In the heart of Berkshire County, a transformative journey unfolded through the MassHire Berkshire accelerated medical assistant training program. Driven by a pressing need for medical assistants, the initiative, led by Heather Boulger, Executive Director of MassHire Berkshire Workforce Board, and Bryana Malloy, Manager of Industry Relations, saw a collaboration with Berkshire Health Systems and Berkshire Community College. This unique partnership, supported by the Healthcare Workforce Hubs Grant, opened new doors for those seeking a brighter future in the healthcare sector.

Heather Boulger explained the program’s inception: “We applied for the Workforce Competitiveness Trust Fund as there was just a dire need for medical help, especially entry-level medical assistance.”

“These entry-level positions are hard to attract and retain in the training,” she continued.

At the core of this story is Kiana Nickles, a participant whose life took a turn toward hope and fulfillment. Motivated by a deep desire to help others, a desire sparked by personal loss, Kiana found her calling in the medical field. “What motivated me to join the program was my love for helping people,” she shared, recalling how the passing of her mother steered her towards this path. Before joining the program, Kiana worked at an assisted living facility, an experience that further solidified her resolve to pursue a career in healthcare.

The program’s innovative ‘earn while you learn’ model sets it apart. Participants like Kiana were employed as Practice Assistants by Berkshire Health Systems right from the start, earning wages while they learned.

This method not only provided financial support but also a sense of belonging. Bryana Malloy detailed this unique feature, saying, “They suggested providing a wage on day one of the training for medical assistants. So, it ended up being another job training from day one.”

Kiana described her transformative training experience, particularly in a rheumatology office: “Working in the rheumatology office was eye-opening. I learned about treatments like injections and saw conditions like osteoarthritis up close.” Kiana worked closely with doctors and is grateful for this experience, as this opportunity has motivated her to start higher studies.

The support provided to Kiana and her fellow trainees went beyond mere education.

The program’s support system was crucial in the transition from training to employment. Heather Boulger highlighted the holistic approach: “We support them by offering stipends for scrubs if they need help with transportation and anything else that they might need.” The One Stop Career Center played a crucial role in offering continuous support, ensuring a seamless transition from training to employment.

The impact of the program was profound. Of the 35 individuals who embarked on this journey, 31 found their calling as Medical Assistants, a testament to the program’s effectiveness and the dedication of its participants. This achievement was particularly remarkable, given the challenges posed by the post-pandemic environment.

Heather Boulger proudly stated, “We actually enrolled 35, but only so 31 actually entered the training, 31 completed, and 31 found employment. So that in itself is a huge success story.”

Looking ahead, MassHire Berkshire is determined to build on this success. With a focus on strengthening partnerships and integrating technology in training, the program is poised to expand its reach and impact. Heather Boulger reflected on this, emphasizing the importance of adaptability and partnership: “The continuation of the forging of relationships and partnerships withstands any change in staffing.”

This model of workforce development, as illustrated by Kiana’s story, serves as a beacon of inspiration and a blueprint for similar initiatives.

MassHire Berkshire’s accelerated medical assistant training program stands as a powerful narrative of empowerment, transformation, and community enhancement. It’s a story that resonates with hope and possibility, illustrating how collaboration, innovation, and a deep commitment to community needs can create lasting change.