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1 Statement of Need Union County College Union County s Growing Healthcare Industry Union County College s Building A Pathway for Healthcare Careers responds to the growing workforce needs of the expanding healthcare industry in Union County, New Jersey. According to the NJ Department of Labor, healthcare is currently the County s second leading private sector industry. By 2014, jobs in the healthcare industry are expected to increase by 25%, adding 5,700 jobs locally (N.J. Department of Labor and Workforce Development, 2007). Throughout all of New Jersey, the healthcare industry is projected to increase to 575,000 jobs by Healthcare occupations dominate New Jersey s 25 Occupations with Greatest Employment Growth. As one of the President s high growth/high demand industries, there is a critical need to expand the healthcare workforce (by 2014 the need for home health aides is projected to increase by 50% and need for nurses to increase by 25%. Critical Need for Nurses and Trained Technicians The demand for nurses, in particular, far exceeds the available supply. In surveys conducted of our industry partners, the nursing shortage was sited as a critical workforce issue facing the healthcare industry today. Among the larger health industry employers in the county the projected need for net new LPNs and RNs at the County s hospitals exceeds 1,000 over the next ten years, or nearly 170 new nursing healthcare professionals per year. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the need for Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) will increase by 47% by 2012, fueled in part by the increased need for emergency care due to the aging population and by projected high turnover rates. The growth will be most evident in the area of private ambulance services, hospitals and municipal governments. Partners, such as Muhlenberg Regional Medical Center, have approached UCC to request additional students for clinical experience and placement. Other employers, such as On 1

2 Time Transport, have expressed interest in partnering with UCC for recruitment of EMTs. Throughout New Jersey the demand for EMTs is expected to rise to 11,350 workers over the next ten-year period. Union County College (UCC), a two-year community college with a nationally accredited practical nursing (PN) training program, currently provides training to 98 full-time and part-time students in its PN program. The EMT program serves 75 students annually. In comparing the number of graduates produced each year with the projected increased demand for nursing and EMT jobs, it is clear that current enrollment is woefully inadequate to meet the demand. In the PN program the College s capacity is limited by class ratios of 10 students to 1 instructor 1 and limited classroom space and equipment, despite the strong demand for entry in nursing programs at UCC with more than 500 students requesting admission. Therefore, there is significant need to expand the capacity of the College to meet these demands that can only be met by increasing enrollment. A Critical Need for a Qualified, Culturally Competent Labor Pool In addition to the need for specialized training, the healthcare industry demands entry level personnel with demonstrated basic skills and cultural competencies to respond to the needs of a diverse population. A longterm challenge facing Union County is the high school dropout rate, particularly in Elizabeth and Plainfield at over 30 percent for each city, compared to the statewide average of 15 percent 2. Rising levels of basic skills deficiencies are pressing needs to be addressed urgently as many jobs in healthcare require post-secondary education as a point of entry. 1 In the EMT program the ratio for skills instruction is 6:1. 2 The Elizabeth school district along with the Plainfield district are state-designated Abbott districts, two of 30 such districts in New Jersey marked by poverty, high crime, low-income, and poor academic achievement, making the majority of the students at-risk. These are the cities from which the great majority of UCC s students come. 2

3 The County also has one of New Jersey s most diverse populations with Latinos constituting nearly 24 percent of the population, compared to 15.2 percent for the state as a whole and UCC is a designated Hispanic serving institution. In cities such as Elizabeth, nearly 50% of all residents are of Hispanic origin and a steady increase of the Hispanic population throughout Union County is projected for the foreseeable future. Further, 25 percent of the county is foreign-born. While the diversity of the County s population brings significant value in adding contributions of many cultures to civic life, the significant number of non-native English speakers poses particular challenges for readying candidates for immediate entry into high growth/high skill jobs that require technical English language proficiency. In this regard, the County faces an urgent need to train a workforce that is, not only academically proficient, but also culturally competent to meet the healthcare needs of an increasingly diverse population. Critical Need to Raise Awareness of Healthcare Careers While some high school students express interest in nursing and health professions, many are unaware of the prerequisite courses that need to be acquired as a foundation for success at the secondary level. Others are illprepared academically to succeed in college level training programs, as evidenced by the fact that more than 70% of incoming freshmen (FTE) require remediation in Reading, Writing or Math. For other students, there is a fundamental lack of awareness and understanding of the full continuum of healthcare career opportunities. Language differences impose additional obstacles to career awareness. 3

