CARBONDALE — Southern Illinois University Carbondale and its multi-county Greater Egypt partners have been awarded technical assistance funding for a program designed to align higher education programming with the needs of the region’s health care industry.
The Illinois Board of Higher Education, in partnership with the nonprofit Council for Adult and Experiential Learning (CAEL), has awarded $238,110 in federal USA Funds to four projects in Illinois. About a quarter of the funding, in the form of technical assistance expertise from the awarding agencies, is going to the Greater Egypt initiative for Franklin, Jackson, Jefferson, Perry and Williamson counties. Partnering with SIU are John A. Logan College, the Southern Illinois Collegiate Common Market, Man-Tra-Con Corp., Greater Egypt Regional Planning and Development Commission, and Southern Illinois Healthcare.
The region has lost many jobs in mining and government and in some cases manufacturing. However, there has been growth in the health care and retail sectors, according to Kyle Harfst, executive director of economic development and of the SIU Research Park. In addition, he noted that there has been an ongoing effort to provide improved access to health care for residents in the region.
IBHE and CAEL officials are working with the Greater Egypt partners to assess the region’s health care and workforce needs as well as the current educational system delivery systems and determine how higher education providers can prepare people to meet the needs of health care employers and find employment in the industry.
“We in Southern Illinois are appreciative of receiving this award. From a regional engagement perspective, aligning health care needs and higher education offerings is critical to having an adequate supply of qualified employees available for this industry,” Harfst said.
He noted that as the population ages and life expectancy increases, so does the need for health care services and access to modern health technology — leading to a greater need for health care employees with specific training and skill sets. The goal of this effort is to determine what skill sets and training workers need in order to qualify for positions within the health care field and then assure that the programming offered by SIU and other higher education institutions in the region correlates.
Also receiving the technical assistance funding are Madison County, Rockford/Winnebago County, and Northeastern Illinois including Lake, Cook and McHenry counties and the city of Waukegan.