An innovative plan developed by Iowa’s community colleges to train thousands of workers in high-demand fields is being recognized with a $15 million grant announced Monday by the U.S. Department of Labor.

A consortium, consisting of all 15 Iowa community colleges, jointly applied for funding to build training capacity in the areas of information technology, healthcare, utilities, and manufacturing – also known as the IHUM Network.  Grant funds will be used statewide to create more than 45 additional training certificates in the IHUM targeted areas.

Southwestern Community College’s (SWCC) portion of the grant, $1 million, will be used to assist in the implementation of a high-tech simulation lab on-campus for the college’s esteemed nursing programs—licensed practical nursing and registered nursing—as well as SWCC’s health-related continuing education programs.

The simulation lab will include full-body wireless patient simulators, which will enable SWCC instructors to enhance learning opportunities found in classroom and clinical settings by creating high risk scenarios, such as heart attacks, head injuries, respiratory arrest, or trauma from accidents.
Dr. Susan White, SWCC director of nursing, said the simulation lab will be an invaluable educational resource for students.

“A simulation lab will provide students a safe and realistic environment to experience nursing scenarios,” White explained.  “This will assist students tremendously by allowing them to refine their clinical decision-making skills without adverse consequences, in-turn providing them with confidence and promoting patient safety.”

The IHUM Network project was one of 71 grants awarded nationwide under this year’s Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) grants.  Created in 2009, this is the fourth and final round of TAACCCT grants.  The awards are used to support community colleges in developing partnerships with employers to educate and train individuals for in-demand jobs.  The IHUM consortium project award is believed to be the largest TAACCCT grant awarded to the state of Iowa from the U.S. Department of Labor.

Dr. Barb Crittenden, SWCC president, feels the teamwork and collaboration of Iowa’s community colleges was a huge asset during the grant process.

“The presidents of Iowa’s 15 community colleges have made a commitment in recent years to working collaboratively on federally funded projects such as this,” Crittenden stated.  “This grant will allow us [SWCC] to move forward on a project that has been in the planning stages for some time.  We are excited about the opportunities the simulation lab will create for students, as well as the potential for partnerships with area health care agencies.”

In addition to the collaboration among community colleges, the IHUM Network project was supported by more than 30 businesses and business associations statewide.  Hawkeye Community College in Waterloo took the lead in the development and submission of the grant proposal. The funding will be allocated over a four-year time period beginning on October 1, 2014.