There’s a need for more pharmacy technicians in the Grand Valley and Western Colorado Community College is looking to meet that.

WCCC announced on Monday the addition of a Pharmacy Technician program for the upcoming fall semester, beginning Aug. 23. The program aims to cover all the bases of the job and get students ready for the field. Students can either pursue a nine-month certificate or a two year associate degree.

“We’ll cover laws and ethics, practices, and the different kinds of pharmacies. Then, they’ll be able to get an internship,” said Program Director Allison Vogel. “There hasn’t been a program like this for a few years, so we’re able to fill that need and get people out in the workforce.”

A pharmacy technician is a pharmacist’s assistant. They’re the ones managing inventory, entering information into the pharmacy’s system and, if you’re going through a Walgreens or City Market, interacting with customers.

WCCC’s program will prepare students for either an institutional pharmacy or a community pharmacy. The former is the industry name for hospital pharmacies, which fill prescriptions for patients who are then administered by nurses, Vogel said.

Community pharmacies, meanwhile, are those that are found in retail stores. “If you like dealing with people one on one, then the community pharmacies are for you. Institutional pharmacies are for people who want to work behind the scenes,” Vogel said.

Students’ workload would include two semester-long courses and four, eight-week courses. Although a student will take no more than four classes at a time, Vogel said.

Intellitec College had a pharmacy technician program but dropped it in 2018. Vogel taught that program and worked in the field until 2009, and said a new program is necessary to match state requirements.

In 2019, Colorado passed legislation that meant people needed to go through more steps to be able to work as a pharmacy technician after errors led to incorrect medications and dosages, which can be lethal.

Now, someone must first complete a training program, then apply for a national certification. Once they’re granted that, they can apply for a state license.

“Pharmacies have been short staffed for a while,” Vogel said. “And then COVID-19 exacerbated that with pharmacies offering free vaccines.”