Howard Community College is part of a three-college consortium that will launch a Mount Airy-based health care training center to propel students into those high-demand careers, HCC officials said.
On Monday, HCC joined Carroll and Frederick community colleges and state elected officials for the groundbreaking of the Mount Airy College Center for Health Care Education.
The facility, which is slated to open in the fall of 2012, will provide health care-related programs to students from the three community colleges at a site that school officials say is easily accessible.
The center will offer credit degree programs and certificates as well as noncredit and continuing education allied health certifications, officials said.
The three schools, which each offer training in some health care fields, are combining their resources to better serve the local population, HCC officials said.
In 2000, the community colleges decided to share programs that each could not afford to run on its own. "For example, if a student wanted to be a surgical technician, we didn't have that program, and Frederick [Community College] had the program. The student would take their general education courses with us and then go to Frederick to finish up," said HCC President Kathleen B. Hetherington.
"As time went on and space became limited at the campus, and demand continued to increase for people interested in the health care industry," Hetherington added, "we came up with the ideas of finding space that was contiguous to Carroll County and convenient to students coming from Frederick or HCC."
The colleges will lease 15,750 square feet of the 24,000-square-foot facility and develop the space at a cost of approximately $4 million, school officials said. The space will include classrooms, an emergency medical services laboratory, a computer laboratory and a multipurpose allied health laboratory.
Funding for the project includes federal grants. In May last year, U.S. Sens. Barbara A. Mikulski and Benjamin L. Cardin presented the colleges with $1 million toward the cost of the project, made possible by a congressional appropriations measure. The two lawmakers attended Monday's groundbreaking, along with Rep. John Sarbanes.
The colleges are seeking additional funds to supplement the congressional money. Hetherington said the school has a request for funds through the U.S. Trade Adjustment Assistance Program, which provides benefits such as job training and income support to workers who lose their jobs or experience reductions in wages or work hours because of an increase in U.S. imports.
"We want to create more opportunities for people who have lost jobs in the manufacturing industry in all three counties," said Hetherington. "The intent of this grant would be to provide training in the health care industry."
Among the programs, HCC will offer emergency medical technology/paramedic (credit) and certified nurse assistant (noncredit); Carroll, health information technology (credit); and Frederick, advanced cardiac life support (noncredit).
HCC officials said that a student can take all the courses required for noncredit programs at the Mount Airy college. The schools will share expenses and revenues, and students who attend will pay for courses according to their respective county's rate, Hetherington said.
"It's a great opportunity for the people in all three counties to benefit from the knowledge of all three schools," Hetherington said.
HCC is already in a partnership of schools sharing resources, facilities and faculty at the Laurel College Center.
"The beauty of community colleges is that we are very much interested in partnerships, creating efficiencies, figuring out ways that we can serve students," said Hetherington. "We build on those relationships."