THE NASHUA TELEGRAPH
As the need increases for professionals in fields such as elderly care and support for people with developmental disabilities, students at Nashua Community College are taking a hands-on approach and earning college credits at the same time.
Jayne Barnes, professor and chairwoman of the education, applied and behavioral sciences department at NCC, said what the college calls its “field work program” is designed to better prepare students to take on jobs in what is predicted to be one of the fastest growing job markets in the near future.
“In New Hampshire, three sectors will account for all new jobs in health care, and service is one of them,” Barnes said. “This is a growing field, because of the rise in autism and the graying of America. We see this as meeting a need, and field placement is the cornerstone.”
Human-service jobs will comprise 30 percent of all new jobs in health care over the next decade, she said. Nashua Community College now partners with agencies throughout the Nashua area to set up field work opportunities for students.
“What this is, is professionally advised field experience,” Barnes said.
Right now, the college has 18 student interns completing field work through the psychology and human services programs. One student who recently completed her field work is already running a homeless program at the Front Door Agency in Nashua.
“I did two internships in two different fields: One was working with the homeless population, one in developmental delays,” said Sandra DeLosa, the new director of homeless and housing services, a program she worked for as an intern just last year. “Having experience in both fields put me on the right path.”
Each field work program requires students to work 120 hours and is worth three credits that can be applied to a number of degrees or certificate programs.
The work also can introduce students to their new career.
DeLosa now works at the Front Door Agency, an organization that helps families prevent homelessness, find affordable housing and learn how to manage finances. DeLosa completed her field work in fall 2013 and started working as a residential assistant in transitional housing the following spring.
By summer, she was running the homeless housing assistance program.
“I think the internship program is just as important as the academic classes. It gives you field work experience to help you decide if this is the field you really want to be in,” she said.
Another agency partner is the Greater Nashua Mental Health Center, where student Catherine Dube spent her internship supporting people with mental illnesses. Dube said the internship steered her toward a career in mental health services.
“It really opened up my eyes to see what help is needed in this field,” she said. Dube worked one-on-one with clients, from advocating for their needs to just being a good listener.
“It’s helped me understand these individuals as more than a medical term, but as a human,” she said.
Dube will graduate from NCC with an associate degree in May and plans to pursue her bachelor’s in psychology with a concentration in mental illness at Southern New Hampshire University.
“Human services has everything: working with the elderly, women, children, substance abuse. Each term, they do an internship with a specific population,” Barnes said.
The college has had interns at the Nashua Soup Kitchen & Shelter for more than 20 years, according to shelter social worker and advocate Eileen Brady.
“They come prepared. The community college is very good; they prep them on what to expect. It’s a high-value intern we get from them,” Brady said.
Student interns work in different areas, from advocacy to one-on-one assistance with clients.
“A really good percentage of people end up getting jobs in the field,” said Tom Lopez, education and employment advocate for the shelter.
The shelter doesn’t use internships as an “extended job interview,” but Lopez said the experience helps students build a network, making it easier to find employment after school.
“Basically, what this is all about is to bring theoretic study to hands-on, real-world application. Each year, it has gotten more and more comprehensive,” Barnes said.
Tina Forbes can be reached at 594-6402, [email protected] or
@Telegraph_TinaF. © 2014, The Telegraph, Nashua, New Hampshire