SPRINGFIELD — For the first time this fall, Springfield Technical Community College’s (STCC) occupational therapy assistant program will offer students the option to enroll part-time, which will give them flexibility as they pursue their associate degree.
The part-time track means they will have three years rather than two years to complete the OTA program and earn a degree. The accredited program at STCC trains students to become occupational therapy assistants, who help clients develop, recover, improve as well as maintain the skills needed for daily living and working. OTAs typically might work in a variety of settings, including hospitals, clinics, rehabilitation faculties, schools, and community centers.
“We are absolutely thrilled to offer a part-time track for the OTA program,” said Kelli Goodkowsky, assistant dean of the School of Health and Patient Simulation. “To be able to offer students some flexibility in terms of program completion demonstrates the faculty’s dedication to meeting students where they are. This commitment extends through the student’s engagement in the program, and through the holistic approach faculty take to support students at every step.”
Professor Cristy Wassung, who serves as OTA department chair, said offering a part-time track will help meet the needs of the community. “We don’t always have traditional students. Many of our students are juggling work and family. A part-time track, for many people, is more reasonable and attainable. We developed a three-year track with our students in mind.”
The part-time program will include the same course content as the two-year track, but spread out over three years.
The accrediting body, the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education of the American Occupational Therapy Assoc., has approved the program to accept students this fall.
The full-time program started at STCC in 1994. Wassung noted she was a member of the first graduating class in 1996.
Students in the program work with state-of-the-art equipment, including patient simulators in the SIMS Medical Center on campus. The OTA program offers students opportunities for field work and hands-on learning. Students also service clients at the campus rehab clinic, which is a unique feature of the OTA program at STCC. No other programs in the region offer an in-house rehab clinic, said Laurie Cecchi, an OTA assistant professor.
“It gives our students a wonderful opportunity to treat clients,” Wassung said. “We service clients who have had some sort of illness or disability or injury. Some of the local hospitals will refer clients.”
Cecchi added that students say they enjoy the hands-on aspect of the program and receiving individualized attention from faculty.
Cecchi and Wassung both stress that the part-time option will give students flexibility they may need to complete their degree.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of occupational therapy assistants is projected to grow 25% from 2021 to 2031, which is much faster than the average for all occupations.
The OTA program is accepting applications for the fall for both the part-time and full-time tracks. To learn more and to apply, visit stcc.io/ota. Direct any questions to STCC Admissions at (413) 755-3333.