Each month, we will highlight the journey of individuals’ professional development into roles within and outside of the CHW profession. The first story is about Elisa’s journey from CHW at a Federally Qualified Health Center to a Corporate Trainer. The second features Cristian, who also became a Corporate Trainer, but unlike Elisa, he did not start out as a CHW. This story is included to illustrate how the CHW profession builds skillsets that are desirable across industries. It is also included to illustrate the key differences between the CHW profession and other careers in related fields.
Elisa worked as a CHW at Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) for five years. In her role, Elisa went out into the community to visit families whose children had been diagnosed with asthma. The program was very successful in improving health outcomes for patients and as a result, the FQHC began looking to expand the program. The program director was hiring more CHWs and asked Elisa if she would like to become a trainer to guide the new hires. She accepted and started her role as a CHW trainer.
After working as a CHW trainer for a couple more years, Elisa decided it was time to expand her expertise outside of CHW work. She always enjoyed being an educator but grew tired of focusing on CHW material and wanted to branch off into new topics. She decided to have a conversation with her supervisor about possible training positions within the FQHC that were outside of the CHW program. Unfortunately, there were no positions within the FQHC, but her supervisor recommended that Elisa looks into becoming a corporate trainer. Elisa was told there was a local community college that offered a training certificate that could set her up for a position.
Following that discussion, Elisa enrolled in the certificate program. During the program, she continued her work as a CHW trainer. After about a year, she earned her certificate and began looking around for a position as a trainer. While she wanted to venture away from CHW training, she did not want to veer too far as it would require additional experience. Eventually, she found a position at a national non-profit that focused on providing enabling services. The role required the corporate trainer to educate enabling services staff at their various affiliates. Elisa got the role and has worked as a corporate trainer ever since.
Cristian had just graduated from college with his bachelor’s in business and was unsure what he wanted to do with his career. Throughout school, he worked as a teaching assistant for a business course within the college. He enjoyed assisting the instructor of the class in designing the course material. He also worked as a server at a local restaurant and liked answering people’s questions and providing instruction. He decided to ask his father what direction he should take. His father was a CHW who provided health education in the community. He recommended that Cristian looked into CHW work because he would be able to provide instruction and possibly move into being a CHW trainer. However, Cristian was concerned that becoming a CHW would not fit enough into his field of study. To further assist him in finding a career in the business field he became a business intern at a consulting firm. Throughout the internship, he became friends with the company’s corporate trainer. After seeing the type of work his friend did Cristian saw corporate training as a viable option for his future career. The position entailed many aspects of his previous jobs he enjoyed (e.g., instruction and course creation) and was within his field of study.
Cristian decided that a corporate trainer seemed like a viable option for his future career. For the duration of the internship, he was able to work under the trainer and gain experience in the field. During this time, he was actively looking for a position at similar companies. He had several interviews for positions requiring experience as a trainer but had not managed to land a role. Eventually, he was able to obtain an interview for an entry-level position at a consulting company that provided services outside of his current company’s scope. He managed to secure the role and began his career as a corporate trainer.
Note these stories are based on real-life scenarios but contain fictional characters.
Our CHW Career Web Model resource demonstrates the numerous ways that an individual can find themselves becoming a CHW or how they may progress their career under various ‘career clusters’ like social work, clinical, or advocacy after being a CHW. The resource can be used as a tool by organizations that work with CHWs such as community-based organizations, CHW Associations, Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs), Primary Care Associations (PCAs), and Area Health Educations Centers (AHECs) to help explain the different career trajectories those in the CHW workforce have.