GCC Receives Elder Affairs Citation

October 22, 2015

On Thursday, October 22, officials from the Massachusetts Executive Offices of Elder Affairs and Labor and Workforce Development will present a formal Citation honoring Greenfield Community College’s commitment to provide outstanding educational workforce training opportunities for mature adults, and for doing so in collaboration with state programs, community partners, and local employers. The Citation particularly recognizes GCC’s work through the Plus 50 Encore Completion Program to train people over the age of 50 for new jobs in health care, education, and social services. The College has used Plus 50 funds to recruit students into the Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) program and other high demand careers. GCC is one of only 100 colleges and universities nationally to be included in the Plus 50 Program sponsored by the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC).

State officials attending the October 22 ceremony at GCC will include Geoff Vercauteren, Director of Healthcare Workforce Development in the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education and Leanne Winchester, Project Director of Direct Care Workforce Development, EOHHS/ELD/UMMS MassAHEC. The ceremony will take place on Thursday, October 22, at 3 p.m. in Room C208  at GCC’s Main Campus (One College Dr., Greenfield).

GCC’s Office of Community and Workforce Education works in partnership with Tripp Memorial Foundation to offer comprehensive training programs for healthcare paraprofessionals. Tripp Memorial Foundation is a community-based non-profit organization serving elders and their caregivers in Franklin and Hampshire counties. GCC offers a wide array of training and career pathways in the health occupations, including credit-free workforce healthcare paraprofessional training: Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA), Personal Care Assistant (PCA), Nursing Assistant (NA) & Home Health Aide (HHA), and CNA to HHA Supplemental Training, as well as credit-bearing Associate Degree Nursing Program and Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) Certificate programs. All of GCC’s health career programs are “stackable,” meaning the programs provide a pathway of certificates that lead toward further training.

Jeremiah P. Riordon, GCC’s Interim Director for Community and Workforce Education, said, “Plus 50 students are an ideal example of lifelong learning. Some already have degrees in other fields but want to change careers, some are re-entering the workforce after raising children, some already work in health care settings in non-clinical jobs such as in the kitchen or maintenance department. The key to our success with outreach has been that we’re targeting people in the “sandwich generation,” many of whom are caring for their parents and their children. We helped them see that they already know a lot about caregiving and that a five-week CNA training program can prepare them for paid work in a variety of settings.”

Luanne Pontbriand, 60, of Greenfield, was in her early 50s and working as a medical transcriptionist when her job was eliminated. She said, “I had seen the ‘Hiring CNAs’ signs in the community and had a strong interest in Alzheimer’s disease and the elderly. Because of GCC’s CNA class and the availability of jobs, I was able to have a new beginning in a new career that helps people. I’ve since worked in private home care and wish I had this training when I was caring for my parents.”

Ted Watt, 64, of Greenfield, wanted to explore the possibility of a new career. He said, “I think us ‘older folks who are still able’ are a great population to work with those who are older and not as able. Our life experience and perspective gives us a way to relate well to older people. I loved the course, Sue Pratt was an incredible instructor whose teaching was full of real-life stories and examples.”             Dottie Webb, 68, of Greenfield, took GCC’s CNA class after years of caring for her mother and working with private clients. She said, “The teachers were excellent at sharing a lot of information and everyone in the class brought something to the table, telling stories about our life experiences. I really enjoyed it, know a lot more now, how to do things better. I never thought I’d go to GCC after being out of school for so long, but you’re never too old to learn.”

Sue Pratt, Director of Tripp Community Care Collaborative, said, “Having both the Offices of Elder Affairs and Labor and Workforce Development jointly recognize GCC’s programs means a lot to an often underappreciated workforce at a time when the need for this workforce is increasing. It also means a lot that GCC’s Community Education is getting this recognition. Workforce Development is a key part of the College and GCC’s Certificate programs are an important part of meeting the College’s mission. It is great to get this recognition, especially in the tenth year of the partnership between GCC and Tripp. Improving the training of caregivers will improve the quality of care of elders. People often think of caregiving as a young person’s work, yet older students can make a huge difference in people’s lives. In every class there are retired people who need work and income and want to do meaningful work at this stage of their life.”

GCC President Bob Pura said, “The hallmark of GCC is the diversity of our student body. From the 18-year-old just out of high school to the seniors who attend our Senior Symposia, our students’ diversity reflects the diversity of our community. Life isn’t always linear. The Plus 50 Initiative has helped us provide new pathways for those in the middle of life transitioning to a new career. Adults over 50 are a growing population in our region and aligning their employment and training opportunities with area employer workforce gaps aligns with our college mission to serve the diverse educational needs of this community. The CNA program has been a wonderful fit for many in this initiative. We are pleased for those who are hiring our CNAs and pleased for our students who are working hard to seek a better life for themselves and their families. We are honored that the Executive Offices of Elder Affairs and Labor and Workforce Development recognize the importance of GCC’s efforts to serve our community.”

Greenfield Community College has strong collaborations with state programs, community partners, and local employers to encourage workers of all ages to achieve their educational and career goals and to connect program graduates with jobs. The average age for credit-bearing students at Greenfield Community College is 27 years, in contrast with an average age of 46 years for students enrolled in workforce development trainings. 47% of those taking vocational trainings are over 50, a 26% increase over the past 10 years.

By Mary McClintock, ‘82