HOLYOKE, Mass. (WWLP)– Holyoke Community College (HCC) has received a grant award for a news human services training program.

The $1.28-million grant is from the Massachusetts Executive Office of Health & Human Services. The funds will be used to pay the full cost of tuition, fees, books, and supplies for students who want to earn a certificate in human services.

The program will also provide a paid internship at one of four local social service agencies: the Gandara Center, ServiceNet, Mental Health Association, and Jewish Family Services.

The training program is an effort to address and fill the worker shortage in the human services industry in the region.

HCC is currently recruiting students for the two-semester Social Service Internship Program. The first classes will begin in the 2023-2024 academic year, with up to 30 students starting this fall and another 30 next spring. The 24-credit human services certificate students earn can also be “stacked” or applied toward an associate degree in human services, which could then lead to a bachelor’s degree in social work.

“This program is really meant to accelerate a student’s entry into the workforce,” said Donna Rowe, chair of HCC’s Human Services program. “It’s wonderful that these four agencies have made this agreement with us. They’re looking for workers, and we have students looking to get into the field.”

More information on the program and enrollment can be found here.

“There is definitely a big shortage of human service workers,” said Amy Brandt, HCC dean of Health Sciences, “and it’s a challenge for agencies who have a variety of workers at different levels. They don’t have a lot of additional resources to develop that talent pool. They really are on shoestring budgets trying to provide services to the community. When you look at this grant, it’s a huge investment that can really help fill their needs.”

The grant also provides for the creation of two new full-time positions, a human services certificate coordinator to focus on recruiting, planning, and academic support, and a social-services coordinator to coordinate the internships and help students with any non-academic issues that might interfere with their education.