RCC wins grant to place students in health fields

LUMBERTON — Starting in the fall, the first group of 48 Robeson Community College students will begin their entry-level health care training as part of a new program funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Labor. A total of 336 students will eventually participate in the Better Occupational Outcomes with Simulation Training Program.

College officials were joined Friday by U.S. Rep. Richard Hudson, a representative from U.S. Sen. Kay Hagen’s office, and others at the announcement of the program that includes RCC and five other colleges in South Carolina and Alabama. Midlands Technical College in South Carolina is the consortium lead.

This is the second U.S. Department of Labor BOOST grant that RCC has received. The program will use high-tech simulators and virtual reality to train students with no previous health care experience. Using technology and online coursework, students will be able to earn one of a variety of health care-related certificates within two semesters.

“This is an awesome opportunity for our students. The program offers our students innovation and access to technology,” said Venessa Cogdell, director of RCC’s BOOST program. “… The program will provide displaced workers and other interested students with stackable credentials that will quickly lead to entry-level health care jobs. Program participants will also gain needed job readiness training and wrap-around support services ….”

RCC President Pamela Hilbert said that RCC’s “grant-writing staff and implementation team” worked hard to design a program that would meet the needs of local employers.

“BOOST will offer short-term, stackable credentials in health care utilizing high-tech simulators, 3D/virtual reality technology and online course delivery,” she said. “… Funding provided through the grant also is allowing RCC to develop more associate’s degree opportunities and we have already submitted applications to the State Board of Community Colleges to offer degrees in Emergency Medical Science and in Medical Assisting.”

Edward O. Nicholson, the consortium director from Midlands Technical College, said that through BOOST more students will be able to get into the health care field than can do so now through limited seats in community college associate health care programs.

“They can get an entry level certificate and immediately get a job that will allow them to make a living,” he said. “Then if they choose they can later stack other certificates on that certificate as they advance their career.”

“This will give employers a steady pool of workers,” he said.

Hudson, whose 8th District includes most of Robeson County, said he was “excited” about the program, especially the ability of students to stack their certificates.

“When I heard about this idea I knew it was a good one,” he said. “There are millions of jobs out there if people can be

trained for the jobs that employers need. I think your college can match people up with the available jobs.”

BOOST’s short-term, stackable certificates in health care take less than one year to complete.

George Regan, the chairman of RCC’s board of trustees, said that the program will provide a means for students who are not eligible immediately for the limited number of seats in RCC’s health-care programs to get entry level certificates so they can get a job in a health-related field and then advance their careers by getting the additional certificates later.

“This will offer a lot of choices for people. They can build on to what they have, one certificate at a time,” Regan said.

Hilbert told The Robesonian shortly after Friday’s announcement that the BOOST program also is helping the college to upgrade its technology and pay for professional development of faculty during a time when RCC is losing state funding because of a decline in the number of hours students are attending classes.

“We want our state legislators to see the savings made because of efficiency and give us the flexibility to revert this money back into technical and health care-related programs,” Hilbert said.


Robesonian, By: Bob Shiles

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