Worcester Business Journal: UMass Medical School, state working to redefine home health care jobs

September 29, 2016

A six-year effort to improve the training and advance the skills of direct care workers was highlighted in a Sept. 19 article in Worcester Business Journal’s Health quarterly.

“What we are trying to do is create career ladders for direct care workers,” Leanne Winchester, project director for Direct Care Workforce Development in the Massachusetts Area Health Education Center (MassAHEC) Network, a unit within UMass Medical School’s Commonwealth Medicine division, told Worcester Business Journal. “Core competency training and home care are one of the ways a direct care worker can get where they want to be.”

The project began with a federal grant and continues with state funding.  The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Health Resources and Services Administration awarded Massachusetts the Personal and Home Care Aide State Training grant in 2010 to develop, implement and evaluate a program to train direct care workers who serve the needs of an aging population. The Executive Office of Health and Human Services selected the MassAHEC Network to manage the grant.

The project developed a variety of training strategies, including support for people with limited proficiency in the English language and has training materials available in four languages, Winchester told Worcester Business Journal. Reaching out to immigrants will benefit the direct care workforce by increasing the number of workers and recruiting workers with advanced health care degrees or licenses from their home countries, she said in the article. The courses are built on the Massachusetts Direct Care Workforce Training Program, which is managed by UMass Medical School on behalf of the Massachusetts Executive Office of Health and Human Services.

Funded by the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education, a consortium of six community colleges and employer advocates continues this work by updating the curriculum to create a bridge to further career training within the community college system.  The project outcomes will be available to Massachusetts colleges.

Consortium partners are: Bristol, Greenfield, Quinsigamond, Northern Essex, MassBay, and Middlesex community colleges, UMass Dartmouth, Partnerships for a Skilled Workforce, Home Care Aide Council and the Massachusetts Senior Care Association/Labor and Workforce Development.

Home care workers historically have been paid low wages and had few opportunities for advancement. As the demand for home care increases along with a growing population of people over age 65, this work will expand opportunities for direct care workers who want career advancement and increased wages.

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