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This Agency Gets IT

Anthony Ciak and Jackie Fallon say building relationships with clients and candidates is key to finding the right fit for both parties.

Finding the right candidate for a job can be a difficult task. In the tech industry, finding someone who not only has the technical skills, but also the right personality for the position, is especially challenging. That’s why FIT Staffing was established — to help companies find the right people to fill these positions, and keep them for the long haul.

Putting a square peg into a round hole just doesn’t work out.

Jackie Fallon says this goes for putting people in jobs as well. If a candidate is not the right fit for a position, things won’t work out in the long run.

Unfortunately, she says many large staffing companies habitually try to do just that — make people fit in positions where they aren’t meant to be in order to increase their numbers and help their bottom lines.

This is one of the reasons why Fallon started FIT Solutions, a technology-focused staffing company that digs deeper — much deeper — to find the right fit, for clients and candidates alike.

Fallon, president of the company, is a former engineer and employee at one of those larger staffing companies. She told BuisnessWest that she started FIT back in 2004 because she felt the Western Mass. area was underserved by the national staffing companies, and that smaller organizations that had IT needs were being overlooked.

So, she went into business for herself to change that.

“We don’t want to put people in positions that they’re not going to be successful at. We take a good, long time with our candidates and assessing what they want to do.”

The mission at FIT Solutions is to provide value to both candidates — those seeking jobs in technology, and the company’s commercial clients, those seeking employees for their open technology positions — and to do it in a thorough manner.

“We don’t want to put people in positions that they’re not going to be successful at,” said Fallon. “We take a good, long time with our candidates and assessing what they want to do.”

Division Manager Anthony Ciak emphasized the difference between FIT and larger staffing companies, adding that creating a solid fit requires more than simply looking at what’s on paper to figure out where a person might belong.

“I think that, with the larger staffing companies, maybe moreso in the IT space, it’s all about numbers,” he said. “They want to get quick placement to get numbers up, and, in the long run, that really doesn’t help anyone.”

He maintains that finding the perfect match always goes well beyond just the technical skills a candidate has. It comes down to finding the right culture and personality fit.

“Tech skills aside, sometimes it’s more about putting a hiring manager and a candidate in the same room and seeing how the sparks fly,” said Ciak, adding that good communication and chemistry are big parts of the process. “What a lot of people are looking for is a good teammate.”

One of the most common stereotypes surrounding those in the tech industry is that people are unsocial and unwilling to interact with others, but Ciak says the opposite is true, and clients look for someone who will work well with their teams.

That’s why FIT focuses on forming long-term relationships with candidates and clients so they can find the right fit for both parties.

Tech Talk

In fact, all this is spelled out loud and clear in the mission statement of the company: “to provide industry insight alongside quality staffing solutions delivered with sincerity, trust, and friendliness for our partners and candidates.”

“Our goal going into a chat with a candidate is to let them know that it’s not just about the job we might be talking about at that moment,” Ciak said. “It’s building a foundation for that opportunity and then anything else further down the line.”

In order to fill positions for clients, those at FIT often reach out to candidates they talked to months or maybe years ago. A suitable fit may not have been found back then, said Fallon, but candidates remember the service they received and are generally happy to come back for another try.

“I think that, with the larger staffing companies, maybe moreso in the IT space, it’s all about numbers. They want to get quick placement to get numbers up, and, in the long run, that really doesn’t help anyone.”

“We go back to the candidates we already have in the pipeline,” she said. “That’s our goal, to get people that we’ve already met, and we already understand what they’re looking for and make that match.”

She added that, frankly, the candidates who have résumés out on job sites like Monster or Dice are being pursued by everyone else in the industry, making it more difficult to reach them.

One thing Fallon hopes will help expand the company’s candidate pool is its recent merger with Marathon Staffing, a $70 million regional agency. Despite the reputation national staffing agencies have, she’s confident that it will help bring more more resources into the Western Mass. area.

“It gives us more bandwidth as far as options with our candidates,” she explained, adding that Marathon didn’t have an IT division, which is where FIT comes in.

Another attribute that helps FIT stand out from competition is its vetting process. Fallon said one of the best compliments the company has ever received came from a hiring manager who told her that, whenever they get a résumé from her, they know it’s a good candidate.

To explain the significance of this for the company, Ciak recalls the story of a client who was looking to fill a position at its location in Franklin County. Geographically, those at this firm knew they were going to have a harder time filling the position because of its location, and after a few months of frustration went by, they had to get creative and think outside the box.

They reached out to a female candidate who — on paper, anyway — had progressed into a few other roles that weren’t directly related to the job they needed to fill. But when FIT reached out to her, they found out that she wanted to get back into that kind of position.

When they presented her as a candidate, the decision maker for the client was reluctant to meet her. But FIT didn’t give up.

“We had a conversation with the hiring manager about trying to help them understand why we felt this person may be a good fit for the role,” said Ciak, adding that the decision maker agreed to a phone call with the candidate. As it turns out, they found she was a perfect match for what they were looking for.

“I think it was a good example of how it wasn’t about what was on the résumé … it was about a lot of the stuff in between the lines,” Ciak said. “Yes, they have to be able to do the job technically, but it’s so much more than that.”

