RANDOLPH — Recognizing a scarcity of professionals to fill a glut of job openings in the healthcare industry, New Jersey and Morris County officials will invest $30 million into a new facility to train and certify students in the field.
Several legislators, industry leaders and local officials gathered at the County College of Morris Friday for the announcement of plans to build a 70,000 square-foot Center For Healthcare Professions.
“As current and additional healthcare careers emerge in our rapidly changing environment, the college embraces the opportunity to supply healthcare professionals to the industry and the community it serves,” said CCM President Anthony Iacono.
The facility will become a center of training for professions ranging from dental hygiene and assistance to surgical technology, diagnostic medical sonography, nursing, radiography, respiratory therapy, paramedic science and drug counseling.
State Sen. Joseph Pennacchio, a retired dentist, mentioned dental hygiene as one field where students can gain certification for a six-figure job without the burden of heavy loans required for many four-year degrees.
“There’s a lot of conflict now about whether or not a college degree is even worth it,” said Pennachio, R-26. “I don’t think any education is worthless. But these kids, for $12,000 [can become] a dental hygienist making $100,000 a year, and there will be so many people knocking on their doors to get hired.”
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A flurry of activity at CCM
Funds for the estimated $30 million price tag will come from a variety of sources. CCM officials said. The school received a line-item appropriation of $10 million from the state. Another $11 million will come from New Jersey’s “Securing Our Children’s Future Bond Act.”
The rest will come from the state’s “Chapter 12” revolving bond fund funded in equal measure by the county and the state.
Groundbreaking will take place in about 10 months. Construction is expected to take about a year.
The project is the latest announcement in a flurry of recent activity at the college. Earlier this month, CCM launched a Morristown College Promise program that promotes college readiness and community engagement for low-income Morristown High School students.
Last month, the school launched another new program in partnership with Morris County Vocational School District for a new Career Training Center located on CCM’s campus. The program will enable Morris County students to pursue in-demand educational and career pathways while simultaneously earning high school and college credits.
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Bipartisan support for new project
At Friday’s event, two Republican legislators from Morris County, Pennacchio and state Senate Minority Leader Anthony Bucco, praised Democratic state Sen. Paul Sarlo for helping them to secure the state funding. Sarlo, who represents District 36 in Bergen County, referred to the project as “monumental.”
“This is not just a facility for Morris, this is a statewide facility,” he said. “It’s a great pathway. Come here, two years, very affordable. Come out and you’re a professional in healthcare. We should be doing a lot more of this with our community colleges.”
The senators also praised George Helmy for his help obtaining the funds when he was chief of staff for Gov. Phil Murphy, a Democrat. Helmy last month joined the RWJBarnabas Health system as an executive vice-president.
“Joe and I are Republicans,” joked Bucco who represents Randolph and much of Morris County in New Jersey’s 25th District. “We don’t get $10 million out of Trenton every day.”
CCM President Iacono “spoke to [Bucco], he spoke to Senator Sarlo, Senator Sarlo spoke to George Helmy, George Helmy speaks to the governor and it got done,” said Pennacchio, who represents the Morris-heavy 26th District. “It got done because it’s a great project.”
“The beauty of this project is that it is a public-private partnership from top to bottom, with state involvement, with county and local involvement, on a bipartisan basis,” said Bucco.
Representatives of Morristown Medical Center and the New Jersey Dental Association attended the event to pledge support, including donations of equipment and other assets.
Joseph D’Auria, chief operating officer at Morristown Medical, said CCM has already produced a large number of the hospital’s staff.
The hospital is part of the Atlantic Health System, Morris County’s largest employer. Last year alone, it hired 45 nurses trained at the college, D’Auria said.
“We are very excited about this program and I think we will be providing equipment where we can,” he said.
District 26 Assemblywoman Aura Dunn added there are “currently more than 33,000 vacancies in the healthcare field here in New Jersey, so this is great for our economy.”
“This hits home for us and we are very eager, not only insomuch as making a donation, we are eager to participate when we are needed, if these students need to come to our office and mentor,” said NJDA President Dr. Renee Arace. “We are happy to get this going and put these healthcare providers in our practices.”
William Westhoven is a local reporter for DailyRecord.com. For unlimited access to the most important news from your local community, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.