A day after a report said the Massachusetts economy grew solidly at the end of last year Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick came to western Massachusetts today to promote the state’s growing manufacturing sector.
Governor Patrick toured Advance Manufacturing Co. of Westfield -- a family- owned business that employs 200 people. The company makes precision parts that are used on submarines, fighter jets, helicopters and the International Space Station.
Patrick held the company up as an example of how manufacturing has made a comeback in Massachusetts in the last decade.
" We have had about a 40 to 50 percent increase in the rate of growth in manufacturing in the last few years. It is enormously important."
But the growth in precision manufacturing is threatened by a shortage of skilled workers. The Advanced Manufacturing Collaborative of Massachusetts projects the state will need to train 100,000 people over the next decade to work in precision manufacturing just to maintain the current level of production.
Jeffrey Amanti, the production manager at Advance Manufacturing ,said the company is having difficulty now hiring people with the required skills.
" We need more kids to go through the vocational high schools."
Clement Fucci, the director of the Manufacturing Technology Department at Westfield Vocational Technical High School, said the state should put more money into programs such as his.
" Our graduates right now we have 100 percent placement on our cooperative program and 100 percent of our kids are going into some capacity in precision manufacturing or engineering careers."
There are 63 students currently enrolled in the program at the Westfield school.
Patrick said his administration has focused much of its resources on community college programs to train people for work in precision manufacturing.
" We've got to be thinking hard about having alternatives to traditional classrooms and career paths."
The report released Thursday by the economic journal MassBenchmarks said the state’s economy grew by 5.5 percent in the fourth quarter of last year. But the report said woes continue in the labor market where the unemployment rate has remained around 7 percent for several months.
Patrick said the state has a high number of long-term unemployed who need to upgrade their skills to work again.
" I think we are making some progress, but the focus has to be refreshed everyday."
Also on Friday, Governor Patrick joined Congressman Richard Neal and other officials to cut a ribbon signifying the completion of a new $16 million runway at Barnes airport in Westfield. The runway is shared by the Massachusetts Air National Guard and civilian aviation.