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HCC Commemorates National Apprenticeship Week with Opening of New Surgical Technician Skills Lab

Dr. Daria Willis, president of Howard Community College (center), cuts the ribbon to mark the opening of the new surgical technician skills lab, surrounded by trustees, elected officials, and hospital partners.
Dr. Daria Willis, president of Howard Community College (center), cuts the ribbon to mark the opening of the new surgical technician skills lab, with trustees, elected officials, and hospital partners.

On October 14, 2022, Howard Community College marked the first day of National Apprenticeship Week, a time to celebrate apprenticeships and their contributions to optimizing workforce development and economic opportunity. During a special event, Dr. Daria J. Willis, president of Howard Community College (HCC), joined business, education, government, and hospital leaders to celebrate two new healthcare apprenticeships – licensed practical nursing (LPN) and surgical technician – with a ribbon cutting to mark the opening of a brand-new surgical technician skills lab.

“I am proud to celebrate the college’s new partnership with local hospitals and commitment to the healthcare industry in building the next generation of healthcare workers in our community,” said Dr. Willis. “The COVID-19 pandemic intensified the need for skilled professionals, and our apprenticeship program provides the training and skill development necessary for students to succeed.”

Dr. Willis’ sentiments have been echoed by HCC’s hospital partners at the University of Maryland Medical Center, Howard County General Hospital, Ascension Saint Agnes, The Johns Hopkins Hospital, and Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center. 

“Surgical technicians play a critical role in the high-quality care we deliver to patients from across the state and the region,” said Bert W. O'Malley, MD, president and chief executive officer at the University of Maryland Medical Center. “We value this unique opportunity to partner with another anchor institution in Maryland to help ensure a highly-trained pipeline of health care professionals for the future.”

“We value our partnership with Howard Community College and the door this program opens for us to fill a critical need within our surgical service line,” said Chelai Green, MHA, BSN, RN, senior director of perioperative services at Howard County General Hospital. “Our hospital is continuously in search of new talent, and this apprenticeship program gives us a new and very positive avenue to recruit individuals who are eager to learn about the operating room environment and be important contributors in the process of patient care. There is a wealth of opportunity for surgical technicians to grow and advance in their careers. This program creates a solid starting point, and we genuinely appreciate the opportunity to be part of it.”

The new surgical technician skills lab is housed in HCC’s Kathleen Hetherington Hall (formerly known as the Health Sciences Building). Here, surgical technician apprentices will learn clinical skills in a safe, hands-on environment, using high-fidelity mannequins that portray patients with medical conditions requiring surgical intervention. The space features two simulation-based operating rooms, packed with the same tools and technologies that apprentices will use as future professionals working in hospital operating room teams.

In the designated lab space, instructors will guide apprentices through a diverse listing of core competencies, including operating room set-up, preparation and transport of surgical patients, and guidelines for providing clinical assistance during surgical cases, working in collaboration with surgeons and nurses. Surgical technicians are responsible for adjusting lighting and operating room equipment prior to and during cases, securing and handing off surgical instrumentation, positioning and holding retractors, cutting sutures, and taking inventory of supplies prior to and at the closure of operative cases.

“We have made a valuable investment in this new space to assure our surgical technician apprentices can build the critical skills necessary to work in the fast-paced operating room environment,” said Minah Woo, vice president of workforce, innovation, and strategic partnerships at HCC. “Surgical technicians play an important role in assuring surgical procedures are streamlined, efficient, and safe. They will learn how to master their role, confidently, through a combination of simulated learning at HCC and exposure in real world settings offered by our employer partners.”

HCC officially introduced its surgical technician apprenticeship program in July 2022 and has been actively recruiting students take part in its first cohort, which began last week with 19 students. Hospital employer partners fund their apprentices’ college tuition and fees while offering each a paid, entry-level position. Apprentice wages increase progressively, commensurate with their academic studies and on-the-job clinical experience. Through a combination of courses and lab work completed at HCC, and full-time employment at a local hospital, aspiring surgical technicians will gain the foundational knowledge and skills needed to work in a hospital operating room environment.

HCC has built a comprehensive apprenticeship program, with “earn-while-you-learn” opportunities available for students with wide range of career interests. Over the past several years, the college has grown apprenticeship programs in the fields of biomedical equipment technology, construction management, electrical, HVAC, and information technology and software development. Most recently, in addition to the new surgical technician and LPN apprenticeships, HCC introduced a plumbing apprenticeship and a help desk technician apprenticeship.

For more information on HCC’s comprehensive apprenticeship program, visit


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