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Bentley College Students Collaborate with Cambridge Health Alliance on Tools and Techniques for Today's Burgeoning Multicultural Workforce

June 17, 2008

In photo left to right: Sara Al Kindi, Angela Manfredi, Dennis DiCicco, Arber Tasimi, Marcy Lidman, Karen Sontag, Josie Bartie, and Karen Solstaad (CHA).

A recent study by the U.S. Department of Labor (May 2008) projects that both highly skilled and entry level jobs in the healthcare sector will grow from 11.5 million in 2002 to 15 million by 2012. The new faces filling this need are increasingly diverse- with nearly 40% of this workforce composed of new American immigrants.

Bentley College students who enrolled in the Human Relations Analysis in Healthcare course for the Spring 08 semester were invited to work with Cambridge Health Alliance (CHA), a Harvard Medical School teaching affiliate, to address the orientation of new employees in metropolitan hospitals and primary care facilities. CHA serves Cambridge, Somerville, and Boston’s Metro North communities. The students produced a model workplace readiness curriculum designed to meet the needs of entry-level employees.

The rate of growth of new healthcare jobs is projected to be 30% compared to 13.5% for non-health occupations. The new faces filling this need are increasingly diverse- with a considerable percentage of the workforce comprised of Americans that have recently emigrated from other countries. CHA excels at workforce diversity competence and continues to seek innovations in this area which led CHA to collaborate on this project with the Bentley students. Their assignment was to create a job readiness skills training for low-skilled workers who are new to the workforce and unaccustomed to organizational culture.

“The professional work culture in our country is vastly different than work environments in other societies. The assumptions of a new employee and employer needed to be confronted and addressed to create a success story,” according to Bentley College Professor Helen Meldrum. “For example, some cultures outside of the U.S. do not place the same premium on punctuality, professional communication styles, or professional attire. These presumably basic expectations need to be identified, communicated, and reinforced so that new recruits share a similar value system in the workplace,” said Meldrum.

The Bentley students worked with CHA to create several learning modules. They worked on workplace competencies and examined strengthened human relations. Another important focus was helping new employees work towards becoming an asset to an organization, and they worked on improvement of employee performance: error prevention, big picture view, employee morale, physical health and cleanliness, and employee helpfulness.

Cambridge Health Alliance’s Workforce Development Manager Karen Sontag led the effort for CHA. Sontag said, “We were deeply impressed by the creativity, insight and professionalism the students brought to the assignment. As a diverse group of young people contemplating their own entry into the workforce, they were able to imagine the potential difficulties faced by new employees and provide helpful tools to address them. CHA staff members found many useful ideas in the students’ work which will be incorporated into future new employee orientations and trainings.” “The project ended on a high note with the students’ presentation of their proposed training curriculum to a group of CHA’s human resources and learning and development professionals at the end of the term,” added Sontag.

Cambridge Health Alliance is an innovative, award-winning health system that provides high quality care in Cambridge, Somerville, and Boston’s metro-north communities. It includes three hospital campuses, more than 20 primary care and specialty practices, the Cambridge Public Health Dept., and the Network Health plan. CHA is a Harvard Medical School teaching affiliate and is also affiliated with Harvard School of Public Health, Harvard School of Dental Medicine, and Tufts University School of Medicine. To learn more about CHA, please visit

BENTLEY UNIVERSITY is one of the nation’s leading business schools, dedicated to preparing a new kind of business leader – one with the deep technical skills, broad global perspective, and high ethical standards required to make a difference in an ever-changing world. Our rich, diverse arts and sciences program, combined with an advanced business curriculum, prepares informed professionals who make an impact in their chosen fields. Located on a classic New England campus minutes from Boston, Bentley is a dynamic community of leaders, scholars and creative thinkers. The Graduate School emphasizes the impact of technology on business practice, in offerings that include MBA and Master of Science programs, PhD programs in accountancy and in business, and customized executive education programs. The university enrolls approximately 4,100 full-time undergraduate, 140 adult part-time undergraduate, 1,430 graduate, and 43 doctoral students. Bentley is accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges; AACSB International – The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business; and the European Quality Improvement System, which benchmarks quality in management and business education. For more information, please visit

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