - Highway 421 from Lillington to Dunn - construction is booming as the college builds its new Health Sciences Building and Harnett Health Systems constructs its 50-bed Central Campus Hospital, both in the Brightwater Science and Technology Campus.

Facilities of First Choice Community Health Centers and East Carolina University's School of Dental Medicine, as well as Campbell University's School of Osteopathic Medicine, are also located along the corridor. All these will attract additional healthcare providers and supporting businesses to the area - and greatly increase the need for skilled healthcare workers.

With the grant funding, the college has established a new Nursing Assistant 101 Plus curriculum program. It incorporates Nurse Aide I training plus additional workforce preparation, such as Career Readiness Certification, medical/computer literacy, professionalism/customer service, and other skills. The skills needed by workers were determined through a survey of area healthcare employers.

To qualify for the New Generation Careers grant-funded program, applicants must be 18-to-30 years of age, have a high school diploma or the equivalent, be a North Carolina resident, and have a valid Social Security number.

Two information sessions will be held for those interested in applying: 1 p.m.-2 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 22, and Wednesday, Aug. 29. Both sessions are in the Continuing Education Building on the college's Harnett County Campus, 1075 E. Cornelius Harnett Blvd., Lillington.

Program participants will be on a comprehensive, multi-agency track that prepares them not only with job skills, but also provides, as needed, support services. Tuition, fees, textbooks, and test fees are grant-funded.

In addition, through the community partnerships, participants will have the opportunity for work experience with potential employers and job placement assistance, said Brian Merritt, CCCC director of Grants, Sponsored Programs, and Alumni Relations.

A survey of Harnett healthcare employers showed that there is a growing need for bilingual English-Spanish speakers in the healthcare field to facilitate the care of the county's growing Hispanic population. For this reason, the grant-funded project includes an outreach to bilingual youth interested in healthcare careers.

Nurse Aide I state certification is the basic building block for careers in the healthcare field, said Lennie Stephenson, CCCC's Continuing Education medical programs coordinator in Harnett County and the grant project manager. After obtaining the training for that certification through the New Generation Careers grant program, participants can work as an NA-I, earn additional certifications in Nurse Aide II, phlebotomy, EKG technician, or pharmacy technician, or continue their education to become licensed practical nurse, registered nurse, physical therapy assistant, or dental hygienist.

Each advance in skills brings increases in potential earned income. For example, someone with an NA-II certification may make about $27,000 per year, while a registered nurse can make about $65,000.

Graduates of the grant-funded program will be tracked for five years to determine success in continuing their education as well as obtaining and maintaining employment.

Harnett County, with Dunn as its largest city, is among the top five fastest growing "micropolitan" areas in the nation, with a population of nearly 118,000. According to the N.C. Department of Commerce's Labor and Economic Development Division's July 2012 Report, the county unemployment rate is about 10.8 percent. The N.C. Employment Security Commission estimates a growing need for healthcare workers in the area: an additional 187 licensed and vocational nurse openings and 147 nurse aide, orderly, and attendants by 2016.

"The outlook for employment in the health care field is bright," said CCCC President Bud Marchant. "Partnering with area health care providers and employers, government agencies, and community organizations, the college can help prepare people for these positions, improving their economic conditions and benefiting the whole county and area."

The New Generation Careers Project Leadership Team includes CCCC, Triangle South Workforce Development Board/WIA, Harnett Health Systems, First Choice Community Health Centers, Campbell University, N.C. Department of Corrections, Brookfield Retirement Communities, Harnett County Economic Development Commission, Harnett Forward Together Committee, Harnett Business and Education Partnership, Harnett JobLink Career Center, and several youth representatives.