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State Approves NECC’s Training for Community Health Workers

Submitted by on November 16, 2021 – 9:38 pm

A graduate of NECC’s Community Health Worker Certificate Program and Associate Degree in Public Health, Silvia Polanco of Methuen is now working for Greater Lawrence Family Health Center.

Since the start of the global pandemic, demand for community health workers—frontline health workers who provide assistance in accessing health care, government, and social service resources—has been growing.

This fall, Northern Essex Community College’s community health worker training program was the first for-credit program in the state to receive approval from the Massachusetts Board of Certification of Community Health Workers as a training center. Berkshire Community College received approval for its noncredit training program.

“We’ve been developing our program for six years and this validates our efforts,” said Jacqueline Dick, who drafted the 164-page application and is coordinator of the college’s Public Health Program. “When our students are looking for jobs, employers will appreciate that they’ve completed an approved program.”

Northern Essex is accepting applications now for the six-credit course, Community Health Outreach (CHW110), a hybrid course combining classroom and online learning that will be taught on Thursday evenings on the Lawrence Campus, beginning January 20.

The course covers the 10 core competencies set by the state. Students can take it as a stand-alone course or enroll in the NECC Community Health Worker Certificate, a nine-month program that transfers into the Associate Degree in Public Health.

To receive state certification, individuals must successfully complete the Core Competency training program in addition to 2,000 hours of work experience.

A graduate of Northern Essex’s Community Health Worker Certificate Program and Associate Degree in Public Health, Silvia Polanco of Methuen is a certified community health worker who is now working for Greater Lawrence Family Health Center as part of a team of nurses, social workers, and case managers. In her job, she helps connect GLFHC and Lawrence General patients with community resources, such as transportation, food, and clothing. “I really love my job,” she says. “It’s is rewarding when you help someone. They are so appreciative.” She landed her job while still a student after she successfully completed an internship there.

“Many of our students are working in the field while studying,” said Dick. “Since our programs are offered in the evening, it’s possible to do that.”

After earning an Associate Degree in Public Health, Northern Essex students are transferring to Regis, which has a bachelor’s degree completion program on the Lawrence Campus, or UMass Lowell.

Community health workers are specially trained with close knowledge of the local community. Hired by health facilities, government agencies, and nonprofit groups, they are responsible for helping clients navigate and access community services and resources, as well as adopt healthy behaviors. A community health worker also provides social support and informal counseling, and advocates for individuals and community health needs.

According to the Department of Labor, demand for community health workers is expected to grow by 17% from 2020 to 2030, much faster than other sectors. In Massachusetts, they make an hourly mean wage of $22.26 or $46,300 annually.

COVID 19 has raised awareness of the role of community health workers, according to Dick. “Many community health workers have been on the frontlines, helping members of the community access vaccines and testing and promoting information about the virus.”

For more information, about the community health worker course or certificate or the Associate Degree in Public Health, contact Dick at

Northern Essex Community College has campuses in both Haverhill and Lawrence. It offers approximately 60 associate degree and certificate programs as well as hundreds of noncredit courses designed for personal enrichment and career growth.  Each year, 6,000 students are enrolled in credit associate degree and certificate programs on the Haverhill and Lawrence campuses; and another 2,000 take noncredit workforce development and community education classes on campus, and at businesses and community sites across the Merrimack Valley.  For more information, visit the website at or call 978-556-3700.