Daily News

HCC Receives Grant to Continue Free Paraeducator Training Program

HOLYOKE — Holyoke Community College (HCC) has been awarded a $104,000 state grant to continue training paraeducators to help address workforce needs in Hampden County public schools.

The grant, from the state’s Training Resources and Internships Network (TRAIN), will fund the next two rounds of HCC’s free, seven-week, online paraeducator training program. The first round begins March 25 and the second June 17.

Paraeducators, also called teaching assistants or teaching aides, typically work in classrooms in a variety of capacities, sometimes assisting classroom teachers with instruction or working one-on-one with students who have individual education plans (IEPs) and require additional assistance.

The 140-hour program blends job-readiness and career-exploration components with education and training specific to the knowledge and skills needed to pass the Professional Certification for Teaching Assistants (PCTA) exam, which qualifies individuals to work in federally designated Title 1 school districts, or those with a significant number of low-income households.

In addition to online instruction, the program includes in-person job shadowing and can lead directly to a four-week internship and subsequent employment with one of HCC’s public school system partners in Springfield, Holyoke, West Springfield, and Chicopee.

“I would never use the word guaranteed,” HCC Workforce Training Manager Andrew Baker said, “but I would say there is such a strong demand for this work that if students make it through our program, they’re pretty certain to get a job if they want one.”

HCC has been running the program four times a year since 2021 and expects to receive additional grants to keep it going beyond the March and June sessions.

The grant to HCC was part of a package of $1.5 million in TRAIN grants awarded to 13 community colleges across Massachusetts meant to prepare residents for careers in fields such as education, healthcare, addiction recovery, cybersecurity, and manufacturing. The grants will provide free career training to more than 400 adult learners at community colleges across Massachusetts, with all programs targeting residents who are unemployed or underemployed. The grant to HCC will pay to train 26 individuals.

HCC’s other grant partners include Springfield WORKS, MassHire Holyoke, MassHire Springfield, DTA Works, and United Way Thrive. Individuals who receive state benefits through the Department of Transitional Assistance or Transitional Assistance to Families with Dependent Children may qualify for a ‘learn to earn’ training and internship stipend of $125 per week.

While the primary focus of the paraeducator program is to prepare students to pass the PCTA exam, also important is the job-readiness curriculum, which covers the basics of applying for a job: writing a résumé, preparing a cover letter, gathering references, and practicing for an interview. The program also covers subjects such as how to function effectively in a professional setting, including working with colleagues, communication, respect for diversity, and reliability.

For more information or to apply, visit hcc.edu/para.