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Colleges seek to answer health industry needs
Some positions specialized, difficult for companies to fill
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When new jobs come to Georgia, new workforce demands come with them.

Giving Georgia residents the means to meet those demands was the theme of a meeting Thursday at the University of North Georgia Gainesville campus.

It was the ninth of 13 planned meetings on the Governor’s High Demand Career Initiative for Healthcare in which representatives of educational institutions and state government heard from health industry recruiters and human resource professionals.

“Today is more than anything a listening session for us — to hear those needs, to hear about where we are delivering and where we are not.” said Ben Hames, deputy commissioner of the state department of economic development’s workforce division.

Already, health care majors at Georgia colleges are growing. Lanier Technical College President Ray Perren said 40 percent of the school’s students are enrolled in some sort of allied health program.

Still, industry representatives said it’s not always easy to find suitable candidates, especially for jobs that require both clinical and business knowledge.

Kimberly Vaughn, who spoke on behalf of inpatient rehabilitation company HealthSouth, said her company looks for both in its admissions representatives.

“These are very hard to find ... because we want them to be clinical and also have sales experience,” she said.

She said HealthSouth is also looking at a nurse internship program because of a shortage of certified rehabilitation registered nurses, who must have a year of experience before they can become certified.

“I know its very frustrating for new graduates” to be told they need experience, Vaughn said, but internship programs could help make that experience easier to gain.

She said it’s also difficult to find admissions representatives because of the range of experience needed.

Several corporate presenters said they often hire from out-of-state because of the very specific combinations of experience and degrees or certification they look for. However, some companies did say they hire new graduates and provide training for them.

Frederica Butler, whose company, Dendreon, manufactures a prostate cancer therapy called Provenge in Union City, said 60 percent of the company’s 300 Georgia employees have bachelor’s degrees and are in their first job after college.

The transfusion and transplantation company Immucor, which was 406 employees in Georgia, said it hires employees with degrees in the life sciences, but would like to recruit workers with a specialized degree in blood banking.

The Norcross company partners with Gwinnett Technical College in workforce development, which it says has been helpful in both recruitment and continuing education.

Perren said Lanier Tech often consults with industry to ensure its programs will both provide graduates with jobs and industry with skilled workers.

“Routinely, at least twice a year, we bring in what we call industry advisory panels,” he said. “We share with them our curriculum ... our programs of study, and then we ask for feedback on it.”

He said the allied health programs are among the most popular at the college both because “that’s where people see the jobs” and because “a lot of people have a sense of calling for allied health.”

“Nursing is much more than just a job,” he said. “It requires a lot of dedication.”

Al Panu, senior vice president for university affairs at UNG, said allied health programs are always on the radar for the university.

“We’re going to be looking at our allied health planning,” he said. “What are some of the unique needs and demands of our area? What are the demands in the workforce? ... It’s a continual process.”

Mark Lytle, vice chancellor of the university system of Georgia, said the meetings will help the system in the process of responding to workforce needs.

“Listening is a way of starting this initiative,” he said. “This is not the end. This is the beginning of a process for us.”

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