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Construction Begins On New Health Education Center

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Under a reorganization that started two years ago, the community colleges in Massachusetts are becoming regional workforce development centers.  Holyoke Community College is building a new facility to help meet the demand for skilled workers in the health care industry.

   Construction work started last week on the Center for Health Education, a 22,000-square foot building that will become the home of HCC’s nursing and radiologic technology programs. The center will be located in a former commercial photography studio building about a mile from the main campus. It is the first expansion of the community college since 1974.

   College president William Messner said funding to equip the center, which will have state-of-the-art classrooms, medical simulation rooms and a conference center, came from a $5.3 million campaign that was helped by a $1 million contribution from a retired professor.

  "The technology that we need is quite expensive, so it will help us with that and will hopefully leverage other dollars to support the outfitting of the building."

   Contractors removed carpets, ceilings, pipes, ductwork, wires and fixtures last week to prepare for heavy demolition of the building’s interior, according to a press release from the college. The new center is to be ready for occupancy for the start of the Fall 2015 semester.

      Erica Broman, Vice President of Institutional Development at HCC, said the new center will lead to a 25 percent increase in enrollment in the college’s health care programs.

   "Given the fact that health care is such a central employer in this region there are always students that will be accepted into positions in the area.  And it will allow us to expand the health careers we offer to include sports medicine, nutrition, gerontology,those types of programs."

   There are also plans to use the center as a neighborhood resource to offer check-ups for residents and immunizations for schoolchildren.

    "We are hoping to have partnerships with some of the other health care providers in the region so they can use it at times when we are not," said Broman.

         The $1 million individual donation for the new health center is from Elaine Marieb, a professor at HCC for 25 years, who retired in 1995. She authored several best-selling textbooks on anatomy and physiology.

           Under a reorganization of the state’s community college system in 2012, Governor Deval Patrick called for an emphasis on workforce development programs tailored to the particular needs of the regions where the 15 community colleges are located. Massachusetts Commissioner of Higher Education Richard Freeland, earlier this year, said HCC has been a leader in the statewide agenda.

    " This campus is a leader in STEM. I think we are on that agenda and Bill Messner is a major leader of it."

   HCC president Messner has also been praised for his work to create a consortium of community colleges to train employees for the state’s new casino industry.

Paul Tuthill is WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief. He’s been covering news, everything from politics and government corruption to natural disasters and the arts, in western Massachusetts since 2007. Before joining WAMC, Paul was a reporter and anchor at WRKO in Boston. He was news director for more than a decade at WTAG in Worcester. Paul has won more than two dozen Associated Press Broadcast Awards. He won an Edward R. Murrow award for reporting on veterans’ healthcare for WAMC in 2011. Born and raised in western New York, Paul did his first radio reporting while he was a student at the University of Rochester.
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