Federal Stimulus Grant Supports Collaboration

April 11, 2011

Between Greenfield Community College and Center for New Americans

Almost one hundred residents of Franklin and Hampshire counties are further along the path to healthcare careers thanks to $200,000 of federal stimulus funds and the collaborative efforts and expertise of Greenfield Community College, the Center for New Americans (CNAM), Tripp Community Care Collaborative, and the Franklin/Hampshire Regional Employment Board. Many of those area residents are new Americans and new English speakers who received training to be Certified Nursing Assistants (CNA) and Home Health Aides (HHA). Instructors from Tripp Community Care Collaborative teach CNA/HHA certification courses through GCC’s Office of Community Education.

 “Many new citizens have healthcare experience in their home countries, value the work, and would embrace this type of job,” said Patricia Crosby, Executive Director of the Franklin Hampshire Regional Employment Board. “However, they are held back by limited English skills. The Regional Employment Board, GCC, and Tripp came together to work with the Center for New Americans on a program that would bridge the gap between interest and readiness these learners and prospective workers have. CNAM students now have a much earlier opportunity to explore healthcare jobs, learn basic terminology, and grasp introductory concepts, so they can move into CNA/HHA training (and beyond) more quickly and successfully.”

This spring CNA/HHA class graduates and representatives of area long-term care facilities and home health agencies participated in a Job Fair at the Northampton Career Center. The Job Fair included an employer panel to answer questions about the hiring process, employment benefits, and in-service educational opportunities. The prospective CNAs and HHAs were then able to meet with potential employers over lunch and at the employers’ displays. A similar Job Fair was held in Greenfield.

Crosby knows that area healthcare employers are eager to participate in events such as the recent Job Fair. She said, “Employers like the Center for Extended Care and the Community Health Center have affirmed that these workers, once more fluent in English and trained, would be valued precisely because of their language abilities, not despite them!”

Norayma Rodriguez of Holyoke was the first graduate last summer from the special Center for New Americans CNA course. She said, “At first, the CNA course was really challenging, but the instructors were very helpful and I stuck it out. Now I am working as a CNA at Linda Manor in Leeds. Someone who was in my CNA certification class told me about the job. I have started taking courses and I hope to become a Registered Nurse.”

Aminata Siedhiou recently graduated from the CNA course. She came to the United States from Senegal nine years ago, lives in Easthampton, and English is her sixth language. Aminata appreciates her teachers at the Center for New Americans and in the CNA course. She said, “I like working with people, especially older people and children. I have never been in a class like this and was excited to be chosen for this course. It was difficult and the English was a challenge, but the teachers really know how to teach. They are glad when you have questions and help you until you understand.” 

The collaborative project to train new Americans and new English speakers drew on the respective expertise of each of the project’s partners and worked to achieve each of the partners’ goals. Bob Barba, Dean for Community Education at GCC said, “GCC is committed to open access to excellent education for everyone in our community. We continually strive to make our open access even more open. Credit courses are only one part of what GCC offers our community. With our Community Education programs, we often partner with community organizations that have expertise in a particular field. This funding is special and most welcome because it supports the collaborative work that makes GCC’s Community Education programs truly effective at meeting the needs of members of our community. The Certified Nursing Assistant program helps many people get jobs. For some, working as a CNA is a step toward further education and employment in nursing, including training and work as Licensed Professional Nurses and Registered Nurses.”

Tripp Community Care Collaborative is a non-profit organization with the mission of improving the quality of care for elders and caregivers in the Pioneer Valley. Tripp Director Sue Pratt said, “Whatever country or culture we are from, we all have our basic humanity in common. Every country and culture has frail people who need care and people who care for them. The skills we teach in the CNA/HHA courses cross all cultures. Working with the Center for New Americans staff enabled us to better teach students from a range of cultures.”

Jim Ayres, Executive Director of the Center for New Americans, said, “This kind of additional support for new Americans and new English speakers is extremely important and not expensive or complex to provide. We are helping an important part of the population get ahead and be economically successful. The work we did with GCC, Tripp, and the Franklin Hampshire Regional Employment Board is a great model for other communities and hopefully will encourage development of similar programs. We are sharing the curriculum we developed with other providers around the state.”

Along with supporting the CNA/HHA training, the $200,000 grant supported training in Medical Office Management and Health Occupations. The Healthcare Bridge grant came from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act through the MA Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development and Commonwealth Corporation.

Nicola Shipman has served as the Healthcare Bridge Coordinator and Coach for the grant-funded programs. Part of her role has been to collect data and track results. Nicola said, “The grant has supported training for people who are unemployed as well as training for those who are currently working in healthcare. The training has helped all of them elevate their skill levels and increase their employment options and salaries. With a relatively small amount of money, this collaboration has been able to make a huge impact on the lives of many people in our community.”

For more information, contact:

Nicola Shipman, Franklin/Hampshire Regional Employment Board, shipman.nicola@gmail.com, (413) 773-4361 x 312

Jim Ayres, Center for New Americans, jim@cnam.org, (413) 587-0084

Sue Pratt or Tricia Zoly, Tripp Community Care Collaborative CNA/HHA training, pratts@gcc.mass.edu, (413) 775-1672.

Bob Barba, Community Education, Greenfield Community College, Barba@gcc.mass.edu, (413) 775 -1606.

By Mary McClintock, ’82