U.S. Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh visited GateWay Community College, part of the Maricopa County Community College District (MCCCD), one of the largest community college districts in the nation, to tour their latest campus, designed to optimize allied health students’ needs. The space is shared with Southwest Autism Research and Resource Center, Allegiant Healthcare of Phoenix, St. Luke’s Behavioral Health Center, The Aim Clinic, and several other entities.
Secretary Walsh joined with Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego, and Dr. Steven R. Gonzales, MCCCD Interim Chancellor, for a community roundtable discussion on how, particularly in light of the coronavirus pandemic, the workforce development investments in the Build Back Better agenda are critical for building a prepared, equitable healthcare workforce.
“We’re talking about a worker shortage in America, and we have the people that are looking for work,” said U.S. Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh. “What we need to do is help train and retrain people, and using the community college system is one of the best ways and the quickest ways to get people trained on the jobs available today.”
As the workforce evolves, MCCCD works diligently to create new programs that reflect the changing industry landscape and advocates for the individual’s needs. The last several months have demonstrated that while MCCCD has made great strides in providing quality education at an affordable price, it is not enough. College students want training for high-paying careers with the flexibility to take care of their families and personal freedom.
“The visit from Secretary Walsh went exceptionally well,” said Dr. Steven R. Gonzales, MCCCD Interim Chancellor. “He was able to hear first-hand what the challenges are for our system, including the existing and looming shortages in nursing and allied health programs, and learned how important it is for us to continue to prepare nurses and allied health employees in the future. In the Maricopa system, we have 8 colleges that have nursing programs, and all 10 colleges offer some form of allied health programs. Additionally, our colleges produce a third of the nurses that graduated in the state of Arizona, which is roughly 900-1000 each year. We are aware that our Colleges play a major role in this state in preparing the workforce through healthcare education.”
MCCCD offers an abundance of different areas of study in the health sciences across all 10 campuses throughout the Valley. Additionally, the Maricopa Colleges provide numerous allied health program options, where students will have the opportunity to assist patients, healthcare organizations, and healthcare professions.
The Maricopa Community Colleges are also growing their programs, providing classrooms, simulation spaces, lab spaces, and a state-of-the-art Safe Patient Handling Education Lab, providing the technology and fields of study that will help students enter the job market.
With this additional space at GateWay Community College, MCCCD is able to expand the much-desired and needed nursing programs as well as medical billing and coding and Spanish medical interpreter programs to central Phoenix.
“The past 16 months challenged our realities in ways we never imagined, but it has also created opportunities for us to showcase our adaptability, creativity, and resiliency,” said Dr. Gonzales. “As our communities emerge from the pandemic and begin to rethink their expectations of us, we must be ready to respond and meet those expectations. And that work begins immediately.”
New healthcare programs, like the ECG/EKG Technician and Healthcare United at GateWay (HUG) Clinic, are used as a hands-on training facility for several healthcare and wellness programs while providing pro bono healthcare services to the community. Separately, an additional Safe Patient Handling (SaPHE Lab) will be available to train students, healthcare and nursing professionals, and everyday caregivers to safely move patients, avoiding injury to the patient and themselves.
“GateWay has best-in-class facilities,” said Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego. “I’ve had the pleasure of visiting many simulation labs, and this really can compete with all of them. Our nurses here at GateWay are getting first-class training. They’re going to be able to hit the workforce and save lives immediately with cutting-edge technology. The City of Phoenix has worked hand-in-hand with the Maricopa Community Colleges. We’ve found that the community college system is willing to work with us whenever there’s a challenge. Whether it’s been reinvigorating and redeveloping great projects and neighborhoods or planning for the workforce of the future, the community college system has stepped up.”
Another MCCCD program aims to encourage the next generation to enter the workforce. The Bilingual Nursing Fellowship Program (BNFP) at South Mountain Community College was created to increase nursing graduates who speak, read, and write English and Spanish fluently. BNFP is an award-winning collaboration between South Mountain Community College, Phoenix College, and Gateway Community College. This program is structured to enable each enrolled student to complete an Associates of Applied Science (AAS) in Nursing and obtain a nursing license within three and a half years after acceptance into the nursing program. The Maricopa Nursing program participates in a Concurrent Enrollment Program (CEP) with various universities, including Arizona State University. Maricopa Nursing program students can participate in concurrent enrollment at any school they choose. MCCCD aims to educate the future healthcare leaders in a comfortable way for the learner while growing partnerships throughout the city, with ASU’s College of Health Innovation, the University of Arizona’s Medical School, Mountain Park’s new clinic, and SynDaver Labs.
“As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, our nation has experienced many sectors in dire need of workers, like healthcare and construction, while others sit at a standstill,” said Dr. Gonzales. “There is an exceptional need to upskill and reskill workers to fill these needs and create pathways that connect skilled workers to growing sustainable careers.”
Under Dr. Gonzales’ leadership, the Maricopa Community Colleges helped pass historic legislation allowing for Arizona community colleges to offer four-year degrees, successfully thwarted a cyber attack, improved local and national partnerships, prepared thousands of students with the skills needed to enter the workforce, and continued to support the community and local economy during an incredibly challenging year. He serves as a strong and steadfast voice unifying the District and community and is eager to continue his passion for moving the Maricopa Community Colleges forward and ensuring high levels of success, equity, and an excellent experience for students and employees.