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Berkshire Community College Receives 2014 Trendsetter Award

PITTSFIELD — Berkshire Community College (BCC) has received the 2014 Trendsetter Award for Growing and Advancing the Berkshire Economy by 1Berkshire, an independent not-for-profit corporation charged with strengthening and growing the economy in Berkshire County.

The award, which was presented last month at 1Berkshire’s Celebrate the Berkshires event, is presented annually to an individual or organization with “a project that attracts new residents or new jobs or enhances the current workforce attributes for a single employer, targeted employee segment, or the region as a whole.”

BCC was recognized for its unique collaborative partnership with the vocational schools in the Berkshires, in particular Taconic High School. The partnership between BCC and Taconic to produce the new advanced-manufacturing employee program was launched in October 2013 with the unveiling of a new, state-of-the-art lab. The lab is housed at Taconic and provides both BCC and Taconic students with the advanced technical skills that are needed in the new high-tech manufacturing workplace.

BCC’s investment, along with matching funds from the state’s 2013 Vocational Equipment Grant Program, yield a $250,000 capital infusion into the new manufacturing lab. The lab includes a learning system consisting of two programmable computer numerical control (CNC) machines with a material-handling robot, hardware, simulation software, and other cutting-edge CNC equipment. This learning system was provided by funds from the Massachusetts Community Colleges & Workforce Development Transformation Agenda (MCCWDTA), a statewide Department of Labor grant.

The kickoff event celebrated new manufacturing and BCC’s participation in MassDevelopment’s AMP (Advanced Manufacturing Program) it up! initiative. In addition to the investment into the manufacturing lab, BCC utilized funding from MCCWDTA and AMP it up! to promote manufacturing as a livelihood through the use of billboards and other advertising displayed throughout the county celebrating October as ‘manufacturing month.’ Presentations were also made to targeted audiences to promote advanced manufacturing as a career.

BCC then offered its new advanced-manufacturing training certification program in partnership with Taconic High School to a pilot group of unemployed and incumbent workers at no cost. This 10-week, 66-hour, Level 1 program launched a statewide certified curriculum and employer-led training initiative developed by the Mass. Extension Partnership (MASSMEP) called MACWIC, (Mass. Advancement Center, Workforce Innovation Collaborative.) Following the Level 1 program, a 16-week, 115-hour, Level 2 program was established to build upon the Level 1 programming and meet the needs of the paper and plastic manufacturing companies in the Berkshires. The overall mission of the program is to preserve manufacturing knowledge and to execute the transfer of knowledge, all while meeting the needs of local employers.

In addition to the programming at Taconic High School, BCC also assisted with a special manufacturing program offered at McCann Vocational Technical High School in North Adams.

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