Massachusetts Community Colleges Consortia Awarded $20 Million
BOSTON — A consortia proposal submitted collectively by the 15 community colleges in Massachusetts, led by Massasoit Community College, has been selected by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) for the fourth and final round of federal funding from the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training Grant (TAACCCT). The community colleges are advancing a comprehensive approach to addressing the training and educational needs of workers and employers statewide with a focus on articulated pathways to careers in high-growth STEM sectors (science, technology, engineering, and math, as well as advanced manufacturing and healthcare). The $20 million grant is the highest-funded of the 66 awarded in the country by the DOL. The project, titled Guided Pathways to Success in STEM (GPSTEM), will use the national Complete College America Guided Pathways to Success model to assist eligible students in obtaining degrees and certificates in STEM fields. The model focuses on reducing the time to completion of certificates and degree programs, resulting in more students entering employment in the Commonwealth and/or transferring into baccalaureate programs to add to their credentials. During the three-year grant period, 24 STEM degree options and 58 certificate programs will be newly created or significantly enhanced in partnership with business and industry, the Commonwealth’s workforce system, the state universities, and the University of Massachusetts. The project will also build capacity on the highly successful Career & College Navigator model the Massachusetts community colleges designed and implemented during the round-one TAACCCT grant award in 2011. An important part of the round-four initiative will focus on creating collaborative pipelines for students to seamlessly transfer to baccalaureate programs to meet industry demand in certain STEM industry areas. “Creating key pipeline collaborations in the STEM fields in conjunction with the state universities and UMass will serve as a new model for creating comprehensive higher education and industry partnerships in the Commonwealth,” said Bill Hart, executive officer of the Mass. Community Colleges Council of Presidents. The focus is primarily on helping TAA-eligible, unemployed and underemployed workers and veterans enter STEM programs and obtain high-skill, high-wage jobs. However, the funding to implement Complete College America’s GPS model will assist community colleges in infusing additional comprehensive student supports throughout the 15 campuses that will benefit all student populations. “This grant will help our college better prepare students in high-growth areas such as IT, engineering technology, and science,” said Springfield Technical Community College President Ira Rubenzahl. “Working together to secure this significant federal funding is an incredible accomplishment. It’s a wonderful example of how the collaboration and partnerships between the 15 community colleges can benefit our students and the region.”
Construction Employers Add 16,000 Jobs in September
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Construction employers added 16,000 jobs last month, and the sector’s unemployment rate fell to 7%, the lowest rate for September in years, according to an analysis released by Associated General Contractors of America. Association officials said the construction-employment gains come as more firms report having a hard time finding enough qualified workers to fill available positions, citing the lack of local vocational training programs, especially at the secondary level. “While we are eager to see even more construction-employment gains, there is no denying the fact that the industry has been in recovery mode for much of the past three years,” said Stephen Sandherr, the association’s CEO. “But the industry won’t be able to keep filling positions if there aren’t enough qualified workers available to fill them.” Construction employment totaled 6,079,000 in September, the highest total since May 2009, with a 12-month gain of 230,000 jobs, or 3.9%, Sandherr noted. Residential building and specialty-trade contractors added a combined 11,800 employees since August and 129,400 (5.9%) over 12 months. Non-residential building and specialty-trade contractors hired a net of 3,700 workers for the month and 100,300 (2.7%) since September 2013. However, heavy and civil-engineering contractors, which perform the majority of public-sector construction, increased their headcount by only 500 in September and 29,000 (3.3%) over the year amid tight government budget conditions. The number of workers who said they looked for work in the past month and had last worked in construction fell to 604,000 in September. The last time the number of unemployed construction workers dropped that low was August 2007, a time when the construction industry was struggling with widespread construction-worker shortages that prompted project delays and increased costs, Sandherr noted.
