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HCC, STCC pilot program to train production technicians

July 16, 2014 | G. Michael Dobbs

John LaFrancis, professor of Mechanical Engineering Technology at Springfield Technical Community College, shows Gov. Deval Patrick some of the equipment used by students in a new program to prepare them for jobs in precision manufacturing.
Reminder Publications submitted photo

SPRINGFIELD – For both Jim Afflitto of Agawam and Darro Brown of Springfield a new program developed by Holyoke Community College (HCC) and Springfield Technical Community College (STCC) will hopefully mean a new career.

Afflitto of Agawam and Brown of Springfield were two of the members of a pilot program designed to train people as production technicians. Thirty people are in the program, which has been funded with $90,000 awarded by The Massachusetts Competitive Partnership, Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Co., Suffolk Construction and Smith & Wesson.

Afflitto explained that he had worked for Solutia for 22 years before losing his job and has been under-employed for the past four years. He explained that he and his classmates have completed the first section of the training with eight weeks left before being certified. After that he said there could be the option to take an additional year of training.

Brown, a recent high school graduate, he said, “I’m trying to better myself.”

The program was announced at a press event on July 11 attended by Gov. Deval Patrick at STCC.

HCC President William Messner said the program is unique as it combines two aspects of the education people would need to be successful in precision manufacturing: basic educational skills as well as manufacturing training.

Messner said that local precision manufacturers were “desperate” for skilled employees.

Noting the training equipment in an adjacent room, Messner said the Commonwealth had started the program by supplying the equipment.

“We’ve taken that investment and leveraged it through the power of collaboration,” he added. 

Roger Crandall, CEO of MassMutual, which helped in underwriting the program, called precision manufacturing “the backbone of the community” and added this program would “help make sure the manufacturing companies have the people they need.”

Crandall said its support to the program goes along with its recently announced $5 million funding pool to assist promising start-up companies in the region and its new mentoring program.

John Fish, CEO of Suffolk Construction, noted that the Massachusetts economy has strengthened “but not for everybody.” He explained the middle class in central and western Massachusetts is being “hollowed out” with a growth in both the wealthy and poor economic sectors. This program is designed to create more jobs “with a middle class wage or better,” he said.

Robert LePage, vice president of the STCC Foundation and Workforce Training, said he has often heard local manufacturers say, “I could grow my business if I had more qualified workers.”

Once the students are prepared to join the workforce, the Regional Employment Board and the One Stop Career Centers such as Futureworks will assist in job placement.  

Patrick said the Commonwealth is having “a great renaissance in manufacturing,” which is growing 50 percent faster than in other parts of the nation. He added the projection is there will be 100,000 jobs requiring middle level skills in the next decade.

The new educational collaboration is “a great opportunity the partnership can seize,” he said.

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