Secretary of Labor praises Bellevue College program during visit

Date posted: October 12, 2012

During a visit to campus on Friday, Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis praised Bellevue College’s new health information technology training program as an excellent investment in the education of the state’s workers that will lead to good-paying jobs. She toured BC’s facilities and spoke with faculty and students to highlight a recent $11.8 million grant that the Department of Labor awarded Bellevue College to provide training in health IT for veterans and dislocated workers.

Solis was joined by Sen. Patty Murray, who was instrumental in helping BC obtain the grant funding. Also in attendance were: Wes Wright, chief information officer of Seattle Children’s, Bellevue Mayor Conrad Lee, Calvin Goings and Connie Marshall with the U.S. Small Business Administration, and representatives from the offices of Gov. Christine O. Gregoire, U.S. Rep. Adam Smith and Washington State Rep. Marcie Maxwell. Representatives from the Washington State Health Care authority and the seven other Washington community colleges that are partners with Bellevue College in this grant also attended.

In an address to a packed room of elected officials and Bellevue College faculty, administrators and students, Solis stressed the program will benefit thousands of students here in Washington state. “Once they complete the program, graduates will earn industry-recognized credentials, or as I like to call them, ‘tickets to employment,’” she said. “They will be able to land exciting jobs that pay good wages you can raise a family on.”

Solis also emphasized the need for all healthcare professionals to understand how to create and update electronic health records to improve the nation’s health care delivery system. “It’s critical that our health professionals in every field become experts in health information technology,” Solis remarked. “It’s going to improve the quality of care, and save lives.”

The visit by a cabinet secretary and the senator had the campus buzzing with activity. The event was streamed live online and onto screens in the cafeteria for students to watch. “We’re so thrilled that Secretary Solis took the time to visit our college. We did a good job explaining the great things this grant will help us accomplish. Now, it’s time for us to put our plan into action so we can train veterans and others for careers in health IT,” said Interim President Laura Saunders.

The grant, awarded under the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training program, is the largest single grant the college has received in its nearly 50-year history.

The money – $11,775,297 to be exact – will fund the Health e-Workforce Consortium, led by Bellevue College, which will develop and pilot a health IT apprenticeship program and career services initiative.

Through a combination of on-campus and online classes at BC and seven other community colleges in Washington state and one in northern Virginia, the program will help over 2,000 participants (with 1,700 in this state) work toward certificates and degrees in health IT, gaining valuable education and training. In addition to Trade Adjustment Act-eligible workers, a special focus will be on assisting military veterans and eligible spouses. The materials created by the consortium will be available for other colleges nationwide to use to train even more people.

The goal is to create pathways to careers in the fast-growing field of health IT. With the computerization of health records, providers increasingly rely on information systems to manage patient information and other health data. As a result, demand for individuals who can implement and maintain these data systems, which require a unique set of skills specific to healthcare, are growing significantly. According to estimates by the American Medical Informatics Association, it will take as many as 200,000 workers to satisfy the projected job market demand, with thousands of positions in Washington state.

Bellevue College has been a national leader in developing education and training programs in health IT. In 2010, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the National Science Foundation awarded the college grants of $6.4 million and $500,000 respectively to conduct training and create a national certification standard and training curriculum. This work led to the creation of a health IT bachelor’s degree program, BC’s third, which just launched with the start of fall quarter this past week.

A clip of remarks by Secretary Solis and Sen. Murray is posted on YouTube:

Photos of the event available for publication are posted on Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bellevuecollege/.