United Way Announces Resource Development Council Members
SPRINGFIELD — The United Way of Pioneer Valley (UWPV) has announced the slate of volunteers who will serve on its 2014-15 Resource Development Council (RDC), the organization’s volunteer fund-raising arm. It is comprised of a group of volunteer community and business leaders who are committed to the mission of the UWPV. “This is a very exciting time for the United Way. Today’s United Way is immersed in 21st-century fund-raising, 24-hour community impact, seven days a week,” said Steve Lowell, president of Monson Savings Bank and RDC Chair. “Contributions to the United Way have enabled them to impact our community in ways we can only imagine: a student, otherwise unable, graduated from high school; 1,500 children who were homeless started school ready to learn because they received a backpack loaded with school supplies; a family ate nourishing dinners replete with fresh fruits and vegetables; teen pregnancy was reduced; and, after years of living on the financial edge, a woman improved her credit and opened her first bank account.” In addition to Lowell, the United Way of Pioneer Valley Resource Development Council includes Ann Burke, vice president of the Western Mass. Economic Development Council; Shaun Dwyer, first vice president of PeoplesBank; Lisa McMahon of the Westfield State University Foundation; Jeffrey Fialky, attorney with Bacon Wilson, P.C.; Bennet Markens, president of the Markens Group; Denis Gagnon Jr., vice president of Excel Dryer; Susan Mielnikowski, attorney with Cooley Shrair, P.C.; Mathew Geffin, vice president of Webber & Grinnell Insurance Agency; Barbara Moffat, vice president of Marketing/External Affairs for WNEU; Sam Hamner, CFO and principal of Field Eddy; Arlene Putnam, consultant at Putnam Associates; attorney Cynthia Tucker; Carol Katz; and Jeffrey Sullivan.
Springfield Boys & Girls Club Tops Donor Goal
SPRINGFIELD — Peter A. and Melissa Picknelly set a lofty goal for the Springfield Boys & Girls Club recently. If the club could bring in 150 new donors in the month of September, they would donate $15,000 to the cause. Recently, the club announced that it had secured 184 new donors, who contributed a combined total of $9,102. With the Picknellys’ $15,000 donation, the total raised for the month tops $24,000. The couple decided to offer this challenge grant in honor of Peter’s late father, Peter L. Picknelly, former president of Peter Ban Bus Lines, who credited much of his personal and professional success to the lessons he learned at the Springfield Boys & Girls Club as a child. “The club was a big part of my father’s life, from the years he spent there as a child to his time as an active member of its board of directors,” said Peter A. Picknelly, who has been a member of the club’s board of directors for 10 years. “Melissa and I are so pleased to see how the community rallied around the club and helped us reach this goal. My father would be very proud.” Added Sarah Tsitso, executive director of the Springfield Boys & Girls Club, “we are so grateful to all 184 donors who joined us on this journey. It was exciting to have the opportunity to expose a whole new set of people to the important work going on inside the club every day. We can’t thank Peter and Melissa enough for their leadership and generosity. It is truly humbling.” The Springfield Boys & Girls Club has been a mainstay of youth development in the city for more than 123 years. Its afterschool and summer programs focus on the core areas of academic achievement, health and wellness, and good citizenship. The club serves approximately 1,500 at-risk youth, ages 5 to 18, each year.
DevelopSpringfield Announces Grant for Façade Improvements
SPRINGFIELD — DevelopSpringfield announced that it has awarded a $40,000 grant for façade improvements to 1525 Main St., the new downtown location for New England Public Radio (NEPR). The grant is made possible under DevelopSpringfield’s Corridor Storefront Improvement Program, which provides grants of up to $10,000 per storefront for exterior improvements to first-floor businesses located on State and Main streets in Springfield. Improvements to this space included renovations to multiple storefronts to accommodate fit-out of the new headquarters and studios in Springfield. The recently awarded funds were used to revitalize and repair the existing façade and included new windows, doors, and frames, along with reconstruction of some existing window fixtures. NEPR celebrated its grand opening in September. “DevelopSpringfield is proud to partner with NEPR by supporting façade improvements to their new facility on this important Main Street corridor,” said Jay Minkarah, president and CEO of DevelopSpringfield. “The improvements have made a tremendous visual impact and highlight the vibrancy of our downtown.” DevelopSpringfield’s Corridor Storefront Improvement Program was established in 2009 to enhance the visual appeal of State and Main streets while providing assistance to businesses making investments in these two key corridors within the city. For more information on the Corridor Storefront Improvement Program, visit www.developspringfield.com and click on ‘programs,’ or contact Minkarah at (413) 209-8808 or [email protected]
State Officials Promote Workforce Development
SPRINGFIELD — State officials joined U.S. Labor Secretary Tom Perez and U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan this week at Springfield Technical Community College to recognize the Commonwealth’s leadership in developing a robust workforce pipeline to meet the needs of employers across Massachusetts. Perez and Duncan highlighted two rounds of grants, totaling $40 million, awarded to Massachusetts community colleges by the U.S. Department of Labor to further the efforts of Gov. Deval Patrick’s administration to align educational programs at community colleges with the needs of local employers. “Working together, we have strengthened the connections between our campuses, our employers, and our workforce so that each and every one of our students has the opportunity to thrive,” Patrick said. “Community colleges are a critical asset in our strategy to develop a middle-skills workforce for jobs in demand. I’m proud Secretary Perez and Secretary Duncan have recognized our successful model.” The consortium of Massachusetts community colleges awarded in these two grant rounds has drawn national attention for building systems between community colleges, adult-basic-education programs, and workforce-development partners and industry leaders to offer students more training and education programs that better reflect the needs of local industry. To date, 151 degree and certificate programs have been developed or redesigned for accelerated learning, and credentials for 40 programs have been made stackable for more comprehensive certification of skills. Among students who have gone through these programs, 70% attained employment, while 85% completed online credit hours. The latest round of federal funding received by the Massachusetts consortium will focus on reducing the time it takes students to complete certificate and degree programs that lead to careers in high-growth STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) sectors, as well as advanced manufacturing and healthcare. “This type of collaborative effort between our community colleges and our local businesses bridges career and education, allowing the Commonwealth to lead the nation in career development,” said Secretary of Education Matthew Malone. “This vital combination of skills will give our students the competitive edge they will need to succeed in the global workforce.”
