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Job seekers advised to evaluate available training as one piece of the puzzle

  • Greenfield Community College President Robert Pura.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    Greenfield Community College President Robert Pura.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • Greenfield Community College President Robert Pura talks about the arts.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    Greenfield Community College President Robert Pura talks about the arts.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • Greenfield Community College President Robert Pura.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    Greenfield Community College President Robert Pura.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • Greenfield Community College President Robert Pura.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    Greenfield Community College President Robert Pura.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • Greenfield Community College President Robert Pura.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    Greenfield Community College President Robert Pura.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • Greenfield Community College President Robert Pura.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    Greenfield Community College President Robert Pura.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • Steven Capshaw, right, president and owner of Valley Steel Stamp, talks with Kenny Griswold at the controls of an 8-axis CNC lathe on the shop floor of the advanced manufacturing company in Greenfield.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    Steven Capshaw, right, president and owner of Valley Steel Stamp, talks with Kenny Griswold at the controls of an 8-axis CNC lathe on the shop floor of the advanced manufacturing company in Greenfield.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • Steven Capshaw, right, president and owner of Valley Steel Stamp, talks with Kenny Griswold at the controls of an 8-axis CNC lathe on the shop floor of the advanced manufacturing company in Greenfield.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    Steven Capshaw, right, president and owner of Valley Steel Stamp, talks with Kenny Griswold at the controls of an 8-axis CNC lathe on the shop floor of the advanced manufacturing company in Greenfield.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • Steven Capshaw, president and owner of Valley Steel Stamp, holds one of the product parts made at the advanced manufacturing company in Greenfield.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    Steven Capshaw, president and owner of Valley Steel Stamp, holds one of the product parts made at the advanced manufacturing company in Greenfield.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • Steven Capshaw, president and owner of Valley Steel Stamp, holds one of the product parts made at the advanced manufacturing company in Greenfield.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    Steven Capshaw, president and owner of Valley Steel Stamp, holds one of the product parts made at the advanced manufacturing company in Greenfield.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • Steven Capshaw, president and owner of Valley Steel Stamp, stands on the shop floor of the advanced manufacturing company in Greenfield.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    Steven Capshaw, president and owner of Valley Steel Stamp, stands on the shop floor of the advanced manufacturing company in Greenfield.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • Greenfield Community College President Robert Pura.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • Greenfield Community College President Robert Pura talks about the arts.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • Greenfield Community College President Robert Pura.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • Greenfield Community College President Robert Pura.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • Greenfield Community College President Robert Pura.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • Greenfield Community College President Robert Pura.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • Steven Capshaw, right, president and owner of Valley Steel Stamp, talks with Kenny Griswold at the controls of an 8-axis CNC lathe on the shop floor of the advanced manufacturing company in Greenfield.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • Steven Capshaw, right, president and owner of Valley Steel Stamp, talks with Kenny Griswold at the controls of an 8-axis CNC lathe on the shop floor of the advanced manufacturing company in Greenfield.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • Steven Capshaw, president and owner of Valley Steel Stamp, holds one of the product parts made at the advanced manufacturing company in Greenfield.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • Steven Capshaw, president and owner of Valley Steel Stamp, holds one of the product parts made at the advanced manufacturing company in Greenfield.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • Steven Capshaw, president and owner of Valley Steel Stamp, stands on the shop floor of the advanced manufacturing company in Greenfield.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

The mantra about job training, repeated countless times during the Great Recession, is this: Going forward, workers — especially the unemployed and underemployed — will need to upgrade their skills if they want to get and keep sustainable, decent paying jobs.

But how do you know if training is right for you?

The ‘silver bullet’

Phyllis White, director of programs at the Hampshire Franklin Career Center in Northampton and Greenfield, says a beeline to the nearest training program — never mind in what — should not be a job seeker’s first step.

“I think sometimes people come in thinking the silver bullet is training,” she said.

What people may need more, she said, is help with their job search. “They may not even be aware that there are possibilities for them,” White said.

She advises job seekers to start by examining their interests, previous experience and education. To the job seeker who says she’s only “just a waitress,” White might suggest, for instance, that her experience could transfer to a job that also drew on those skills of dealing with people and handling customers in a busy work setting.

“I start by encouraging people to look at jobs that are related to what they did before, that build on their knowledge and skills,” White added. “Then, maybe additional training would get them going in the right direction.”

