|By G. Michael Dobbs|
SPRINGFIELD – William Ward, the out-going president and CEO of the Regional Employment Board, (REB) said the most recent $350,000 state grant will “prime the pump” for job training needed by area employers.
Ward spoke at a press conference on Aug. 13 announcing the REB is one of 15 agencies across the Commonwealth that will receive part of as $4.5 million allocation from the state through the Workforce Competiveness Trust Fund.
“This is good news for untrained job seekers for the training they need for the jobs we know are in this community,” Ward said.
At a meeting last year at Holyoke Community College there was one “major message,” according Ward: “Employers have jobs and can’t find skilled workers.”
Nancy Snyder, president of the Commonwealth Corporation which was representing Gov. Deval Patrick at the event, explained the grant will pay for the training of 60 people to help fill customer service jobs in a group of participating employers such as MassMutual, Thing 5 United Personnel, People’s Bank, Liberty Mutual, United Bank, Hampden Bank, Baystate Health Access Services and J. Morrissey.
Larry Martin, Business Services manager for the REB, said the positions are “not just jobs but careers.”
Robert LePage, vice president of Philanthropy & Workforce Development at Springfield Technical Community College, said the strategy behind is effort is “employer driven.” He added the idea to meet employer’s needs to keep the businesses here and help them grow.
Ward credited two local members of the Legislature – state Sen. Gale Candaras and state Rep. Joseph Wagner – for advocating for the grant money.
Candaras said, “There is no question we have a young hungry population of people who are ready to work ... The only thing this workforce needs to build the economy is workforce training.”
She added the greater Springfield area is an “ideal place” for customer call centers because of the diverse population with a proficiency in many languages.
Maureen Carney of the Massachusetts AFL-CIO also explained there was been a companion grant awarded of $262,250 to fund a program that would pre-qualify young people to quality to apply for building trades apprentice programs in Springfield and Holyoke.
Carney explained there is an aging workforce in the local building trades, own which is in need of greater diversity along racial and gender lines. Currently there is an effort to recruit young people for this program and get them into apprenticeships prior to a casino being built in Western Massachusetts and before the Union Station renovations in Springfield fully ramp up.
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