Employment Picture Improves Slightly in Massachusetts
BOSTON — The Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development reported that the seasonally unadjusted unemployment rates for August were down in most labor-market areas, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The preliminary statewide unadjusted unemployment rate estimate for August was 6.0%, down 0.1% from July. Over the year, the statewide unadjusted rate was down 1.0% from the August 2013 rate of 70%. During August, the Worcester area recorded a gain in jobs, while the remaining 11 areas for which job estimates are published reported losses. The largest losses occurred in the Boston-Cambridge-Quincy, Lowell-Billerica-Chelmsford, and Haverhill-North Andover-Amesbury areas. Since August 2013, nine of the 12 areas added jobs, with the largest percentage gains in the Worcester, Boston-Cambridge-Quincy, Framingham, and Springfield areas. The Leominster-Fitchburg-Gardner, Lowell-Billerica-Chelmsford, and Haverhill-North Andover-Amesbury areas lost jobs. Job losses were impacted by temporary employment disruptions in the retail-trade sector. The seasonally adjusted statewide August unemployment rate was 5.8%, up 0.2% over the month and down 1.4% over the year. The rate was 0.3% below the 6.1% national unemployment rate.
Florence Bank Awards Team Jessica $5,000
BELCHERTOWN — Team Jessica Inc. has been awarded a $5,000 grant from Florence Bank, and will use the funds to support the building of Jessica’s Boundless Playground (JBP), an effort that has been ongoing for the past four years. Once completed, JBP will be the only 100% all-inclusive playground in New England. It has been carefully designed to be a multi-generational activity structure that engages people of all ages and abilities. Every area of the playground caters to those with mobility concerns, while at the same time being fun and engaging for able-bodied people. JBP will also allow wounded veterans in long-term rehab to experience the healing power and simple joy of playing with their own children. The playground will cost more than $475,000 to build. Team Jessica has hosted more than 15 fund-raising events over the past fouryears, and the efforts have raised more than $385,000, including three Community Preservation Act grants totaling $140,000 from the town of Belchertown. This total also includes several independent fund-raisers thatlocal businesses conducted for the project, as well as many large gifts from area organizations. Last month, more than 200 volunteers came together for a weekend build event that culminated in the construction of the majority of the playground structure. “We’re preparing for the final stages of construction — building the ramps, timing the poured-in-place rubber surface — while at the same time still conducting the last round of fund-raising,” said Patti Thornton, Team Jessica’s grant writer. “This grant comes at a perfect time, and we’re so thankful to the community-minded people at Florence Bank.” Florence Bank’s history in community commitment is 140 years deep. No stranger to corporate social responsibility, the bank distributed $1 million to local nonprofits in the past three years alone. For the past 12 years, the bank has been allowing its customers a voice in where donations will be allotted through its Customer’s Choice Community Grants Program. This year, Team Jessica is listed on the online ballot under the category ‘Community Support,’ which can be found at www.florencesavings.com/vote. Paper ballots are located at any Florence Bank. Voting concludes Dec. 31, 2014. “We are excited to be part of this extraordinary effort to bring an all-inclusive playground to Belchertown,” said Florence Bank President and CEO John Heaps Jr. “The enthusiasm and support for this project is overwhelming. We are happy to be part of it.”
Massachusetts Employment Up 9,400 in September
BOSTON — The Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development reported that preliminary estimates from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) show Massachusetts added 9,400 jobs in September, for a total preliminary estimate of 3,425,000. The September total unemployment rate was 6.0%, up 0.2% over the August rate. Since September 2013, Massachusetts hasadded a net of 64,100 jobs, with 62,000 jobs added in the private sector. The total unemployment rate for the year is down 1.2% from the September 2013 rate of 7.2%. BLS also revised its August job estimates to a 4,900-job loss from the 5,300-loss previously reported for the month.