GRCC receives $6 million federal grant for health care programs

Nov. 17, 2016 GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Grand Rapids Community College has been awarded $6 million through the U.S. Labor Department's America's Promise grant competition. The grant -- one of only two awarded in the state -- will address West Michigan's crucial need for skilled health care workers. 

“West Michigan’s health care employers have been struggling to fill positions ranging from entry-level to highly skilled jobs,” said Bill Pink, dean and vice president of GRCC’s School of Workforce Development, “Community-wide collaboration will be vital to addressing these talent needs.”

According to the state Bureau of Labor Statistics, health care is the fastest-growing major occupation group in West Michigan. It’s projected to grow by 23 percent, adding more than 55,000 jobs by 2022.

GRCC and its community partners will use the America's Promise grant to provide a pipeline of workers for this industry. In addition to strengthening its current Medical Assistant program, the college will work with area employers on new programs, including ones for certified nursing assistants and sterile processing technicians.

Julie Parks, GRCC's executive director of Workforce Training, said traditionally disadvantaged populations and people with employment barriers will be among those helped through the grant-funded programs.

“Our partnership with West Michigan Works and community-based organizations will be key to recruitment, retention and employment success,” she said. “This grant will reduce some of the barriers to health care careers by reducing costs – or even offering training at no cost – to individuals.”

GRCC will lead a coalition that includes West Michigan Works, educational institutions and community groups on the project.

Seven of the largest West Michigan health care employers will participate:

  • Cherry Health.
  • Mercy Health.
  • Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital.
  • Clark Retirement Community.
  • Holland Home.
  • Porter Hills.
  • Sunset Manor and Villages.

Other partners include:

  • West Michigan Works!
  • Montcalm Community College.
  • Muskegon Community College.
  • The Right Place.
  • Lakeshore Advantage.
  • Muskegon Area First.
  • Goodwill of Greater Grand Rapids.
  • Grand Rapids Urban League.
  • West Michigan Center for Arts and Technology.
  • Hispanic Center of West Michigan.

The U.S. Department of Labor awarded more than $111 million to 23 regional partnerships in 28 states through the America's Promise competition. Grant awards ranged from $2.3 million to $6 million. 

An additional $1.5 million in leveraged funds from project partners will provide tuition-free training. Federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act funds will also support customized, on-the-job and training for current workers as well as training for registered apprenticeships in health care.

Grand Rapids Community College has been offering educational opportunities in West Michigan for more than 100 years. Established in 1914, the college offers degree courses, certification and training programs, and workshops and personal enrichment classes. Offerings are held on GRCC’s downtown Grand Rapids campus, and at several locations throughout Kent and Ottawa counties, as well as through distance learning.