Governor Quinn Recognizes First Program to Help Military Veterans Use their Training to Achieve a Nursing Degree

Bridge Program at Joliet Junior College Could Help Veterans Save Dozens of Credit Hours and Thousands in Tuition and Fees

JOLIET –(ENEWSPF)–December 22, 2014.  On Friday, Governor Pat Quinn congratulated Illinois education leaders at Joliet Junior College on establishing the first “bridge program” in the state to help veterans turn their military training into a high-demand career. The bridge program, set to launch at the college in March 2015, offers veterans with relevant healthcare experience a quicker, more affordable way to get a practical nursing license. This is part of Governor Quinn’s agenda to support veterans and service members by ensuring they have access to training, education, and opportunities that help them thrive during their transition to civilian life.

“We have a duty on the home front to take care of our veterans when it comes to education,” Governor Quinn said. “A good education leads to a good job, and we know that employment is key to a veteran’s successful transition home. Veterans come home with a variety of specialized skills – military medics, for instance – and it’s important to harness their talent and apply it toward existing demands for skilled labor. It’s critically important that we give veterans this opportunity.”

Joliet Junior College, College of DuPage and Illinois Central College will each offer the eight-week, six-credit bridge program, which addresses differences in competencies between the Basic Medical Technician Corpsman program and those of a practical nursing program. Upon completion, student veterans will be awarded a Practical Nursing Certificate and be eligible to sit for the Practical Nurse Licensing Exam. Training requirements will be reduced from approximately 1,600 hours to 250 hours, or from 42 to six credit hours, which will save eligible veterans more than $12,000 in tuition and fees.

According to the Illinois Department of Employment Security, there will be a nine percent demand increase for LPNs and Vocational Nurses in Illinois through 2020, representing an estimated 2,115 additional jobs, and the bridge program is designed to help veterans fill these evolving workforce needs.

In February 2013, Governor Quinn issued an Executive Order directing state agencies to identify overlaps and gaps between military training and state licenses, and to propose ways to allow military training and education to be considered for state licensure requirements. Today’s event announcing the first of many military bridge programs is the result of that Executive Order, and features cooperation between the Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs, the National Governor’s Association, U.S. Department of Defense, Illinois Community College Board, Illinois Board of Higher Education, state licensing agencies, and participating schools.

“As the nation’s first public community college, I think it is fitting that Joliet Junior College be the first in the state to offer this program” said Mary Beth Luna, JJC interim dean of health professions and emergency services. “The collaboration between the other colleges involved, the Board of Nursing, the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation, the Illinois Community College Board and the Illinois Board of Higher Education was instrumental in making this a reality. We were able to acknowledge the rigorous training these medics received in the military and tailor the program to fill in the gaps.”

“We are very excited that these programs are coming on-line and being offered to qualified veterans,” Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs Acting Director Rodrigo Garcia said. “The challenge of getting these bridge programs created was an interesting and dynamic process, and we are grateful to all the parties involved. We thank them for their cooperation, diligence, and focus on helping our veterans.”

In October 2013, Governor Quinn announced that Illinois had been selected for a special program to help those leaving military service attain certification for in-demand civilian careers. The Veterans Licensing and Certification Demonstration Policy Academy, formed by the National Governors Association (NGA), assisted six states, including Illinois, to create clear pathways for veterans to obtain state-level credentials for certain law enforcement and health care careers. Part of the NGA special program included a $46,500 grant, as well as a state-level system to learn best practices and capitalize on the success of others.

For more information on the bridge program and other accelerated credentialing opportunities for veterans, visit:  www.veterans.illinois.gov/statelicenses

Governor Quinn has made helping our veterans, service members and their families one of his top priorities throughout his career in public service. He championed numerous veterans’ causes during his service as Lieutenant Governor and Illinois Treasurer. In 2011, Governor Quinn launched the Welcome Home Heroes program to support Illinois service members seeking homeownership.

As Lieutenant Governor, Governor Quinn championed the Illinois Military Family Relief Fund Act, which established a fund to provide grants to families of Illinois National Guard members and Illinois residents serving in the U.S. Armed Forces Reserve components who were called to active duty as a result of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. These grants help service members and their families with the costs of food, housing, utilities, medical services and other expenses they struggle to afford because a wage-earner has temporarily left civilian employment to be placed on active military duty. The fund has distributed more than $15.1 million to 29,625 Illinois military families to assist with the financial burden at home when a loved one is deployed overseas.

Source: illinois.gov