Training Opportunities and Credentialing for Community Health Workers

Expansion of SkillWorks: Partners for a productive workforce

Field of Work: Upgrading the community health workforce

Problem Synopsis: The quality of health and health care services begins with frontline community health workers, but they are often poorly paid and have limited opportunities for advancement.

Synopsis of the Work: The project, titled the Community Health Worker Initiative of Boston, was implemented by Action for Boston Community Development (ABCD), Boston's antipoverty agency, under a grant from SkillWorks.

ABCD staff and collaborative members worked with employers to develop career opportunities; worked with educational institutions to develop advanced degree and certification programs; and worked with the Boston Public Health Commission to develop an advanced certification program. SkillWorks subcontracted with two firms to evaluate the project.

Key Results: A new industry-recognized credential was developed and two community colleges started certificate and degree programs for community health workers. The initiative served some 219 participants, of whom 93 received a credential. Of those already working as community health workers, close to 20 percent received wage gains. Several employers offered new benefits to community health workers such as career ladders.

However, the evaluation found that cost of the project exceeded the value of increased wages and other benefits to project participants.