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STCC Celebrates Opening of CNA Lab with Ribbon-cutting Ceremony

SPRINGFIELD — In a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Dec. 14, Springfield Technical Community College (STCC) celebrated the launch of the Workforce Development CNA Laboratory.

With the new lab, STCC will increase training capacity of the Certified Nurse Assistant (CNA) Plus program and help fill a demand for healthcare jobs in the region.

At an event in Building 27 on campus, STCC President John Cook and staff welcomed regional healthcare leaders, as well as legislators and elected officials who were on hand to celebrate the college’s new lab. They took a tour of the new facility, which includes high-tech patient simulators for students to use for training.

The construction of the new lab was completed with college operations funds. New, state-of-the-art equipment was made possible with Perkins funding. Free-of-cost training to qualifying participants is being provided with funds from the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education’s Training Resources and Internship Networks (TRAIN) program and the High Demand Workforce Training Grant. The total cost of the project, including funds for construction, design, equipment, materials, and training, is about $2 million.

Gladys Franco, assistant vice president for Workforce Development at STCC, said students receive hands-on training at the new CNA lab, which includes six patient simulators. Students also train through clinical rotations at long-term-care facilities.

“It’s an amazing course,” said Marianna Navarro Santiago, a CNA student who attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony. “I used to work in the healthcare field, but I’ve been out of school for a while. Having a refresher course and an amazing teacher is helpful for me.”

Another student, Marcia Virgovuncan, said, “it’s been a tremendous journey for me. We have a wonderful teacher, Kathleen Nichols. I can’t wait to get out and take care of people. There are a lot of people out there who need our care.”

STCC understands the dire need for more direct-care workers throughout the region. More than 500 unique job postings for CNAs and home health aides are posted in the region each year.

“With intentionality and planning diligence, STCC continues to make every effort to meet the need for healthcare workforce training,” Cook said. “This investment brings an enhanced capacity in a field we know only continues to grow and expand.”

The new CNA lab will enable STCC to increase training capacity (day, afternoon, evening, and weekends) of the CNA Plus program, which effectively translates to a new cohort starting about every six weeks. The program is designed to help students achieve a certified nurse assistant certificate, CPR certification, home health aide (HHA) training certificate, and Alzheimer’s and neurological disorders training, which will expand participant placement opportunities.

Students who complete the program will hold certificates that will allow direct employment placement into area medical, assisted-living or rehabilitation facilities, or employment with visiting healthcare services for in-home positions.

The state grants will provide at least 80 students with full tuition, books, and equipment necessary to complete the CNA Plus program, including the CNA certificate testing fees.

The SNAP Path to Work Program and the Hampden Prep Program funded by the Community Mitigation Grant also support students in accessing CNA training at STCC.

Christopher Scott, dean of the School of Health and Patient Simulation, said CNA students have an opportunity to transition to the STCC degree programs if they want to continue their education. He added that the patient simulators in the lab are a vital learning and preparation tool for students.

“We worked hard to try to develop a realistic environment, and that’s important for enhanced healthcare skills,” he explained. “It’s truly an exciting time for us here at STCC.”

Gladys Franco, vice president for Workforce Development at STCC, said “we appreciate the work of our regional employment board, legislative delegation, and executive leaders at the Executive Office of Education, the Department of Higher Education, and the Office of Labor and Workforce Development for their advocacy and allocation of funds.

“The grants received enable us to train certified nursing assistants, an area of high impact for our regional and statewide workforce, at no cost to our community members with the highest needs,” she added. “We’re excited to now be able to provide this training and expand the opportunities in our new state-of-the-art facility in Building 27. I encourage prospective students looking to enter a career in health to call our office or register via our website at stcc.edu/wdc.”