March 07, 2023

Wharton County Junior College students work together to "revive" a child mannequin during a recent Field Day training exercise. The program has expanded its services at the Richmond campus, offering new training devices including an interactive simulation room. An open house is planned for Wednesday, March 22, to introduce these exciting updates to the public.

RICHMOND, TEXAS – Wharton County Junior College’s Emergency Medical Services program has expanded its services at the Richmond campus thanks to a state grant. The public is invited to get an up-close look at these improvements at an open house from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesday, March 22, at the Richmond campus. Demonstrations will be provided beginning at 3:30 p.m., 4:30 p.m., and 5:30 p.m. Refreshments and giveaways will be provided to attendees.  

The college secured $500,000 for the upgrades through the Texas Reskilling and Upskilling for Education (TRUE) Institutional Capacity Grants, a state-sponsored program. The college covered 25 percent – some $125,000 – of the grant’s cost sharing/match requirements.

WCJC EMS Program Director Gary Bonewald said the funds were utilized for several key upgrades at the Richmond campus. These included the installation of an ambulance simulator and a roll cage as well as the purchase of several top-of-the-line training mannequins. The grant also covered the costs of a cutting edge simulation room, which uses multiple projectors to create stunning, life-like environments. The simulation room enables students to hone their skills in various locations, from night-time highways to shopping centers to just about any place where a paramedic might be called in an emergency.

Bonewald is excited about how the upgrades will benefit the program, both in Richmond and system wide. The EMS program currently offers courses at Wharton, Richmond and Bay City.

“We encourage anyone interested in pursuing careers in public safety, emergency response or the medical field to join us for the open house,” said Zina Carter, WCJC’s director of marketing, communications and advancement. “The demonstrations will showcase the strength of the program and participants will be able to ask questions about the program and more.”

WCJC’s nationally-accredited EMS program prepares students as emergency medical providers in a pre-hospital setting. WCJC offers a certificate and an associate degree program. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, the median annual wage for emergency medical technicians was $35,470 and $46,770 for paramedics in May 2021. Employment is expected to grow seven percent between 2021 and 2031.

“Although the Bureau of Labor Statistics is reporting the median annual pay at $46,770, recently I received a job posting from Wharton EMS offering a paramedic starting salary of $64,000 and another one from Baytown Fire Department with a salary of $72,000 for a paramedic,” Bonewald said.