Moravian College’s Sports Medicine Center Latest Example of Regional Workforce Programs

By Colin McEvoy on February 9, 2015

The interior of the now-closed 24/7 Fitness Club in Bethlehem, which Moravian College will convert into a sports medicine fitness center.

The interior of the now-closed 24/7 Fitness Club in Bethlehem, which Moravian College will convert into a sports medicine center.

For more than three decades, the 24/7 Fitness Club was alive with physical activity, with constant tennis, squash and racquet games, as well as group fitness classes, swimming lessons and cardio exercising. But that all came to an abrupt halt when the 1441 Schoenersville Road center shut its doors without warning last year, leaving behind nothing but a vacant 27,800 square-foot building.

That building is about to become alive again. Moravian College has purchased the building, and is partnering with the St. Luke’s University Health Network to develop a sports medicine center, open to the public as well as Moravian staff and students, that will include orthopedic surgeons, primary care sports medicine physicians, physical therapists, athletic trainers and other sports medicine specialists.

“By having athletic trainers and people in sports medicine working side-by-side with orthopedic surgeons and physical therapists, students will be able to hone their skills right next to the experts in real-life experiences,” said Moravian College President Bryon Grigsby. “We’ll be providing our students with first-class experiences they can’t get anywhere else.”

St. Luke’s will rent 9,000 square-feet for the center, and the remaining space will be used to support the academic programming developed by Moravian and the health network. It will include specially-designed classrooms and laboratory spaces for a master’s-level athletic training program the college is developing, which is expected to start during the summer and fall of 2016.

As a result, the collaboration between Moravian College and St. Luke’s University Health Network will result not only in a first class sports medicine center, but also in another example of a Lehigh Valley educational institution offering programs to meet market needs for workforce, in this case for athletic trainers and others in the health care profession.

“I think colleges need to listen closely and carefully to business leaders, heads of economic development and hospital CEOs and really hear what the needs of the community are out there,” Grigsby said. “We know athletic training is a huge need in the area, and we can provide that service.

Sharing space at the new center will create opportunities for collaboration between Moravian and St. Luke’s. The research labs are designed for collaborative projects between health network staff and the college’s faculty and students, and the sports medicine center itself will integrate the academic learning environment with the real-world application of programs and services.

Architectural plans are currently under review and construction could begin this spring, with possible completion by the fall of 2015, Grigsby said. The athletic training program will begin in 2016.

Moravian College is not the only Lehigh Valley educational institution developing or expanding programs to meet workforce needs.

The Lehigh Career & Technical Institute has an instructional program for students interested in the trucking industry. At the Schnecksville site, students receive hands-on experience driving dump trucks and heavy equipment, operating industrial trucks or forklifts, and manufacturing materials with welding and machining equipment, LCTI spokesman David Bracetty said. The program serves a need for workforce in the rapidly-growing manufacturing, distribution and warehousing industries.

“These students often have jobs before they even graduate, it’s so competitive in that market right now,” Bracetty said.

The Muhlenberg College’s Wescoe School, the continuing education division of the college, has developed several new workforce programs and partnered with local businesses. Most recently, they launched a new supply chain management concentration within their business program, in response to direct requests from students. Jane Hudak, dean of the Wescoe School, said this year marked the first set of graduates with this concentration, and Walmart had already inquired about possible employees for their new distribution center in Bethlehem.

Muhlenberg also offers the Summer Business Institute, which helps non-business majors gain business skills for the workforce. Hudak said the students are exposed to local business leaders and local government officials, and have visited such companies as Martin Guitar, Olympus and the Lehigh Valley IronPigs, as well as local business incubators to learn about start-ups.

“They’re not your typical business majors,” Hudak said. “We’ve had everything English majors, to neuroscience majors, to psychology majors.”

The Northampton Community College has long considered meeting local workforce needs part of its mission, according to school spokeswoman Heidi Butler. A few long-time examples include the school’s dental hygiene program, created at the request of local dentists in 1969, and its automotive technology program was introduced four years later at the request of local auto dealers.

Other more recent examples, Butler said, include an associate degree in biotechnology, developed in 2003 with assistance from Sanofi Pasteur, Merck and OraSure Technologies; casino training programs developed in conjunction with Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem; a lineworker training program, developed in 2013 to meet the needs of electrical and telecommunications industries; and an associate degree in public health, new this year, to meet the anticipated increased demand for health educators and health coaches associated with the Affordable Care Act.

Lehigh Carbon Community College’s Center for Leadership and Workforce Development recently launched two new programs aimed at strengthening the workforce of both the Lehigh Valley and the state of Pennsylvania. They include a new three-day course “Introduction to Business Analysis,” and a new assessment for businesses that helps with the creation of a cohesive and effective workforce team.

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