Kaleida Health and Erie Community College have embarked on a partnership to attract more workers to the health care field.
ECC has agreed to expand its nursing, radiology, respiratory therapy, health information and medical lab technology programs. Kaleida, meanwhile, will offer scholarships to employees interested in pursuing those degrees at the two-year college, officials announced Wednesday at Buffalo General Hospital.
"Health care is a growing industry in Western New York," said James R. Kaskie, president and chief executive officer of Kaleida Health.
"As our population continues to age, they face significant health challenges," he said. "We must continue to find unique ways to attract students and prospective employees to this rewarding profession."
Trends creating shortages in the health care field drive the partnership.
The largest percentage of nurses in Western New York falls into the baby boomer age group and can be expected to retire shortly, officials said. Only 6 percent of Kaleida's nursing staff is 30 or younger.
Labor statistics project registered nursing as a top growth occupation through 2012, officials said.
Under the agreement, ECC will expand its nursing program by as many as 20 students a year over the next four years. Its radiology, respiratory therapy, health information and medical lab technology programs will admit an additional 22 a year, officials said.
Kaleida, meanwhile, will look to fill those slots by offering to pay tuition and fees for eligible employees, or their family members, selected to take part in the partnership.
"By forming a partnership with Kaleida Health, we can give students and current health care employees an opportunity to receive the quality education and training they need to succeed in this growing field -- a field that is facing a shortage of workers," said ECC President William J. Mariani.