A jobs training program aimed at the so-called “skills gap” is being launched in western Massachusetts. It’s a new effort to help the unemployed acquire the skills needed to land a job in the growing field of precision manufacturing. WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill reports.
State officials Monday announced a $750 thousand grant for a precision manufacturing workforce development program in the greater Springfield area. The money will fund recruitment and training in the highly technical, highly skilled industry. State Senator Gale Candaras of Wilbraham said there is an urgent demand for workers.
Employment specialists estimate precision manufacturing companies in the Springfield area alone have 250 job openings, with demand projected to be 15 hundred workers in the next three to five years. Precision manufacturers make parts, equipment and machinery used in highly demanding fields including medicine, aerospace and the military.
Desperate for skilled workers, a group of industry leaders in the Pioneer Valley came up with the idea for the training program that will utilize existing vocational high schools, community colleges and universities to train people to meet the employers specific needs. They lobbied legislators for funding for the demonstration program. The money was put into the fiscal 2013 budget , according to Senator Candaras, who is chair of the legislature’s economic development committee.
Eric Hagopian, president of Hoppe Technologies in Chicopee, where the program was announced Monday, called it an epic change in job training
William Ward, president of the Regional Employment Board of Hampden County, which will administer the program, said it will recruit the unemployed, and underemployed, with a special focus on recently returned military veterans.
Kimberly Babin, Director of Veterans Services for the City of Chicopee, said the technical training provided now in the military makes veterans ideal candidates for jobs in precision manufacturing.
A broad economic development bill approved last month by the Massachusetts Legislature included $5 million for job training programs throughout the state. Employers in a number of fields cite difficulties in finding skilled workers.