San Jacinto College helping to meet high demand for middle-skilled allied health workers | San Jac Athletics

San Jacinto College helping to meet high demand for middle-skilled allied health workers

08.18.2014 | By Rob Vanya

San Jacinto College student Samantha Dodson fills a prescription in the pharmacy technician program lab at the North Campus. Earning a one-year credential was an important first step on her path to an allied health career. Photo credit: Rob Vanya, San Jacinto College marketing, public relations, and government afairs department.


As a partner in Greater Houston Partnership’s (GHP) UpSkill Houston initiative, San Jacinto College is helping people land good-paying jobs with only a one- or a two-year college credential.

GHP launched UpSkill Houston last month with an ambitious goal of training workers in the next three years to fill an estimated 296,000 new “middle-skill” jobs – jobs that don’t necessarily require four-year college degrees, but still pay substantial wages.

Many equate middle-skill jobs with manufacturing and craft trade positions such as welders, pipefitters, process technology operators, and automobile technicians. There is a critical need in the Gulf Coast region for such workers, but a little-known fact is that there is also high demand in the area for nearly all types of middle-skilled allied health workers, such as licensed vocational nurses, dental assistants, and emergency medical technicians.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of all types of allied health workers in the Gulf Coast region is expected to increase faster than the average for all occupations through the year 2020, due largely to substantial growth of the middle-aged and elderly population.

San Jacinto College student Samantha Dodson, who recently earned a pharmacy technician certificate at the North Campus, exemplifies how allied health training rapidly pays valuable dividends. Her one-year credential is opening doors of opportunity that will enable her to pursue a medical career. Now that she has graduated from San Jacinto College, she plans to work as a pharmacy technician while she attends the University of Houston, with an ultimate career goal of becoming an optometrist.

“It’s great that just a one-year credential can make such a big difference,” Dodson commented. “My starting pay as a pharmacy technician will be somewhere between $14 to $18 an hour, depending on whether I work at a neighborhood pharmacy, or in a hospital. Not only will that enable me to pay my way through college, I will also be working in an environment where I can continue to learn practical medical skills.”

Dodson found San Jacinto College’s pharmacy technician training challenging, extensive, and also very rewarding. “There’s traditional classroom learning, and there’s also a lot of hands-on training through clinicals, and the clinicals are the part I really like because you get real-world experience in a real workplace,” she commented.

For her community clinicals, she assisted at a Walgreens in Atascocita. “I learned you have to be really on the ball because of all the quick thinking and multi-tasking that is involved in pharmacy work,” she said. For her institutional clinicals, she was stationed at Memorial Hermann Northwest Hospital. “I especially liked the hospital environment,” she said. “Half of the time was spent shadowing a pharmacy technician, and then the other half of the time was spent doing the actual work of a pharmacy technicians – filling medications, sterile compounding, and the like. The clinicals include 160 hours in the community setting, and 160 hours in a hospital, so there really is a lot of practical hands-on training.”

Rhonda Bell, health science department chair at the San Jacinto College North Campus, says people need to be reminded about the wide range of affordable and flexible allied health training options available at community colleges. “The two-year college is often a hidden commodity within our communities,” Bell remarked. “Students can complete training in as little as one year, or obtain a two-year associate degree in high-demand allied health fields, meeting their goals and increasing their earning power in a very short amount of time.” She said employers who want to hire San Jacinto College allied health program graduates for clinic and hospital positions frequently contact her office.

Bell knows firsthand about the value of community college allied health training. “I started my career as a nurse thanks to training I received at San Jacinto College and I can vouch for the quality of the education,” she commented. “I hope others may realize the value of such opportunities and the many doors which may open as a result of starting a journey of higher education in healthcare so close to home.”

For a complete listing of allied health training available at San Jacinto College, please visit


About San Jacinto College

Surrounded by monuments of history, industries and maritime enterprises of today, and the space age of tomorrow, San Jacinto College has been serving the citizens of East Harris County, Texas, for more than 50 years. The Achieving the Dream Leader College is committed to the goals and aspirations of a diverse population of 30,000 students in more than 200 degree and certificate options, including university transfer and career preparation. Students also benefit from the College’s job training programs, renowned for meeting the needs of growing industries in the region. San Jacinto College graduates contribute nearly $630 million each year to the Texas workforce. San Jacinto College. Your Goals. Your College. For more information about San Jacinto College, please call 281-998-6150, visit, or follow us on Facebook at