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Over the next four years, Central Wyoming College is expecting to prepare at least 1,200 students for jobs in health care to address the state’s critical shortage of workers in the industry.

With the assistance of a federal grant, CWC is targeting the recruitment of veterans and their spouses, low-income single mothers, Native Americans, unemployed and underemployed health care workers and students interested in health care fields. The program provides career pathways in a variety of comprehensive health care programs, said Kelleen Minor, who has recently joined the CWC staff as the director of the Healthcare Solutions program.

For serious, qualified students, the grant provides stipends for tuition as well as assistance for unmet needs such as educational supplies, transportation and child care. “We have expectations,” Minor said of a screening process to ensure applicants are serious about achieving their educational goals. “If you are going to be in this program, you are going to be successful.”

Mandy Tate and Janet Webb have been hired as “success coaches” and they will meet with the students regularly to ensure completion. They will also assist the students in resume writing and interview skills as well as job placement, and will track them for a period of time once they have completed the program.

“We will be providing them with the support system that they don’t have,” she added. “We want them to be serious and we want them to succeed.”

The award of the grant is very timely for CWC as the new Health and Science Center is now under construction. The new facility opens up needed classroom and science labs for the new programs, and not only will it allow for rapid expansion of allied health offerings, CWC will deliver on its promise to double the size of its nursing program.

In addition to current offerings in nursing, athletic training, dental assisting and medical office support, the college is developing phlebotomy and pharmacy technician programs as well as clinical medical assisting and health information technology.

In addition to recruiting students into the health care programs, Minor is focusing on the development of the health information technology program, expected to be offered in the fall of 2013. She said it is a rapidly growing field that combines the areas of health care, administration and information systems to manage and report health care data.

The college will soon be recruiting a faculty member to launch the health information technology program, Minor explained. In all, the proposed Healthcare Solutions curriculum prepares students for nine of the top 30 fastest growing occupations in Wyoming, she said.

All three of the proposed career pathways; medical administration, allied health and patient care, include strategies to move quickly to employment, career advancement or to advanced degrees at a university. The program also addresses emerging needs for new skills, while reducing barriers to program entry and completion. The expected outcome of the program is to meet the ever-increasing demand for healthcare in rural areas.

Minor and the success coaches are now reaching out to the health care agencies in the college’s service area “to insure the widest possible distribution of information” and to “reach as many qualified individuals as possible.”

She is also surveying current CWC students who have indicated interest in healthcare professions to determine if they can benefit from the program.

She believes the program will make a huge difference for those with limited education and experience as they enter a career pathway that leads to increased self-sufficiency, employment, gains in wage levels, educational attainment and professional opportunities in the healthcare sector. “The grant will have an impact,” Minor said.

    As long as the college is successful and there is a continued need, the college intends to keep the programs going after the grant funds are depleted, Minor said.