We sat down with Linda Blair, dean and chief academic officer at Spencerian College, to learn about new programs, initiatives and challenges at Spencerian College. Here are the highlights.
Ben Keeton: As the healthcare landscape continues to evolve and more people have access to the healthcare system, there are reported shortages in well-trained employees. What is the role of career colleges in helping to address that shortage?
Linda Blair: Career colleges have a responsibility to be aware of the major areas in which there is a shortage of well-trained employees. These are the areas to which we need to give our greatest attention. Career colleges must utilize information regarding this from employers, advisory board members and networking with committees and agencies focused on identifying areas of highest demand.
BK: How do you work with current employers to ensure that your students are being trained for the jobs that are available today while also being trained for the jobs that will be needed in the future?
LB: Spencerian College has a dynamic advisory board and many of the members are employers of our graduates. Meeting agendas focus on current and future needs in the healthcare arena. We also utilize information from the surveys we send to employers of our graduates to determine their level of skill and the degree to which they meet the current needs of the employer.
BK: How is the accreditation landscape changing and how does that impact the training and education of the next generation of healthcare workers?
LB: The accrediting agencies are under intense scrutiny by the U.S. Department of Education and politicians. This increased scrutiny causes the accrediting agencies to be more intense in their scrutiny of our schools. Career Colleges focus on the things that are most important to students, that being emphasis on strategies to help students to be successful in school, able to achieve graduation, and possession of the skills needed to obtain and keep employment in their chosen field. All of the increased checks and balances take away time from our focus on those things for our students.
BK: What challenges do schools like Spencerian face?
LB: Schools like Spencerian College face many challenges today. Higher Education and more specifically For-Profit Career Colleges have become a target of politicians, who seem to be intent on eliminating these schools at a time when there is such high demand for individuals skilled in the programs we offer. State schools alone would have great difficulty meeting the needs. Our school has to constantly prove our worth by telling our success stories to politicians, employers, future students and the community at large. We have to attend to Gainful Employment concerns while liberal arts colleges can graduate individuals with a great education, but often lacking in employability skills.
BK: How can we create an environment that encourages more students to pursue healthcare careers?
LB: Working with our high schools and middle schools is a part of the answer. Spencerian College has partnered with Jefferson County, Oldham County, and Hardin County schools with special projects to foster interest in healthcare. We are a very active member of the Greater Louisville Health Career Collaborative, whose mission is to promote healthcare careers. Two other groups with whom the Healthcare Collaborative works are Kentuckiana Works and Junior Achievement. Hospitals, long term care facilities and educational institutions partner in this collaborative to identify the highest demand careers and recruit individuals into these careers.
BK: What is your favorite success story?
LB: My favorite success story is a very recent one. One of our 2016 graduates received the Spencerian College Outstanding Alumni Award and was our October graduation speaker. There was not a dry eye in the auditorium when she told her story of a previous attempted suicide and a temporary loss of her children, living in her car, and in very dismal housing situations while a student. She struggled but she made it to the completion of our Invasive Cardiovascular Technology associate degree program. She is certified and is now employed at the Mayo Clinic. Her initial interview with the Mayo Clinic was facilitated by our IT director using Skype. She loves her position and celebrated her success at the graduation ceremony with three of her four children. Spencerian College made a real change in her life. She shared with the graduates and families at the ceremony that nothing is impossible no matter how many barriers you might experience.