May 16, 2013

The Patrick administration has been touting the importance of community colleges awhile now, noting the disconnect between job openings and the unemployed.

BCC’s hybrid program allowed the school to double its occupational therapy assistant program enrollment in a region where the health field employs more workers than any other. The federal Bureau of Labor Statistics lists the OTA field’s growth outlook as higher than average, with the average salary paid in 2010 at $47,490 a year.

The 14 students graduating from Bristol Community College’s eHealth program next week show some of the best our community colleges can do.

BCC’s willingness to innovate exemplifies the community college strategy of tailoring the curriculum by matching the potential workforce to the job market with dexterity and precision.

The accredited occupational therapy assistant program, with face-to-face practical lessons in New Bedford, clinical rotations at local health care facilities and online class work, will send its first graduates into a growing field that pays good salaries.

Forty-three-year-old Karen Wood of Dartmouth had to put her plans for nursing school on hold because, as they say, life happens, but the flexibility afforded her by the 20 or so hours of online work each week has taken her up one more rung on the ladder to a rewarding health care career.

One therapist approached by the school to supervise part of the program was at first skeptical of using computers to teach health classes. Likewise, national accreditors had their doubts regarding online lectures. Kudos to BCC for beating resistance to offering an online health program by demonstrated success.

The program won its accreditation last year, and the school is now serving more students with a more efficient, effective and affordable education.

Once again, we’re proud to say our local community college deserves to be held up as a statewide model.

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