GCC uses $119K grant to expand nurse training program for English language learners

Greenfield Community College’s main campus.

Greenfield Community College’s main campus. STAFF FILE PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

By ANTHONY CAMMALLERI

Staff Writer

Published: 03-31-2024 11:56 AM

GREENFIELD — Greenfield Community College is revamping its free certified nurse aide (CNA) training program, expanding training an extra six weeks to support an English language learners cohort program after receiving $119,129 in grant funding.

Funding also will be used to plan and establish a machine maintenance training program, which is expected to begin next school year.

Although GCC has historically run a six-to-seven-week CNA training program, GCC Dean of Workforce Development Alexandra Carley said this year’s 12-week course, which she described as a “cornerstone” of the college’s workforce development training, is the first of its kind to be tailored to students learning English. The funding is from a state Training Resources and Internship Networks grant.

During the training program, participants will learn English speech, grammar, reading and writing through a health care lens. Upon completion, participating students will qualify to take the Massachusetts CNA exam, and possibly gain employment as trained nurse aides.

In the program’s fourth week, Carley said the seven participating students are on track to take their state exams in May and enter the health care workforce in June, should they pass.

“This is the first time that we are running a cohort specifically for English language learners,” Carley said. “We have enrolled a cohort of seven students and we’re delighted by the fact that our group of students represents a broad array — it’s multi-generational, multi-lingual and a very rich environment.”

GCC is also using the funding to conduct a needs assessment of employers in the region’s mechanics industry to develop next year’s machine maintenance training program curriculum around skills that are needed most in the workforce.

Carley said she hopes to continue the CNA course in years to come and find ways to expand and improve it.

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“So far, it has been a very successful program for us, and I would be absolutely delighted to offer this again. Because this is a pilot program, we really have the opportunity to learn more about how to best serve the English language learners in our region, or job seekers who need some additional language support before entering the workforce,” Carley said. “We’re learning about what those needs are and the most effective way to meet those needs.”

GCC was one of 13 community colleges across Massachusetts to receive a portion of this year’s collective $1.5 million Training Resources and Internship Networks (TRAIN) funding. The program funds free job training programs at local colleges to prepare residents for careers in numerous fields such as education, health care, addiction recovery, cybersecurity and manufacturing.

According to the Department of Higher Education, the grant program aims to serve Massachusetts residents who are either unemployed or underemployed, and has already provided free career training to roughly 400 adults statewide since its launch in 2016.

“TRAIN grants allow community colleges to be responsive to regional workforce needs,” Gov. Maura Healey said in a statement, “and quickly prepare residents to fill critical roles in our cities and towns.”

Anthony Cammalleri can be reached at acammalleri@recorder.com or 413-930-4429.