RCC health, sciences would benefit from $8 million bond

Rogue Community College will receive $8 million in state capital construction bonds, an award that could boost regional job training, economic development and health care — provided it can raise an additional $8 million in matching funds.

Approved by the Oregon Legislature, the funds would be used to upgrade and expand RCC allied health and science facilities at the college's three campuses in Jackson and Josephine counties, increasing lab and classroom space and purchasing new equipment.

The Legislature's purpose in providing capital construction bonds is economic development and training for high-demand jobs, RCC President Peter Angstadt said in a news release.

The $16 million project would boost local economic development by training an estimated 460 students in the first three years of operation, with student enrollment projected to grow in each of the following five years, officials said.

The funds also would allow RCC to expand partnerships with hospitals and other local and regional health providers.

"When we began our allied health program in 2010, the vision was to better serve our health care community with programs at RCC," said John Osbourn, dean of the School of Health and Public Service.

RCC offers allied health care programs in such areas as dental assisting, certified nursing assistant and emergency medical technology. Every year, approximately 125 students graduate from these programs and move into the workforce, and the demand is growing.

The programs always have many more applicants than RCC has space to accommodate, Angstadt explained.

In 2012, the dental assistant program had more than 50 applicants for just 24 slots, and every seat in the certified nursing assistant class filled within minutes after registration opened, he added.

RCC's plan is to phase in expansion beginning with programs for certified nursing assistant-acute care and clinical laboratory assistant. RCC has entered agreements with two other Oregon community colleges to give students opportunities in physical therapy and occupational therapy assistant programs.

The college also plans to build a 50,000-square-foot flexible technology lab. A $500,000 state matching grant, awarded in September, will be used to develop the flex-tech lab, which would feature high-bay shop spaces with moveable walls that would allow quick reconfiguration for different types of training.

The lab's design also would make it easier to add new programs quickly as demand arises.

"When you say health care training in Oregon, we want the first school you think of to be RCC," Osbourn said.

At present, approximately 90 percent of RCC students find jobs in their career area within nine months of graduation. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics expects employment in health-related occupations to grow by 35 percent in the next decade.

The state Employment Department reports the number of jobs available in allied health fields in Jackson and Josephine counties will grow an average of 22 percent between 2010 and 2020, Angstadt said.

Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 541-776-4497 or sspecht@mailtribune.com.

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