|MassHire Workforce Uses $235K Grant to Address Health Care Worker Shortages|
|By Brittany Polito, iBerkshires Staff |
04:02AM / Tuesday, September 14, 2021
|The state grant will support health-care training programs, including a medical assistant training for Berkshire Health Systems, to help meet the needs of health-care employers. |
The MassHire board meets virtually.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — A state grant of $235,000 is being used by the MassHire Berkshire Workforce Board for free health-care training programs to aid a sector that was hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The funding supported certified nursing assistant refresher courses for Red Cross training, the continuation of a blended online CNA program, North County CNA courses, and a Berkshire Health Systems medical assistant training.
The Berkshire Healthcare Hub grant of $235,000 will support the development and management of the new programs for the next two years.
The hub is a partnership that aims to expand training and workforce development opportunities in the county's largest industry while addressing the needs of local employers. It is a cooperative effort between Berkshire County employers, educators, professionals, social service agencies, and career development agencies.
The project is funded by a Senator Kenneth J. Donnelly Workforce Success Grant from the FY20 Workforce Competitiveness Trust Fund through the state Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development.
"A lot is happening in health care and Berkshire Healthcare Systems, we can't say enough about their partnerships and McCann and Berkshire Community College, stepping up to the plate, pulling things together," Executive Director Heather Boulger said at the board of director's meeting last week.
"Last year was very chaotic, it continues to be very chaotic, and we're just really pleased that we're able to move these partnerships forward."
Shannon Zayac, manager of industrial relations, explained that the refresher courses were needed because of a nearly yearlong backlog of CNA testing because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The training will be geared toward people who are underemployed or unemployed, as the pandemic has affected many people's livelihoods.
Members of the board who are employed by Berkshire Health Systems highlighted the need for health-care workers, especially nursing assistants.
"Last year, you know the staffing shortage really hit us hard, because of the influx of cases, we had a lot of COVID patients and, and it's kind of an opposite problem that we have less, which is a great thing, less acute patients, less ICU patients due to COVID, but the staffing shortage is just killing us," said Brenda Lepicier, director of talent management at BHS.
"It's all areas, nursing assistants are really the hardest right now for us for sure because without nursing assistants, you're pulling other resources to do that work, but it's hitting all areas."
Vice President of Housing Services at Berkshire Health Care Systems Albert Ingegni III seconded her sentiments. He added that health-care workers are burnt out from long shifts and have experienced the trauma of the pandemic first hand.
"I think what happened is there's a lagging effect from last year where people are terribly burned out, I don't like using that phrase, but it's especially on the nursing and direct-care side, and whether its a pharmacy tech or a CNA in particular or a nurse, there's too many hours we've had them work over the last 18 months and any experience is difficult, at the very least it's difficult, so even though our COVID case incidence is going down, you're still taking care of sick people and it just wears you out," he said.
"It's a very difficult situation that frankly isn't sustainable over the long term and unless we do something about it."
Lepicier added that another aspect that hit the health-care sector hard was the return of the service industry and not being able to pull talent from there as well as the pandemic pushing people to retire.
Berkshire Community College President Ellen Kennedy said the college's registered nurse program has doubled in participants but the college is seeing a decrease in the licensed practical nurse population because they are deferring until January.
In other news, 10 North County high school students completed their summer work experiences in August as part of the seventh annual North County Summer Youth Works program.
The 2021 participants are Cambria Church, Maryn Cappiello, Musa Thompson, Emma Meczywor, Mallory Mazzeo, Molly McLear, Faith Domenichini, Austin Alfonso, Abby Bird, and Ryan Czupryna.
They spent six weeks participating in work, learning, and community service programs and developed public service announcements for Greenagers Inc.'s Growing Healthy Garden Program and the Berkshire House of Correction's Aquaponics Lab as their final projects.
The program is funded by First Congregational Church of Williamstown and MountainOne.