Career center to close Northampton office after 15% funding cut

  • Alex Kiriakopoulos, 34, has been using services at the Franklin Hampshire Career Center in Northampton for several weeks. GAZETTE PHOTO/SARAH GARDNER

  • The entrance hall of the Franklin Hampshire Career Center in Northampton. The center is scheduled to close Aug. 25. GAZETTE PHOTO/SARAH GARDNER

  • The Franklin Hampshire Career Center will be relocating from 178 Industrial Road, Northampton, to 6 Arch St., Greenfield, later this month. GAZETTE PHOTO/SARAH GARDNER

For the Gazette
Published: 8/7/2017 8:04:16 PM

NORTHAMPTON — After more than 30 years, the Franklin Hampshire Career Center’s Northampton office will close Aug. 25.

The office, at 178 Industrial Drive, is one of three sites operated by the career center. Another full-time office is at Six Arch St. in Greenfield. A satellite office operates part time in Orange.

Federal funding cuts have forced the agency to merge the two full-time operations into one, in Greenfield, Executive Director Teri Anderson said Monday. Eventually, a satellite service will reopen part time in Northampton.

The Franklin Hampshire Career Center helps people find jobs and offers job-search education and training for an area spanning 50 cities and towns. The agency has had an office open in Northampton since the early 1980s, Anderson said. Between July 1, 2016, and June 30, 2017, the Northampton office served 2,490 people.

“The only way for us to remain open was to reduce our facility costs,” Anderson said. “We couldn’t cut our staff further and maintain the quality of our services.”

Federal funding accounts for 79 percent of the career center’s budget, Anderson said. Last year, $440,000 of that money was cut, which is 15 percent of the career center’s entire budget, she said.

Anderson said those cuts required the career center to eliminate five staff positions throughout its service area, leaving the organization with bare-bones staffing levels.

While the budget for fiscal year 2018, which began July 1, hasn’t been finalized, Anderson said more budget reductions are expected. The agency hopes the office consolidation will provide enough savings to avoid more staff cuts, despite any loss of funding. All of the part-time staff positions at the Northampton office but one will be relocated to the Greenfield office.

Mona Cribb said she has worked at the Northampton office for 17 years. Next month, she will relocate to the Greenfield office.

“It is sad that this office will be gone, because I’ve been working here for so long and it’s such a great crew to work with,” Cribb said. “Some of the clients come in one, two, even three times a week, so we get to know them very well.”

Anderson said the agency hasn’t decided on a location for the Northampton satellite office yet. It will offer employment workshops, job-search assistance, needs assessments and referrals to other programs on a part-time basis. One-on-one appointments will be available in some cases if a person cannot travel to the Greenfield office.

The full range of career center services, however, will be available only at the Greenfield office, including individualized job training. The career center also plans to expand its online programs, Anderson said.

“We’ve been tracking how people get to the Northampton office, and most people drive, so we’re hoping they’ll still be able to get to Greenfield,” Anderson said. “But we will do some appointments if people can’t get there. We’re very committed to making sure Hampshire County residents will still have access to our services.”

Northampton resident Alex Kiriakopoulos, 34, said he has been using the Northampton office for a few weeks after finding himself unemployed. Monday was the first time he noticed the signs on the office doors announcing the Aug. 25 closing date.

“This office has helped me a lot while I’m trying to find new jobs,” Kiriakopoulos said. “I think this place is great, and it’s a shame that this place might be harder for other people to access soon.”

The career center may eventually look for a new location for the consolidated main office, Anderson said, but decided on the Greenfield location temporarily because it was already the largest office. The Northampton office did not have enough space to combine the services of both locations.

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