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Life Sciences Building is “Mission Work” for Gwinnett Tech President

The coming of the Gwinnett Braves generated some of the biggest headlines in recent county history. Yet, for Gwinnett leaders and residents alike, there”s another issue that has both top-of-mind interest and bottom-line impact – healthcare.

Gwinnett”s strong and positive growth trends have created an almost perfect storm scenario in healthcare. More residents boost the demand for care. Delivering more care requires additional facilities and a skilled workforce – a workforce in need of education and training. That same workforce would also be the draw for life science and healthcare companies eyeing Gwinnett as a possible location site.

"Whether you are a resident needing care, a provider striving to serve patients, a student wanting the knowledge to work in the field, or an employer needing a skilled workforce, the issue of healthcare is your issue," explains Sharon J. Bartels, president, Gwinnett Technical College.

Serving the needs of these constituencies – a top priority for Bartels and her team at Gwinnett Tech – is now closer to fruition. Funding for the construction of a much-needed Life Sciences Building at Gwinnett Tech is a part of Governor Perdue”s budget for this year, included in the bond package that addresses the needs of the state”s 33 technical colleges.

"We”ve been advocating the need for this facility for three years and are hopeful that the budget and bond proposal will be approved as written this legislative session," Bartels says.

“Timing is critical”
By any measurement, the need for the facility is great. Gwinnett Tech is the primary provider of education and training for healthcare workers in Gwinnett County, serving approximately 600 people per year in its nine health sciences programs. However, Gwinnett Tech turned away about 92 percent of its health science applicants, more than 6,200 students last year, because of lack of classroom space.

"The timing is so critical. We are turning away residents seeking an education for the higher-paying jobs so necessary to our community”s overall quality of life," explains Bartels.

The proposed 78,000 square-foot, four-story facility would allow Gwinnett Tech to serve a total of 1,685 students annually and add eight new health science/life science programs – feeding the workforce pipeline in the healthcare industry in two years or less. Construction costs for this project are $18.6 million.

Healthcare jobs in high demand now
The county”s major healthcare facilities and providers have a growing need for Gwinnett Tech graduates. Gwinnett Medical Center, for instance, is currently building a new patient tower at its Lawrenceville facility – creating at least 500 new health science jobs. That number is in addition to ongoing nursing vacancies, approximately 100 at any given time, report Gwinnett Medical officials.

"The current job placement rate among our health science graduates is 100 percent – with the vast majority staying in Gwinnett. Many of our students do clinical training with Gwinnett Medical Center or Emory Eastside, and start their careers right at their clinical site," says Bartels. "Overall, our health science graduates have a 96 percent pass rate on national certification exams, with many programs having a 100 percent pass rate."

More growth anticipated
In truth, the healthcare sector is just one part of a bigger picture – and a bigger need. The broader term of life s