June 1, 2018
Commission Update

Sharing how PA's community colleges are responsive to the needs of the local communities they serve.

News from Pennsylvania's community colleges

Penn Highlands Community College develops new programs to keep pace with healthcare job growth
Jobs in the healthcare field are projected to grow 18 percent from 2016 to 2026, much faster than the average for all occupations, according to the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics. At Penn Highlands Community College , new programs and initiatives are being developed to keep pace with industry growth.

However, additional state funding is needed to continue to educate and train students entering the healthcare field. Currently, Pennsylvania community colleges are asking for a $10.6 million increase in their operating appropriation for fiscal year 2018-19, which would help fund these popular programs.

"I need more money to support healthcare programs to supply entry level positions throughout the Southern Alleghenies region of the state." Penn Highlands President Dr. Walter Asonevich said. As of May 2018, healthcare and social assistance is the primary industry driving the Southern Alleghenies region, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Labor, Center for Workforce Information and Analysis.

This month the Penn Highlands Board of Trustees approved a new certificate program in Patient Care Technology that's set to begin this fall. The college also recently unveiled a new simulation lab that will benefit students in Medical Assisting Technology and Pharmacy Technician programs. In addition, two new healthcare programs, Pre-Health Professions and Pharmacy Technician, are joining the program offerings at the Penn Highlands Blair Center. The programs are available as a result of the college's 14,000-plus-square-foot expansion.

Enrollment in Westmoreland County Community College nursing program is full for third straight year
The nursing program at Westmoreland County Community College has had full enrollment for three straight years, as students are graduating with 100 percent job placement, according to program director Sue Snyder.

The graduates are filling positions in the in-demand field of nursing, with the majority of graduates staying in Westmoreland County to work. 

Students doing clinical work are being placed at hospitals close to their homes, which makes it much more convenient for them. More than 50 percent of graduates of Westmoreland County Community College's nursing program filled open jobs at Excela Health.

"Nurses are integral to the Excela Health care delivery system. Having Westmoreland County Community College as a ready resource has been and will continue to be invaluable to our recruiting efforts,' said Katelyn Printz, Director of Employee Relations at Excela Health Westmoreland Hospital. "We are very pleased with the knowledge of the recruits and their ability to perform well throughout our system. This educational healthcare partnership means student are training and providing care in our community to our community."

Due to successful articulation agreements with schools such as Penn State Fayette, Penn State New Kensington, Robert Morris University, Waynesburg University, Carlow University and Mount Aloysius College, students are able to transfer to complete a bachelor's of science degree in nursing.

"Our nursing program has been successful because of the talented faculty and the dedication they have to the program as well as our partnerships with employers," said Dr. Tuesday Stanley, President of Westmoreland County Community College. "Our students graduate with honors and many are offered jobs before graduation. With 97 percent of our graduates living and working in the area, they also drive the local and state economy. The funding our college receives from local and state government is key to the continued success of our college and other community colleges like us across the state."

Community College of Allegheny County's welding program has full or nearly full enrollment yearly
Welding Technology is one of the Community College of Allegheny County 's fastest growing programs, with full or nearly full enrollment each year. In fact, enrollment in CCAC construction programs continues to grow, in part due to the Shell ethylene cracker plant that is under construction in Beaver County.

To meet the enrollment demands, a "Midnight Welding" class was added four nights a week, from 10:00 p.m. to 2:30 a.m., offing a viable alternative for students who were not able to register for the popular daytime program. The Welding program also expanded to seven days a week in the fall, with the addition of classes on Sunday. The summer Welding program is also nearly full, and it will soon be at capacity when two high school students on a waiting list join the program at the start of the next course.

Additional state funding in community colleges' operating budgets would help colleges fund such in-demand programs.

"Although community colleges like CCAC continue to keep a tight rein on expenses, flat state funding presents a challenge when investing in new and emerging high-demand programs," says CCAC President Dr. Quintin Bullock.

The Shell cracker plant, which is under construction and will open in 2020, is actively recruiting experienced welders who are working in the region, so local companies are scrambling to back-fill those jobs, said Ron Logreco, assistant dean at CCAC's West Hills Center. "We have companies taking six, eight or 10 of our students at a time, and that is likely to continue."
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