Press Release: Work-Based Learning Model Helps Community Health Centers "Grow Their Own Workforce"

Published aug. 09, 2010

Boston, MA (August 9, 2010) — As the National Association of Community Health Centers prepares to recognize the service and contributions of Community Health Centers during National Health Center Week (August 8–14), some community health centers are offering a way to fill critical workforce shortages, long seen as a major obstacle to extending care to the millions of uninsured and underserved Americans.

(Click HERE to see Presidential Proclamation on National Health Center Week.)

At four community health centers, innovative work-based learning is helping to ensure that frontline workers, such as nurse assistants, receptionists, and medical records staff, have the skills needed to provide quality care and to advance to higher-skilled positions that are facing vacancies. Their efforts to train frontline employees offer a model to the nation’s 1,200 community health centers on how to “grow their own workforce” in order to keep up with the rising demand for care.

In work-based learning, frontline employees are able to master occupational and academic skills in the course of completing their job tasks and fulfilling their day-to-day responsibilities. While working full time, frontline employees enter college and earn academic credit for workplace training.

The four community health centers include Charles B. Wang Community Health Center (New York, NY), East Boston Neighborhood Health Center (Boston, MA), Tenderloin Health (San Francisco, CA), and Wai’anae Coast Comprehensive Health Center (Wai’anae, HI). They are among 17 partnerships of employers, education institutions, and other organizations to develop work-based learning strategies for frontline health care workers through Jobs to Careers, a $15.8 million initiative of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation in collaboration with the Hitachi Foundation and with additional support by the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration.

“Our frontline staff used to receive limited formal training, generally only learning on the job from their supervisors and peers through trial and error,” said Betty Cheng, chief operating officer at Charles B. Wang Community Health Center. “Through the Jobs to Careers work-based learning approach, we have built a skilled, stable frontline workforce—improving our ability to deliver high-quality care and services in a systemic and consistent manner.”

Charles B. Wang Community Health Center is partnering with the City University of New York to address the need for skilled bilingual and bicultural health care workers who can serve the city’s growing Asian-American population. Frontline employees complete work-based learning related to health information technology, understanding the US health care system, working in collaborative care teams, and improving customer service. Completion of the program leads to a certificate and eligibility for wage increases or promotions based on competency assessments.

East Boston Neighborhood Health Center is partnering with Bunker Hill Community College, Jewish Vocational Services, and World Education to train frontline workers to become auxiliary medical interpreters, responding to the needs of its diverse community. The center established the Education and Training Institute to provide on-site instruction.

Tenderloin Health is partnering with City College of San Francisco to adapt the college’s Community Health Worker certificate program into a work-based curriculum. The Jobs to Careers project is helping the center to address high turnover rates among frontline employees, better integrate consumer-employees into the workforce, and increase the quality of services.

Wai’anae Coast Comprehensive Health Center is partnering with Leeward Community College to enroll frontline employees in work-based learning covering word processing, medical office procedures, medical terminology, electronic medical records, quality and performance, health and safety, business services, and customer service. Frontline employees who completed the training received 14 college credits that can be used toward an associate’s degree in business technology.

“The Jobs to Careers partnerships are piloting a model of training that helps reduce staff turnover by formalizing learning and helping frontline workers be successful,” said Sallie Petrucci George, a program officer at Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

“This training has built essential skills, boosted retention rates, and ensured more effective engagement in patient care,” said Barbara Dyer, president and CEO of the Hitachi Foundation. “Our evaluation results show that patients, the clinics, and their communities all gain.”

Over the past four years, the 17 sites supported by Jobs to Careers have trained an estimated 726 frontline workers through work-based learning.

“The rewards of work-based learning and career advancement extend far beyond frontline workers to include education institutions and employers—and the clients health centers and other health care providers serve,” said Maria Flynn, vice president of Jobs for the Future and director of the Jobs to Careers National Program Office. “Jobs to Careers directly addresses two of the most challenging demands for our nation’s economic recovery: sustainable employment and providing better health care to all Americans as health care reform is implemented in the coming years.”

For more information about Jobs to Careers, visit

The National Health Center Week, August 8-14, is dedicated to recognizing the service and contributions of Community, Migrant, Homeless and Public Housing Health Centers in providing access to affordable, high quality, cost-effective health care in 7,000 communities in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the territories. The week is sponsored by the National Association of Community Health Centers, now in its 45th year. As part of its  “Access for All America” plan, community health centers have set a goal of providing a health care home to 30 million patients by 2015. For more information, visit

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation focuses on the pressing health and health care issues facing our country. As the nation’s largest philanthropy devoted exclusively to improving the health and health care of all Americans, the Foundation works with a diverse group of organizations and individuals to identify solutions and achieve comprehensive, meaningful and timely change. For more information, visit

The Hitachi Foundation is an independent nonprofit philanthropic organization established by Hitachi, Ltd. in 1985. The Foundation’s mission is to forge an authentic integration of business actions and societal wellbeing in North America. For more information, visit

About Jobs for the Future

Jobs for the Future works with our partners to design and drive adoption of education and career pathways leading from college readiness to career advancement for those struggling to succeed in today’s economy.
Twitter: @JFFtweets