Being awarded a $9.4 million Workforce Innovation Grant from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. is no small thing. Over the next three years, our community and state will feel the positive impact of the exciting work done by Blugolds, faculty and partners focused on strengthening the workforce for rural health and wellbeing.
The key to the grant's success is building upon the collaborative research agreement between UW-Eau Claire and Mayo Clinic Health System. Dr. Richard Helmers, regional vice president of Mayo Clinic Health System in Northwest Wisconsin, is thrilled to be collaborating with UWEC to lead the charge on this initiative, which he sees as a culmination of a very successful relationship.
Future-minded, impact-oriented goals
With lofty — but achievable — goals and the experienced individuals to make it happen, this grant will provide a significant number of improvements. These improvements include providing funding for increasing the number of students admitted to our nursing school, adding additional academic programs with a focus on health and well-being, and establishing a rural teacher support network to mentor early career teachers and help them be successful in rural schools. Our four pillars will guide our implementation and goals.
These four pillars will address the following:
Nursing, Teaching, and Social Worker Shortages
- Educate and graduate 48 more nurses each year, with 144 in training by 2025. This will increase UW-Eau Claire’s bachelor’s-prepared nurses to 160 per year. We will collaborate with Mayo Clinic Health System to innovate clinical nursing education through the use of dedicated education units (DEUs), in which Mayo Clinic Health System nurse educators provide front-line clinical instruction to nursing students with oversight by UW-Eau Claire faculty, and through increased use of technology-enabled simulation instruction.
- Support pre-service K-12 teachers financially to reduce their student debt, which will enhance rural job opportunities, often substantially lower in pay.
- Create networks of support among new teachers, nurses and social work professionals in rural communities.
New Health Care Careers
- Create a master’s degree in public health at UW-Eau Claire, with an emphasis on rural public health and online delivery methods to improve access to the degree.
Health Care Coaches
- Proactively prepare health care workers for technology-based, virtual community care delivery models, serving rural communities as a trusted liaison between patients and care providers.
Innovation Skills for Rural Business Owners
- Focus on providing innovation skills for future job creators and main street business owners, equipping them with skills to better pivot in the face of a future catastrophic situation like COVID-19.
Learn more about the grant pillars
Together with UW-Eau Claire, this effort will spur exciting new developments in health care delivery and health care education, right here in the Chippewa Valley.
A grant that benefits everyone
Students and faculty
Our Blugold students and faculty are here to make a difference, and this grant will undoubtedly aid in this endeavor. This funding will provide tuition support for 10 nurse educators to complete their master’s degrees and serve as clinical faculty with undergraduate nursing students. It will also aid in establishing a rural teacher support network to mentor early career teachers and help them be successful in rural schools.
We are thrilled to continue to provide a wide array of academic programs that fit the need of the ever-evolving workforce. We will be developing six new high-skill degrees, including a master’s in public health, a doctor of nursing practice in psychiatry and mental health, a master’s in exercise physiology, an MBA emphasis in health care management, a speech-language pathology assistant program and an online nurse educator program.
Our community and beyond
The positive outcomes from this invaluable grant will extend far beyond the UWEC campus. Committed to the community and improving the world around us, many of the programs originating from this grant will directly benefit various counties across the state. This includes piloting six iterations of a rural interprofessional practice network where student teachers, social work interns and practicum students in health care fields live and work together in rural communities during their clinical experiences.
The Workforce Innovation Grant will also assist in providing entrepreneurs and local business owners with business services and support to better weather future economic challenges by creating an “innovation certificate” and utilizing interns in UW-Eau Claire’s Small Business Development Center to network with WiSys’ VentureHome at Eau Claire’s Co-Labs.