College of the Redwoods


Cal Poly Humboldt

College Matters | CR is boosting health care educational opportunities

This article was originally posted in the College Matters column of the Times-Standard.

Thursday, November 30, 2023 - 2:30pm

I believe that the College of the Redwoods is unique and unlike any other California community college. Our distinctiveness stems from our ability to work collaboratively with our faculty, staff, and workforce leaders to do things our own way. This sense of uniqueness is embedded in our culture, and we do not have any interest in maintaining the status quo.

Because we are constantly adapting and looking for new ways forward, CR is fully committed to working closely with our education and workforce development partners to reshape and improve our community through creativity and innovation. One example of this is our newest academic program, aquaculture, which is intrinsically linked to both Cal Poly Humboldt and Humboldt County’s future aquaculture business sector.

Building on the successful implementation of that new program, we are now focused on developing academic offerings that will meet the demands of our health care partners. College of the Redwoods’ internal review committee, the Program Viability Committee (PVC), which is comprised of representatives from our faculty Academic Senate and Administration, has recommended that we develop new health care related programs in personal wellness, surgical technology, psychiatric technology, health care navigation, and respiratory care. I concur with the PVC’s recommendations and believe that we can leverage our strengths and community partnerships to build new cutting-edge degrees and/or certificates in these important areas.

You may ask why we selected these areas. We know that these programs are well-aligned with our educational master plan, with the identified health care sector needs in our region, and lead to living wage jobs in the communities we serve.

When we look at new academic program development, we turn to the California Community Colleges’ Center of Excellence for Labor Market Research (COE). The COE produces reports and tools that provide a real-time picture of the labor market, where it is headed, and what programs and training are needed to meet future workforce demand. This research helps us tailor our programs to support our dynamic and competitive workforce. The data available from the Far North Center, our regional office, highlights the following:

Personal wellness: Entry-level wages for occupations such as exercise trainers, athletic trainers, and group fitness instructors exceed the living wage. Employment opportunities for these occupations is anticipated to grow within the region over the coming years, with 7% growth anticipated in the next 5 years.

Surgical technologist: Job openings are projected to increase by 10% over the next five years and wage data shows that surgical technologists earn $12 to $23 above the subregion’s living wage.

Psychiatric technician: Jobs in this pathway are projected to increase by 14% over the next five years. Wage data shows that psychiatric technicians earn $7 above the living wage for a small family.

Health care navigation: Patient care coordination jobs are projected to increase by 7% over the next five years. Wage data shows that health care navigation/patient care coordination occupations earn $3 to $15 above the subregion’s living wage.

Respiratory therapist: In the far north, respiratory therapist jobs are projected to increase by 10% over the next five years. Wage data shows that respiratory therapists earn at least $25 above the subregion’s living wage.

In addition to the promising labor statistics, we know that all health-related services are critically understaffed in our communities and we are confident that these programs will bring new career opportunities to our students and much-needed health care workers to the area.

While the development of these new programs is a proactive, forward-thinking response to the challenges facing College of the Redwoods and our community and a great step forward, we are not done! We are continuing to look at potential additional health care-related degrees as well as degrees related to wind technology and the blue (ocean) economy.

Dr. Keith Flamer is the president of the College of the Redwoods.