Career fair highlights need for health care workers
By RACHAEL GRAY
Heather Randolph has been a certified nurses aide for 16 years.
The Kearny County Hospital nurse decided to take classes at Garden City Community College to become a registered nurse. She will graduate from the college in May.
"I decided to go back to school to get paid for what I know, plus my daughter is an RN, too. So that helped," she said.
Friday morning at GCCC, Randolph looked around the Health Career Fair held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the college.
Randolph said she would like to see the college hold the fair more often.
"I just came to see what kind of jobs are open. I really like it. They should do it all the time," she said.
Fifteen health care employers and training providers attended Friday's event, according to Sarah Wells, Allied Health Coordinator.
This is the college's second annual career fair and it's a way for students to see what is available for them as far as higher education and employment programs, Wells said.
She said the career fair has grown and has opened up to other area colleges who may be offering different programs.
"It shows that Allied Health is such a growing field and is in high demand," she said.
Wells said the fair can help students get out of their dead-end jobs or switch careers.
"These jobs give students an opportunity to help their families," she said.
Wells said last year they had an even split between educators and employers and this year's fair was mostly employment opportunities.
"It just shows the signs of the times with health care and where we are with the need for workers," she said.
Wells said that in addition to the community college, the fair included representation from hospitals, schools, nursing homes and other medical facilities in Garden City, Larned, Tribune, Ulysses and additional western Kansas communities.
The demand for health care workers is apparent in a recent report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, which projected that 20 million new health care jobs will be created by the end of 2020, with growth projected in 88 specific medical jobs, according to a release from the college.
"We conducted the fair for the first time last year, and we believe it will serve to place greater public awareness on the importance of health careers to the economy, and to the lives of southwest Kansans," Wells said. "Of course, it will also focus on the scope of careers related to nursing, and on the variety of health careers and their uses."
In addition to booths and information from various businesses and organizations in the health care field, the day included door prizes, vendor giveaways, strong networking opportunities and live demonstrations of robotic patient simulators.
The GCCC Allied Health Program offers programs for people planning to become certified nurse aides or geriatric aides, certified medication aides, phlebotomy technicians or pharmacy technicians.¬ Periodically, the college also provides programs for people to qualify as rehabilitative aides or home health aides.¬ In addition, GCCC offers a partnership program, based in Liberal at Seward County Community College, for southwest Kansans who want to work in respiratory therapy.
"We also operate the GCCC Emergency Medical Services Technology Program, which trains certified Emergency Medical Technicians and Paramedics," Wells said.
"And, of course, GCCC has a nationally-accredited associate degree nursing program, as well as a shorter-term licensed practical nursing program."