How Partners Healthcare and Southern New Hampshire University are Providing College Certification Programs to Upskill Employees

According to a 2014 study from IBM, “75 to 80 percent of managers believe effective training is critical to project success,” and “skill levels linked to business value yield a 10 percent increase in productivity.”

To keep up with skills demand, increasingly more people are upskilling or going back to school after they’ve entered the workforce. Partners Healthcare has teamed up with Southern New Hampshire University to create an upskilling certification program to help Partners’ employees with workforce development.

Dena Lerra, Program Manager in the Workforce Development Department at Partners Healthcare, says the program can help their employees enhance their skills, keep up with changing job expectations, and even get promoted.

“Years ago a practice secretary at a doctor’s office might check in patients, check out, collect copays, schedule, you know, their next appointment. But due to many factors including our economic climate, tighter budgets, many hiring factors, these practice secretaries may have or now have expanded roles,” she says.

“So they may be working more closely with families, more closely with clinicians. Maybe even training clinicians on computer systems and also just doing a lot more with the patients and families and also behind the scenes.”

Upskilling or obtaining a degree can be difficult while you’re working full-time. So in collaboration with College for America, the certification program allows for learning and time flexibility. According to Melissa Goldberg, Director of Workforce Insights at Southern New Hampshire University, the program is self-directed, so participants can learn on their own time and pick which topics they need to focus on.

“The program was developed specifically to meet the needs of working adults and address changes and challenges they face with more traditional college programs,” she says. “The curriculum is all project based. Rather than letter grades, students actually demonstrate mastery in those competencies. And they do so by completing projects that are often offered in the context of a workplace.”

Listen in to our interview with Dena Lerra and Melissa Goldberg to learn more about how organizations can invest in employee education and development to help them grow personally, and to help meet market demand.

This podcast episode is sponsored by Commonwealth Corporation, Massachusetts’ public-private corporation focused on narrowing the skills gap and supporting the state’s businesses, workers, and learners.

To learn more about Commonwealth Corporation’s grant programs and Governor Charlie Baker’s Commission on Digital Innovation and Lifelong Learning, visit

Mariel Cariker

Mariel Cariker

Mariel is a Boston-based freelance writer and audio producer who has covered news, technology and innovation for public media groups including WBUR and WGBH. Outside of work, she performs and writes spoken word poetry and voraciously reads true crime novels.