Spotlight on medical apprenticeships

By Leah Nixon

The growing focus on apprenticeships puts a Michigan community college in the spotlight.

U.S. Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta on Monday joined Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder at Grand Rapids Community College (GRCC) where they discussed the importance of apprenticeships before touring the college’s healthcare training facilities.

The visit comes as part of a series of tours that Snyder and Acosta are conducting focused on manufacturing and medical apprenticeships.

“Michigan is a national leader in working to close the career awareness gap, and I was very proud to have Secretary Acosta here for the day, seeing facilities such as Grand Rapids Community College that supply the growing workforce demand for the outstanding hospitals and health care facilities in West Michigan,” Snyder said. “I look forward to a productive working relationship with Secretary Acosta on continuing to connect employers with education, so students can learn about all of their career options early on, with plenty of time to choose the best path for their future.”

The third and fourth floors of GRCC’s Cook Academic Hall feature classroom and laboratory instruction spaces for the dental, medial assisting, nursing and radiologic technology programs. Built in 1970, these spaces were two of four floors in the building that were included in a two-phase renovation made possible, in part, through a $5 million in capital outlay funds.

“It is a great day when we can share what we do at GRCC,” said President Bill Pink. “We were thrilled to welcome the governor and secretary of labor, along with our colleagues at West Michigan Works!, for a discussion about our programs, and what’s important in our community, state and nation with regard to skilled labor demands.”

Amy Koning, GRCC’s dean of workforce development, added that these programs highlight some of the many ways in which the college is providing the educational resources to help fill West Michigan’s demand for skilled labor.

Growth in apprenticeships

GRCC also has seen a dynamic expansion in its apprenticeship programs during the past six years, Koning said.

There has been a 342 percent growth in GRCC apprentices – from 96 in 2010 to 424 in 2016. This number does not include construction electrical apprentices, who numbered 630 during the 2016-17 academic year, she said. The college offers apprenticeship programs in construction trade electrical, information technology, manufacturing and medical assisting. More than 545 companies have partnered with GRCC apprenticeship programs.

Koning noted that the college’s medical assistant apprenticeship program is the first in the nation to be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs. GRCC, DOL’s Office of Apprenticeship, West Michigan Works!, Mercy Health, Cherry Health, Spectrum Health, Montcalm Community College and Muskegon Community College worked together to launch the program in January 2016. Its second cohort graduated in July.

The visit by Acosta and Snyder is the second that GRCC has hosted this summer to showcase its programs. U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos also toured the college’s Secchia Institute for Culinary Education, as well as the Leslie E. Tassell Michigan Technical Education Center. DeVos talked with faculty and students from program instruction areas, including automotive, computer support technician, construction trades, machinist/CNC technician and welding.

This article originally appeared in CC Daily.

Leah Nixon

is director of communications at Grand Rapids Community College in Michigan.