By Greg Bird and
By Eugenia Jones
Congressman Hal Rogers joined local leaders at the Somerset Community College McCreary Center Campus in Whitley City to celebrate a new program that will train local nurses and/or EMS-paramedics in four Kentucky counties and four counties in Tennessee.
As part of its participation in the program, SCC will open a new LPN to associate degree nursing (ADN) at SCC’s McCreary Center in Whitley City, Kentucky. The McCreary based program will enroll twenty-five students and will open in 2020. Additionally, the project will allow SCC to open a new nursing program in Manchester and expand its EMS-Paramedic Associate of Applied Science Degree programs at its Somerset and Laurel County campuses.
The healthcare education project, funded by a more than 1.5 million POWER grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) through the Workforce Development and Re-employment Opportunities project, is noteworthy, not only for its educational aspects, but in forging cooperation across stateliness.
“Kentucky and Tennessee face off as staunch college football rivals,” Congressman Rogers noted. “But today, we are all on the same team as we work toward one common goal-improving healthcare and addressing a chronic shortage of medical providers in our region. Local students interested in the medical field will now have the opportunity to pursue an education and proper training right here at home.”
Dr. Carey Castle, President and CEO of SCC, said the blurring of state lines opens the door to exploring other ideas and provides a building block for the future.
“This is tremendous news for SCC, our region, and partners,” Castle stated. “The strong partnership formed between Kentucky and Tennessee helps meet the needs of our communities on both sides of the state line and is invaluable. I am very appreciative of Mr. Dwight Murphy, President-TCAT Oneida/Huntsville, who initiated and worked with us to build on this opportunity. This project will help improve the lives of people in Southeast Kentucky through healthcare education and training by providing a critically needed skill set to people living here. As a result, there will be more of the health care workers needed in this region, and people can get high wage jobs.”
Carey feels the connection and cooperation forged between Kentucky and Tennessee will open new pathways to the future at a time when it is crucial for two year colleges to provide workforce training to students wishing to enter skilled careers or trades as well as providing a transferrable program for students seeking four year degrees.
“Last year, SCC graduated 1,011 students,” Carey observed. “Of those 1,011 students, one half are already working in careers and paying taxes. I’m excited about the future-we’re ready to go and make it work!”
Not only will the new program provide a benefit to non-traditional students – those who are typically above the college age and looking for training in a new field – but it will also be beneficial to local high school students who are already working toward their career goals.
MCHS Principal Sharon Privett said the new program will bring a huge benefit to the school’s career pathways for students by offering them the opportunity to enhance their career and technical education skills by attaining certifications before graduating.
“We are excited about the possibilities this provides,” Privett said. “This opens up more pathways for our students to be career ready right out of high school. The allied health and nursing fields are the largest pathway in our school.”
“Now, with the program offered at the McCreary Center, our students will not have to travel outside of our area to get their RN certificates.”
Students can receive certification in phlebotomy and nursing assistants, and had a 100-percent certification rate in those areas this year.
The ARC POWER initiative is the result of a coalition formed between several school systems, including MCHS, that is designed to develop new pathways for students to earn dual-credit enrollment hours at SCC and the Tennessee College of Applied Technology.
As an added benefit of the coalition, McCreary Central students will be able to attend TCAT tuition free for dual credit automotive technology students.
Funding from the grant will provide needed equipment to expand workforce development opportunities in an eight county region. In addition to McCreary, school systems in Fentress, Campbell, Clay, Morgan, Oneida and Scott County will benefit from the POWER grant.
The grant will also fund a similar nursing program in Manchester, the expansion of a paramedic training program in Pulaski and Laurel counties, a welding program for incarcerated prisoners in Scott and Morgan county jails and others.
Privett said all CTE programs offered at MCHS, with the exception of agriculture, have industry certification attached, meaning students who graduate with the certifications can find a career right out of school if so desired.
(Prospective students can get more information by visiting somerset.kctcs.edu.)