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HCC – Grant Funds Home Health Aide Training

The satisfaction Kelly Gustafson felt Friday receiving her certificate to work as a home health aide came with bittersweet memories.

Last year, her 3½-year-old daughter, Adrianna, died of complications from a litany of severe medical conditions she had endured since birth, including cerebral palsy, epilepsy and a brain cyst.

Gustafson, 32, had been working at a Dunkin Donuts’ shop. She decided to pursue more rewarding work in health, she said, because of her daughter and all the medical professionals who had cared for Adrianna during her short life.

“She couldn’t walk. She couldn’t talk. She depended on someone at all times,” Gustafson said. “She inspired me to help other people with disabilities or medical problems.”

Gustafson will now get that chance. She and her 11 classmates graduated last week from a new home health aide-training program offered jointly by Holyoke Community College and Springfield Technical Community College through their Training and Workforce Options enterprise, also known as TWO.

Over eight weeks, students completed 160 hours of classroom and hands-on, technical training. Each received industry certificates as home health aides as well as certificates in First Aid, CPR and basic life support, Alzheimer’s/Dementia, OSHA-10 (for workplace safety) and career readiness.

“We learned a lot,” said Gustafson, who lives in Westfield.

This was the second of four groups funded by a $228,529 grant from the Dept. of Higher Education’s TRAIN initiative, which stands for Training Resources and Internship Networks.

Most of the training for this group was held at HCC’s Picknelly Adult and Family Education Center (PAFEC) in downtown Holyoke. A third cohort of 16 begins training March 2 at STCC. The last group will start in May at HCC.

“The grant creates opportunities for long-term unemployed or unemployed individuals to enter the workforce,” said Kermit Dunkelberg, HCC assistant vice president of Adult Basic Education and Workforce Development. “Between now and June 30, we will be training up to 64 people to be home health aides.”

What’s unique about this program, Dunkelberg said, is that the training is followed by up to a month of paid work experience at area home health care agencies, who sent representatives to PAFEC to conduct interviews with students.

“We will place them in jobs with our regional employer partners,” said Dunkelberg.

Those partners include Porchlight VNA/Home Care, O’Connell Care at Home, Victory Home Health Care, Metro Care Springfield, Aging at Home, Spectrum, Caring Solutions LLC, and Personal Touch.

Many of the students receive multiple offers, and that experience can lead to permanent positions. Dunkelberg said the first cohort, which completed its training in December, has an 83 percent job placement rate, which he called “remarkable.” read more…

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