4 Capacity Challenges Facing UCC Union County College In responding to these industry needs UCC faces significant capacity challenges. To increase the pool of qualified persons interested in pursuing healthcare careers requires a cohort of incoming students who are academically prepared for college level coursework and have sufficient knowledge of the broad spectrum of health career options. Currently, close to 90% of students who enroll at UCC require some form of remedial or developmental/esl preparation. The added time commitments and the increased cost of developmental courses that often include additional instructional and counseling time deters many students and contributes to a high dropout rate. Approximately, 2,000 students currently enrolled at UCC self identify nursing as a major. Unfortunately, a large percentage of these students will either lack the academic skills or credentials necessary for nursing or will simply be discouraged by the long wait and lack of vacancies in their chosen interest area. For example, the PN program has an extremely high dropout rate that exceeds 50% in the first clinical course due to the strenuous academic program and dire financial hardships that many students face. This group will be the focus of increased counseling designed to align the students interests and capabilities with specific healthcare program requirements and to chart a pathway for Associate s degree completion 3 and ultimate employment or transfer to a four year college to better respond to the needs of employers. Other capacity issues include space limitations and difficulty attracting qualified nursing staff instructors. By enlisting the assistance of area hospitals, the College can increase recruitment of adjunct nursing staff instructors, mentors and tutors. Expanding the PN program 3 In addition to the Practical Nursing Program, UCC offers an Associate s degree in Science in Emergency Health, Associate s degree in Applied Sciences in Health Sciences, and Associate s degrees in cooperation with Muhlenberg Medical Center Harold B. and Dorothy A. Snyder Schools in the following: Amplified Radiography Program, Cooperative Program in Professional Nursing, Diagnostic Medical Sonography, Nuclear Medicine Technology, and Radiation Therapy. 4

5 also requires increasing the student retention rate, particularly in the clinical courses. In addition, EMT training is a prerequisite for entry to other programs, such as the Paramedic program and the Associate s degree in Emergency Health Science that UCC currently offers. Expansion of the EMT program will serve as a pipeline for these and other job training opportunities. However, the College will require additional staffing to provide mentoring and tutoring focused on EMT and nursing content that is designed to increase retention and completion of these training programs. Increasing the pool of qualified persons who are prepared for college level instruction and have an understanding of healthcare career options requires community outreach and close work with populations in high schools, youth organizations, and local One Stop Centers. Providing these populations a clearly defined pathway to healthcare jobs will increase interest and pursuit of career training that will lead to jobs. UCC is further constrained by an operating budget that lacks the resources to absorb start-up costs for new programs, such as the cost of hiring a full-time Program Coordinator to oversee project development and implementation. An additional challenge is the fiscal crisis facing the State of New Jersey. In FY 2007, approximately 43 percent of the College s budget came from county and state funding. While County funding is steady and stable, the State of New Jersey is in the midst of a fiscal crisis that has resulted in a reduction of funding for higher education. For FY 2007, UCC suffered a 4.9 percent reduction in state funding. Escalating costs of labor, health benefits, energy, and materials are placing additional burdens on already strained financial resources and there is an increasing need for scholarship funds to serve the needs of low-income students. In addition, a growing student body has placed additional demands on the College s physical facilities, resulting in increased capital needs and expenditures. At the same time, the 5

6 College struggles to keep the cost of education affordable and accessible to populations with the greatest needs. The combination of federal resources and leveraged dollars from partners and other sources would help to offset the significant start-up costs and provide a foundation for sustained operations. The Community Based Job Training Grant will enable the development of a replicable model for job training and health careers that will provide access at several entry points with defined opportunities for advancement. 6

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