Westchester & Fairfield County Business Journals, Justin McGown

A $3 million federal grant will be put to use by The WorkPlace to fund training for up to 200 entry-level nursing professionals who are interested in pursuing either an Associate Degree or a Bachelor of Science degree in nursing.

The WorkPlace, a Bridgeport-based administrator of workforce development funds and job training, will use the funds over the next five years. The funds were awarded through the U.S. Department of Labor’s Nursing Expansion Grant Program.

Joseph Carbone, the president and CEO of The WorkPlace, described the grant as a small but necessary step towards meeting the increasing needs for medical care across both the state and country.

“Obviously, we’ve been familiar with the nursing shortage and the fact it’s going to get worse for years to come for some time,” Carbone explained. “We studied it, and a great deal of work to apply for the grant was required. A very broad partnership was required.”

That partnership will include the Connecticut Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, Griffin Hospital in Derby, iCare, Hartford Health, the Connecticut Hospital Association, Goodwin University and the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities system.

“It will, in and of itself, add at least 200 nurses,” Carbone said, “still far deficient from what the real needs are.”

According to Carbone, Connecticut needs to add 3,000 new nurses to the medical workforce every year to avoid falling behind demand, but only 1,900 students graduate from nursing programs in the state per year. As for the nurses currently in the workforce, more than 50% of those professionals are at least 50 years old.

“Every year that goes by we are deeper into a ditch of not having a sufficient number of nurses,” Carbone said.

The WorkPlace’s application for the federal grant was supported by Sen. Richard Blumenthal and Reps. Jim Himes and Rosa DeLauro.

Announcing the awarding of the grant at a ceremony on May 22, Blumenthal said that “this milestone grant will help train a new generation of nurses— meeting an urgent need to support health care heroes who feel overworked and overwhelmed. New nurses are especially necessary in communities with health care worker shortages, a result of superhuman burdens and burnout. Nobody does skill training better than The Workplace and we’re proud to have them as a partner. Each of these new nurses will be a force multiplier in the battle for better health outcomes.”

“It’s hard to imagine a more impactful program than one that connects unemployed individuals with pathways to careers and financial security, especially in a field as essential as nursing,” added Himes.

“The whole field of health care is the most reliable part of our economy,” Carbone noted, stressing the value of the training to the individuals who will receive it. “Doesn’t matter if there’s a great recession, if there’s a pandemic, people need medical attention. That sector of your economy grows every single month in spite of other conditions that might mitigate against it.”

Carbone highlighted the wide array of careers that can be pursued within the medical field with the degrees the program will offer, particularly in a state such as Connecticut where research and biomedical companies produce additional jobs. He noted that the diversity of those seeking careers in nursing and medical fields is also increasing, with a wide range of ages, races, and backgrounds on display among those who have come to meetings about nursing at The WorkPlace. The current demand has even lured people with backgrounds in other fields, including his own family.

“My son and his wife, they’re both intelligent. He went to college for business administration, graduated in economics but decided he really didn’t want to do that. He got a job at Yale, loved health care, went to UConn, got a master’s in nursing and now he’s one of the administrators now,” Carbone said, who noted his wife went to school for psychology is now she’s a nurse. “One of the things they love about it so much is they’re so appreciated.”

Carbone said The WorkPlace plans to engage in substantial marketing efforts in the near future to reach the public with information about the program.

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