For Ilikea Scott, a nursing program on Martha’s Vineyard could mean a way to live and work on an Island she loves without the 4:30 a.m. wake-up calls.
In order to pursue a nursing degree at Cape Cod Community College, Ms. Scott recalled Tuesday, she would be on the 6 a.m. ferry to get to class by 8 a.m. She kept cars both on-Island and off, and worked 40 to 60 hours a week while juggling her course load.
But nascent plans to start an on-Island nursing program through the community college could mean a shorter commute, and more opportunities for Ms. Scott and other Vineyarders hoping to pursue nursing degrees. The community college announced last week that it plans to start a program on the Island in 2013.
During information sessions at the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School on Tuesday, the college heard from about 35 interested people, Susan Maddigan, the college’s dean of health sciences and social sciences said.
“The thing that struck us most was how much people were wanting to go to school, and what they are willing to do to make it happen,” Ms. Maddigan told the Gazette Thursday.
Program details have yet to be worked out to meet interested students’ needs, which the college gathered Tuesday.
“We’ve been working with students from the Vineyard for ages,” Ms. Maddigan told the group gathered for the morning session. “We always look at them and say, how do you manage this?”
For Ms. Scott, it was a struggle — the 14th generation Islander ended up moving to New Bedford because of expenses.
“I’m very excited,” she said of the on-Island opportunity. “I want to live here year-round . . . I want to give back to the Vineyard. So this would be a great opportunity to work here and get ahead.”
The college will offer refresher courses in English and math this month, and will offer testing for those with no college work on Jan. 29. A Psychology 101 course, offered through ACE-MV, is a good starting point, Ms. Maddigan said, and would be useful for those interested in early child education, health programs, and people “just interested in a college course.”
The opportunity to pursue higher education on the Vineyard comes as information released by the state sheds light on the Cape and Islands workforce: it is the oldest in the state, with more than half — 56.4 per cent — of the civilian labor force older than 45. The region was also one of two state labor markets to decline in population in the last 10 years.
“Looking forward, the region faces the demographic challenges of an aging population and potential shortfalls in workers with the educational levels desired by employers,” said the study, which was released by the office of labor and workforce development’s Commonwealth Corporation and the Boston Fed’s New England Public Policy Center.
In the last 10 years, the report said, the size of the 55-and-older workforce has increased, while the number of workers between 25 and 44 has fallen. There was almost no change reported in the number of 16 through 24-year-olds in the work force.
According to the study, younger workers in the region are more likely to be unemployed; while 23.3 per cent of the workforce is made up of those 16 to 34 years old; that age group accounts for 32.5 per cent of the unemployed.
About 39 per cent of Cape and Islands residents have a bachelor’s degree or higher, slightly below the state average of 41.2 per cent. But the percentage of the labor force with some post-secondary education, 70.3 per cent, is higher than the state average of 67.8 per cent.
The study said the Cape and Islands region has top numbers in the state when it comes to the completion of post-secondary degrees, but notes the small number of post-secondary institutions in the region (there are five).
As it was clear Tuesday, there’s a desire for on-Island programs. Deana Ahearn, who just moved back to the Island with her kids, ages four and 10, said the program would help her finish a nursing degree at the college, where she is now taking her prerequisite classes online.
“It’s hard, but this is what I want to do,” she said. “I don’t want to give up on this.”
When it comes to the on-Island program,“It’s needed,” Ms. Ahearn said, adding that it’s important for people to “be able to come back and use their education here.”
“It’d be nice to have a more educated Island and community, where we can give back. I’m so excited.”