By ASHLEIGH LIVINGSTON Press-Republican
---- — PLATTSBURGH — North Country residents will soon have increased access to educational opportunities in the fields of health care and technology.
SUNY Plattsburgh and Clinton and North Country community colleges are among 36 SUNY campuses across the state to receive three-year grants through the SUNY High-Needs Program, which aims to prepare the state’s workforce for certain career fields.
North Country Community College, based in Saranac Lake with branch campuses in Malone and Ticonderoga, was awarded a $450,000 High-Needs Grant to establish associates of applied science degree programs at its Malone campus for students who wish to become chemical-dependency counselors and human-services assistants.
The State Department of Labor forecasts a job growth of 8 to 10.5 percent in those fields over the next 10 years, according to Maureen Sayles, assistant dean for grants and funded programs at NCCC.
The programs, which share curriculum, must still be reviewed by SUNY and the State Education Department, Sayles said, but the college hopes to offer them in Malone by fall 2013 or spring 2014.
In addition, she said, the college would like to eventually offer the degrees at its Ticonderoga campus, as well.
Offering the programs at NCCC, Sayles noted, will give North Country residents “much easier access to seek education that will lead to a high-needs, high-demand position” and provide the area with a workforce that meets employer needs.
The college will also increase staffing to accommodate the programs, she added.
Clinton Community received a High-Needs Grant totaling $328,617, with $40,346 going to the college’s Electrical Technology Program, $77,293 to its Information Technology Program and $210,978 to its Nursing Program.
“The money will pay for the upgrade of equipment in our labs for all three programs,” CCC Director of Community and Workforce Development Paul DeDominicas told the Press-Republican in an email.
For example, some of the money will be used by the Nursing Program to purchase Pedia-Sym, a programmable mannequin that can simulate medical conditions.
“The SUNY High Needs Funds will allow CCC to continue to provide students access to the cutting-edge technology that they will see in the field upon graduation,” DeDominicas said.
In addition, he noted, the grant will be used to increase the number of lab stations available to the programs, as well as pay for tutors for information-technology students and increased hours for the Nursing Program’s lab assistant.
“There will be more equipment in the labs with an expansion of work stations, so students will have more opportunity for hands on training, a key component to career degrees,” DeDominicas added.
CCC President John Jablonski told the Press-Republican in an email that nursing and technology programs are expensive to run because of the sophisticated labs and equipment they require.
“The additional funding that we have been awarded will help us to better serve local business and industry by preparing the next generation of high-tech workers and nurses,” he said.
“Of course, it also provides opportunities for individual students to increase their earning capacity. Everyone wins.”
SUNY Plattsburgh was awarded $189,800 to establish a bachelor’s degree program at its Queensbury campus for registered nurses who have already acquired an associate’s degree.
“There are a lot of nurses who need to go back for their bachelor’s degree because many of the hospital institutions are basically telling nurses, ‘you need that bachelor’s degree,’” said JoAnn Gleeson-Kreig, chair of nursing and nutrition at SUNY Plattsburgh.
While the Queensbury campus already offers a program for registered nurses to obtain a bachelor’s degree via online classes, she said, “we wanted to also be able to provide a service that would allow for that face-to-face education. We have been getting requests for this.”
The college will use the first year of the grant period, 2013-14, to get things in place, so the program’s first students can began classes in fall 2014.
Currently, about 30 percent of nurses in New York state have four-year degrees, Gleeson-Kreig said; however, areas in Northern New York tend to be below that average. The goal is to increase the state average to 80 percent by 2020.
“There has been research that’s been accumulating that nurses with higher education lead to better patient outcomes,” she said.
In addition, Gleeson-Kreig noted, because many of those who enter the program will already have been working in the field, earning a bachelor’s degree will provide nurses with opportunities for career advancement, as well as the possibility of earning a graduate degree.
SUNY Plattsburgh has been working closely with SUNY Adirondack in Queensbury, which offers a two-year nursing degree, to create a smooth transition for students who wish to continue their nursing education at SUNY Plattsburgh’s Queensbury campus.
The program will also create two new faculty positions at the branch campus.
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