College wins $6M for health care ‘pipeline’


Grand Rapids Community College, or GRCC, founded in 1914, offers degree courses, certification and training programs, workshops and personal enrichment classes in Kent and Ottawa counties.

A local college has earned a $6-million federal grant to develop a “pipeline” of workers for the health care industry.

Grand Rapids Community College, or GRCC, said yesterday it received the funds through the U.S. Labor Department's America's Promise grant competition to bolster its medical assistant program and work with community partners to develop new employment programs, including ones for certified nursing assistants and sterile processing technicians.

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

Partnering to fill "needs"

GRCC said it will lead a coalition to provide health care employee retention, recruitment and training with numerous partners: West Michigan Works!; Cherry Health; Mercy Health; Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital; Clark Retirement Community; Holland Home; Porter Hills; Sunset Manor and Villages; 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; and the Hispanic Center of West Michigan.

Bill Pink, dean and VP of GRCC’s School of Workforce Development, said the grant-funded collaboration is necessary to fill a talent void.

“West Michigan’s health care employers have been struggling to fill positions ranging from entry level to highly skilled jobs,” he said. “Community-wide collaboration will be vital to addressing these talent needs.”

Julie Parks, GRCC's executive director of workforce training, said the partners will collaborate on helping “find students who want to be in health care and whether health care is the right fit.”

“We’ll build training programs, if that’s what is needed,” she said. “But really it’s about what’s the right career path for you.”

Parks added training will take place at the three community college partners, Grand Rapids, Muskegon and Montcalm, and some training “will probably also happen at employer sites.”

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


GRCC, established in 1914, offers degree courses, certifications, training programs, workshops and personal-enrichment classes.

Classes are held at GRCC’s downtown Grand Rapids campus and at several locations throughout Kent and Ottawa counties, as well as through distance learning.

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