Assembly Member Rudy Salas Secures $6 Million for BC's Healthcare Education

rudy salas presenting 6 million dollar check to bc

Thursday, July 29, 2021

BAKERSFIELD, CA - Bakersfield College is set to receive $6 million dollars in state funding to expand and implement workforce training programs focused on healthcare education. The projects proposed will include expanding the college's Rural Health Equity and Learning (HEAL) collaborative, the CNA and RN nursing programs, and the allied health programs such as the new Physical Therapy Assistant program, while also providing funding for new post-pandemic student health and wellness services, and new certification programs, such as the Mental Health Worker Certificate.

Salas vouched for the importance of securing these funds for BC and Kern County. He said, “I'm happy to champion more money coming to Bakersfield College. This additional $6 million will help train more nurses and health professionals for the Valley so that our local families will have greater health access and options.”

For years, Bakersfield College has been focused on developing programs that fuel the health and wellbeing of Kern County, Central California, our local residents, and students. In 2018, then president, Dr. Sonya Christian initiated conversation and partnership with UC Merced Public Health Department, Fresno State, UCSF Fresno, and local Kern County health agencies to address health disparities through the Rural Health Equity and Learning (HEAL) collaborative. The group hit the ground running by identifying areas for future engagement which included developing Early College Pathways, enabling youth to establish a path towards Public Health Careers, expanding the local and regional healthcare workforce, public health campaign and advocacy programs, and providing critical data and research necessary to bring visibility to equity issues that impact rural communities.

“Assembly member Rudy Salas makes things happen, and his work embodies keeping the #ValleyStrong.  We have been able to scale up many meaningful programs thanks to the approximate $22 million dollars in funding that Assemblyman Rudy Salas has brought to BC in recent years. His continued commitment to career education directly supports students in ways that matter to their futures, health, and success,” said Dr. Sonya Christian, Kern Community College District Chancellor and past president of Bakersfield College.  “This is also a recognition of our amazing nursing students who volunteered countless hours through the pandemic to get our community vaccinated.”

The funding will also impact the college's already-implemented Public Health Early College pathways which lead to stackable certificates or degrees in six high schools throughout Kern County with  85.8% - 97.7% Hispanic students (McFarland High School, Arvin High School, Wasco High School, Robert F. Kennedy High School, Cesar Chavez High School, and East High School). The program's pathway is intentionally designed to set students on a cost and time efficient path towards qualifying certificates or degrees that lead to careers that have an annual earning potential of up to $100,000/per year.

Kern Community College District Board of Trustees President, Romeo Agbalog is excited to see the impacts that these funds will have on Early College students. He says, “BC has earned a reputation of being good stewards of taxpayer funding by providing thoughtful and efficient pathways towards developing the future workforce we need,  These funds, will make a monumental difference in the lives of students throughout Kern, while allowing us to better serve all students and increase our capacity to inspire and train new healthcare professionals, and delivering a return on investment on these taxpayer funds.”

The Kern County public health sector job growth and job postings average far in excess of the current educational capacity. Our regional average of 119 new health field related hires monthly and a regional median wage ($42.66) slightly higher than the national median wage ($38.51) demonstrates the local shortage of healthcare professionals. Utilizing this new available funding, BC plans to expand its CNA, LVN, and RN programs to address this demand, ensuring that health careers are available and accessible to students, including Hispanic, minority, and low-income.

“Increasing the diversity of our health care workforce is key to our success and our health. Healthcare professionals who are home grown, local, and diverse can provide a unique level of understanding to their medical care. They bring with them an understanding of their patients and their life circumstances, ultimately, reflecting the community they serve,” said Dean of Nursing at Bakersfield College, Carla Gard. 

To support more students through BC's nursing programs, the funding will also provide scholarships, expand the nursing simulation lab and radiological technology programs, and provide a mobile phlebotomy lab so that Certified Phlebotomy Technician Training can be brought to rural communities throughout Kern County, granting them opportunities for certifications to quickly enter the skilled workforce, supporting rural healthcare efforts.

Renegades will also have the opportunity to seek a new degree in Physical Therapy Assistant, a highly in-demand field throughout Kern County and the state. According to the Employment Development Department State of California, (EDD), the number of Physical Therapist Assistants is expected to grow much faster than average growth for all occupations.  Jobs for Physical Therapist Assistants are expected to increase by 30.8% or 1600 jobs projected between 2016 and 2026, for the state of California. Specifically, to Kern County, the growth of Physical Therapist Assistant is greater with an expected increase of 37.5 percent between 2016 and 2026 in Kern County.

New initiatives to be funded by the allocation will also include the Mental Health Worker Certificate pilot to develop a paraprofessional pathway for individuals who wish to support mental health providers and counseling professionals and a 2-week certification program in public health for non-health professionals.

As part of the funding details, the college also plans to expand its Student Health and Wellness Center programs and services at both the main campus and at its rural area sites to ensure students and the community has access to its respective offerings.

Bakersfield College was responsive from the onset of the pandemic providing educational opportunities, webinars, free COVID-19 testing on campus, supporting the community-wide vaccine roll-out with BC's nursing faculty, students, and vaccination team. Earlier this summer, the college partnered with UCLA in efforts to Get Out the Vaccine (GOTV) to canvas the community, share information, and encourage our community to get vaccinated and remain safe.

“These multiple complementary efforts focused around community, rural health, and wellness are sure to make a difference. These Renegades are giving their time, energy, and are focused on making their future careers about helping others, both through the COVID-19 pandemic and way beyond. I couldn't be more proud of their work and dedication, and we are so thankful for the support of Assemblyman Salas and all our partners who support BC,” Gard added.