Chris Gray, Ph.D. 

Founding President, Erie County Community College 

Our Mid-Fall Session is about to start, and that brings with it the excitement of new beginnings. It’s hard not to think about the future when I see new students arrive – equal parts excited and nervous – ready to change their lives. What a privilege it is to see this again and again!

With that fresh in mind, today’s blog has me thinking about the future and new programs that we’d like to bring to EC3. This time, we’re thinking about healthcare and how we can expand our offerings and help provide much-needed healthcare workers as demand and shortages continue to increase.

As we keep hearing, the aging population continues to create an unprecedented demand for healthcare workers, and there is an acute shortage of these important workers that is only expected to increase. As people are living longer lives, they often require more medical attention, chronic disease management, and long-term care; in addition, this demographic shift places an increasing burden on healthcare systems, emphasizing the urgent need for skilled professionals like Patient Care Technicians (PCTs), Digital Medical Sonographers (DMS), Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs), and Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs), and other caregivers.

The healthcare workforce must expand in the immediate future to meet the growing requirements of elderly patients, ensuring they receive the quality care and support they deserve; we need more people to join this field, not less, and we need them sooner rather than later! Addressing the needs of the aging population is a critical challenge for healthcare systems worldwide, highlighting the significance of recruitment, training, and retention of healthcare workers in the years to come.

In addition to the increased demand created by aging Baby Boomers, advancements in medical technology and healthcare practices have created new and exciting opportunities for individuals looking to enter these healthcare careers. And of course, the COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the critical importance of healthcare workers. The pandemic has generated heightened awareness of the healthcare industry’s value and the need for a strong workforce. As a result, there is an increased interest in pursuing healthcare careers. We at EC3 need to get started and help fill this urgent need!

Closer to home, the Pennsylvania Commission for Community Colleges recently began a statewide initiative to solve this workforce need, and we are hoping to join in the effort. We are aware that our local hospital systems are challenged by a lack of diverse employees to serve the ever-changing populations, and we want to help redress that shortage.

Two weeks ago, the Erie County Council passed a resolution to utilize $2M in American Rescue Plan funding for a collaboration between EC3, AHN, LECOM, and UPMC. We are working on a plan that will help to bring PCT, DMS, CNA, and LPN programs here to our Erie West campus. But more to come on that later!

EC3 was founded in response to a community need, and as I’ve said many times, we have created academic and workforce development programs based on community need. Our expansion into healthcare education will, likewise, respond to community needs. It’s another exciting adventure for EC3, and I’m excited to get started.

Our community: your college.