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Editorial: Forbes Library steps up to aid job-seekers

  • Teri Anderson, executive director of the Franklin Hampshire Career Center, talks Aug. 9 about its Northampton office which closed in August after more than 30 years.  A satellite office will open Sept. 11. at Forbes Library in Northampton. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO


Tuesday, September 05, 2017

Unemployed people in Hampshire County and others seeking jobs were dealt a blow last month when a government-funded career center closed in Northampton after more than 30 years.

The office at 178 Industrial Drive was one of three sites operated by the Franklin Hampshire Career Center and served as a resource to help area residents find jobs and provide them with education and training about searching for employment. The center still operates a full-time office in Greenfield and a part-time, satellite office in Orange. A new satellite office is scheduled to open at the Forbes Library in Northampton his month.

Teri Anderson, the career center’s executive director, said the decision to close the Northampton office was the result of federal budget cuts. Federal money accounts for 79 percent of the career center’s budget and more reductions are expected under the Trump administration. State funding provides the remaining 21 percent.

Last year, the dual-county center saw a $440,000 cut in federal funding, or about 15 percent of its budget, which resulted in five people losing their jobs. As the unemployment rate drops, so too do the services provided by career centers, according to government funding formulas.

Given the financial realities the  center faces, it’s understandable it needed to take another, albeit unfortunate cost-cutting measure, to continue providing services for the 50 communities in its territory. Other career centers in the state that have been forced to take similar actions.

The Franklin Hampshire Career Center relied on surveys that showed most clients drove to the former Northampton office and perhaps have the mobility to get to the one in Greenfield. In addition, the Greenfield office at One Arch Place was the largest of the center’s facilities, and the Northampton office did not have enough space to combine the services of both locations. The center hopes the consolidation will help save enough money to avoid further staff cuts.

The Northampton career center served 2,490 people during the last fiscal year, and for those unemployed or underemployed who continue to need its service, the loss of the full-service Hampshire County office is an inconvenience for all, and a hardship for some. It is also a blow to the local business community, which relies on such centers to advertise positions and recruit workers.

The good news is that the career center has teamed up with Forbes Library to open a satellite office in its building on West Street beginning Sept. 11. Although the office will not have the full range of career services available to clients in Greenfield, it will offer employment workshops, job-search assistance, needs assessment and other programs on a part-time basis. In addition, one-on-one appointments will be available in some cases if a person cannot travel to the Greenfield office. Also, the career center plans to expand its online programs.

We applaud Forbes Library and its new director, Lisa Downing, for stepping up and partnering with the Franklin Hampshire Career Center to help keep these vital resources available in Hampshire County for some of its neediest residents. Kudos also to the career center’s staff for finding a home for the satellite office quickly to minimize the disruption of services.

In addition to the satellite office in Northampton, Hampshire County residents can also take advantage of services at CareerPoint in Holyoke, which has been serving Hampden County since 1996. That office on High Street is closer than the career center office in Greenfield for many Hampshire County residents and it is accessible by public transportation from neighboring communities such as Northampton, Easthampton and South Hadley. CareerPoint leaders, who also face funding cuts, say they are working with the Franklin Hampshire Career Center to discuss how the agencies can work together to ensure job seekers have access to services.

In an era of dwindling funds for career service programs, collaborative efforts like these are necessary to ensure that people have the tools and resources they need to support themselves and their families and remain productive members of the workforce.

Information about the new schedule at the center’s satellite office at Forbes Library and how to access services is available online at fhcc-onestop.com, or by calling the Franklin Hampshire Career Center at 413-774-4361. Event information will also be posted online at forbeslibrary.org/events.