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McHenry County College Prepares High-Skilled, Future Workers in Fastest Growing Jobs

[Tuesday, January 31, 2017]

Studies show that as the baby-boom population ages—with thousands in America turning 65 every day for the next decade—demand for healthcare services is surging, along with a growing need for healthcare workers to provide them.

Enter the nation’s 1,200 community colleges, which are among the best institutions positioned to strengthen the workforce of this critical sector. They can provide training and credentialing for incumbent workers in healthcare and prepare new workers to succeed in and meet the workforce demands for this sector—expanding individual opportunity and economic vitality.

McHenry County College is addressing that need by training future healthcare workers in high-demand careers in several of the fastest growing jobs in the U.S., including medical billing and coding, Occupational Therapy Assistant (OTA), Physical Therapist Assistant (PTA) and Home Health Aide (MCC’s Basic Nurse Assisting, commonly known as Certified Nursing Assistant or CNA).  According to The Bureau of Labor Statistics, many of the fastest-growing jobs in America through 2024 don’t require a bachelor’s degree, but many require a two-year degree from an accredited program.

An example of one of these two-year degree programs is MCC’s Occupational Therapy Assistant degree program, which utilizes college courses as well as on-the-job training for students to help patients and clients of all ages achieve optimal function in their daily lives. MCC OTA students have completed projects for the elderly and developmentally disabled adults at facilities in the community. Many OTA graduates land jobs in the community, while some continue their education to earn a BS or BA degree in similar fields or an MS or MA in Occupational Therapy.

Marlene Vogt, director of OTA fieldwork, said there’s a shortage of OTA assistants in McHenry County. “MCC’s OTA program is addressing that need,” Vogt said. "We're not only creating job opportunities for students, but we're able to fill that void for people who didn't have services previously."

Scott Raether of Marengo graduated from MCC in the fall of 2015 with his Associate in Applied Science degree in Occupational Therapy Assistant. He currently works as a licensed COTA (Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant) for a skilled nursing facility in Rockford where he also did one of his fieldwork placements during his last semester in the program.

“I was offered a job while still a student and started working immediately after graduation. MCC provided me a career opportunity that I am proud of,” Raether said.

 According to the National Board of Certification for Occupational Therapy (NBCOT), McHenry County College’s December 2015 OTA graduates exceeded the national average for the certification exam scores with an average of 509, compared to the U.S. average of 476. MCC also had a 100 percent pass rate on the first attempt for the students, as compared to national standings, 21 percent (1,047 students) of the 4,949 students who took the exam, did not pass.

MCC’s health care degree programs are also contributing toward meeting the state’s goal of 60 percent of adults with a college degree or marketable credential by the year 2025.

According to Diana Sharp, interim dean of Education, Career and Technical Education at MCC, local employers benefit from hiring well-prepared, skilled workers from MCC.

“We’re strengthening the future workforce in the healthcare field,” Sharp said. “Training our students for skilled healthcare jobs results both in a healthier community and a healthier economy.”



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