White also points out that job training is not for everyone, as family and financial considerations come into play. “It may not be the right fit,” she added.

Nor does training necessarily result in a job, White said, because “training doesn’t buy experience.” Even with training, she said, job seekers are well-advised to seek internships to get the experience employers want.

So what do employers want?

Alyce Stiles started work in January as head of workforce development at Greenfield Community College. As part of her job, Stiles is the liaison between the region’s businesses and the college and in coming weeks she plans to meet with area employers to learn about what kind of education and training their current and future employees will need.

That information, in turn, will help target the college’s programs to community needs so its certificate and degree programs can help fill gaps in the regional workforce.

And there are gaps. Just ask Steven Capshaw.

Wanted: skilled workers

Capshaw is president of Valley Steel Stamp in Greenfield, a precision machine shop that employs 40 people. It specializes in complex computer numerically controlled machined components.

Capshaw said he turns away about 75 percent of the work that his company could be doing, if only he had the skilled workers to do it.

Right now, he’s looking for four highly skilled, experienced workers for jobs that would pay about $75,000 a year. Asked how the search is going, Capshaw replied: “It’s basically pointless. Our growth is very much constrained.”

That is why Capshaw, who says he also needs more entry-level workers, is a vocal and enthusiastic backer of a new initiative aimed at addressing the need for skilled workers to fill jobs in advanced manufacturing.

The Franklin Hampshire Middle Skills Manufacturing Initiative is the first project of the newly created Middle Skills Academy, a collaboration among Greenfield Community College, The Franklin Hampshire Regional Employment Board and Career Centers, and Franklin County Technical School.

The initiative would enroll 12 adults at a time for 14 weeks in evening sessions at Franklin County Technical School, giving them both hands-on skills training and general education courses.

Patricia H. Crosby, executive director of the Franklin Hampshire Regional Employment Board, said the project could start this fall. The board has applied for a $238,000 state grant to fund it and a decision is expected in April.

Crosby said the board, which coordinates publicly funded workforce training and placement programs, would recruit and screen applicants, and offer job counseling and placement services as needed. Greenfield Community College would design the curriculum, pull together the teaching staff, and coordinate the classroom instruction.

Training in advanced manufacturing skills is offered at Springfield Technical Community College, and in Connecticut, “but both are a long haul for people from here. We see this as a pressing need,” Crosby said.

Capshaw said the program would be a boon to area employers and workers. “It would mean a lot,” he said. “We already have a real base in advanced manufacturing here. Most of the jobs that rely on old skills have already been eliminated or have gone to China or Mexico.”

The training program will target adult workers, he said. “Right now, there’s no pathway for them to learn our trade,” he added. Vocational schools graduate some students every year with machine-shop skills, Capshaw said, but their numbers are too small to meet demand.

Capshaw also is raising money to upgrade equipment and facilities at Franklin County Technical School. Capshaw said he hopes to raise about $250,000 from the private sector; about $150,000 has been pledged so far.

Supply and demand

Michael Baines, special projects manager at the regional employment board, said he estimates that there are close to 50 small businesses in Hampshire and Franklin counties that could employ workers with the skills the graduates will have.

Baines has also worked on programs matching workers with jobs in the ‘green’ economy and on training programs for workers needing STEM — science, technology, engineering and math — skills.

There’s growth in those areas, he said, and he’s confident that the middle-skills workers likewise will be in demand. But that’s not always the case, Baines said, which is why he advises job seekers to do some labor market research — or seek the advice of a knowledgeable career counselor.

“You see people take out $10,000 to $15,000 loans” for training programs with little information about the job market they will face, Baines said. “I gasp at that.”

Robert Pura, president of Greenfield Community College, said the middle-skills initiative idea is an effort to train and educate workers for jobs that will pay enough for decent housing, family expenses and health care.

“We want these to be long-term sustainable jobs. We think these jobs are out there and we want to help train existing workers and future workers for them,” he said.

GCC’s participation in the middle-skills initiative would add to an already extensive roster of programs — long-term and short-term — that help students enter the job market, Pura said.

In today’s economy, Pura said job training and education are less apt to be one-time, over and done, experiences.

To meet the need for flexibility, Pura said the college eases the way for students who might, for example, start in a certificate program, get some on-the-job experience, and then return to the community college later for additional training and education.

Job training today, in short, is often less about learning “to do X,” Pura said, than it is about creating “a long-term pathway.”

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