Gwinnett Tech, Georgia Tech team up for program launch

LAWRENCEVILLE -- Classes start Monday for Jill Kennedy, a Buford woman studying to be a health records technician. Thanks to a recent grant to boost job creation, tuition is on the house.

Kennedy is one of 15 in the inaugural class for a Health Information Technology Certificate, which offers special funding for veterans, the underemployed and the unemployed.

Administrators from Gwinnett Technical College and the Georgia Institute of Technology on Monday briefed leaders from healthcare, education and business about the colleges' HIT education partnership, which is supported by a $1.65 million grant.

The event, which was held in Gwinnett Tech's Life Sciences Center, marked the program's launch.

David McCulloch, Gwinnett Tech's vice president of economic development, said the effort "mirrors our mission here ... of workforce development."

In addition, McCulloch said, "we hope our collaborative serves as a model for future workforce training in our region as well as Georgia."

The collaboration is "the first of its kind," according to Stephen Fleming, vice president of the Enterprise Innovation Institute at Georgia Tech.

According to Jim Sass, dean of health information systems at Gwinnett Tech, the three-year project aims to "create a curriculum, put it together, move it toward distance learning and by the third year roll it out to all the technical college system sister schools in the state."

Sass said "those with an IT background or a healthcare background" are ideal for the HIT certificate program.

A news release from Gwinnett Tech stated that health information technology professionals are "responsible for organizing and managing health information data and its secure exchange between users."

It's a "fast-growing field...increasingly viewed as the most promising tool for improving the overall quality, safety and efficiency of the health delivery system."

Anywhere from 12,000 to 50,000 new jobs are anticipated by 2017, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The Georgia-based HIT sector employs about 15,000 people in the state, and the sector's primary businesses are growing at a 40-percent rate according to the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce.

Kennedy hopes to be among those employed after obtaining her HIT certificate.

"I think this is great," she said Monday, following the event at Gwinnett Tech. "I look at it as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."

For more information, visit www.gwinnetttech.edu.