Quality over Quantity

Using this operating mindset, the company has sustained a significant pool of candidates to reach out to, including a database of roughly 20,000 people. And it is constantly looking to make this pool even wider and deeper.

As just one example, the team recently visited Western New England University’s computer science club to talk to the seniors and other students about job opportunities in the area, how to go about looking for a job, interview preparation, salary information, and more. They also attend job summits, workshops, and other similar events to not only be a presence in the community, but also to ensure that they are constantly learning in an ever-changing industry.

“The more that we’re aware of how things are changing, the more we can impress on the candidate the importance of keeping up with technologies, too,” Ciak noted. “A lot of our clients expect the same. They expect folks to keep up with the latest and greatest and to stay educated and to challenge themselves with new technology.”

This, along with a mission to find the right fit for a candidate and client, is what makes FIT Solutions stand out from the competition. It’s what landed them on the ITS63 list as the only Western Mass. vendor, and it’s also what keeps clients and candidates in the area staffed and employed.

“It really comes back to providing value to our candidates and our clients,” Fallon said, “and being a trusted adviser to both of them.”

Kayla Ebner can be reached at [email protected]

Construction

People Pipeline

Eighty percent of construction firms report they are having a hard time filling hourly craft positions that represent the bulk of the construction workforce, according to a national, industry-wide survey released last week by Autodesk and Associated General Contractors of America (AGC). Association officials said the industry was taking a range of steps to address the situation but called on federal officials to assist those industry efforts.

“Workforce shortages remain one of the single most significant threats to the construction industry,” said Stephen Sandherr, AGC’s CEO. “However, construction labor shortages are a challenge that can be fixed, and this association will continue to do everything in its power to make sure that happens.”

Of the nearly 2,000 survey respondents, 80% said they are having difficulty filling hourly craft positions, Sandherr noted. All regions of the country are experiencing similarly severe craft-worker shortages, with 83% of contractors in the West and South reporting a hard time filling hourly craft positions, slightly higher to the 81% rate in the Midwest and 75% rate in the Northeast.

Seventy-three percent of firms report it will continue to be difficult, or get even harder, to find hourly craft workers over the next 12 months. One reason for their worries is that contractors are skeptical of the quality of the pipeline for recruiting and preparing new craft personnel. Forty-five percent say the local pipeline for preparing well-trained and skilled workers is poor. And 26% say the pipeline for finding workers who can pass a drug test is poor.

Labor shortages are prompting many firms to boost pay and compensation. Two-thirds of firms report they have increased base pay rates for craft workers. And 29% report they are providing incentives and bonuses to attract craft workers. Firms are also taking a greater role in developing their own workforce. Forty-six percent say they have launched or expanded in-house training programs, and half report getting involved in career-building programs.

“Construction workforce shortages are prompting many firms to innovate their way to greater productivity,” said Allison Scott, head of Construction Integrated Marketing at Autodesk. “As the cost of labor continues to increase and firms look to become even more efficient, technology can enable better collaboration and ultimately lead to more predictable outcomes. There is also opportunity in untapped pools of talent such as tradeswomen, veterans, and young people looking for an alternative to the traditional four-year university.”

Scott noted that 29% of firms report they are investing in technology to supplement worker duties. One-quarter of firms report they are using cutting-edge solutions, including drones, robots and 3-D printers. Meanwhile, 23% of firms report they are taking steps to improve job-site performance by relying on lean construction techniques, using tools like building information modeling and doing more off-site prefabrication.

Association officials called on the federal government to boost funding for career and technical education. They also called on federal leaders to allow more immigrants to enter the country to work in construction, let construction students at community and career colleges qualify for federal Pell Grants, and make it easier for firms to establish apprenticeship and other training programs.

Opinion

Opinion

 By Associated Industries of Massachusetts

Late winter and early spring is high workplace gambling season. College basketball’s March Madness playoff brackets mean many workers will be talking about, gambling on, and even watching the games at work. 

What does workplace gambling look like? Betting pools, online betting, cellphone calls, and texting are some of the common methods employees use to gamble during the workday. All this may lead to a significant reduction in job performance by some employees.

On the other hand, many employers regard employee gambling as a harmless distraction that creates a little excitement, a diversion from the humdrum of the long winter and workday routines. Most employees treat it as a lark that, win or lose, will not impact them very much. In most workplaces, the single-pool proceeds are relatively small dollars, ranging anywhere from a couple of hundred dollars to perhaps a few thousand.

That said, workplace gambling is a big deal and likely to get bigger. The American Gaming Assoc. estimates that employees may bet up to $10 billion alone on the college basketball tournament. And, by the way, sports betting remains illegal in Massachusetts. 

If you are concerned about workplace gambling or feel that your current policies are insufficient, here are some questions to consider:

• Does gambling disrupt the workplace? Is the gambling behavior interfering with production? Are arguments between employees over games and gambling taking place? Is bad blood festering over unpaid debts? Is there a spike in wallet or purse thefts among co-workers? 

• Are you seeing betting take up an unreasonable amount of work time? Are workers leaving their work stations throughout the day to discuss gambling? Are they gathering during work time to discuss betting options?

• Are gambling employees asking co-workers or the company for loans on wages or from 401Ks, or are there delays in repaying debts? 

• Are your supervisors running the gambling pool, raising disparate treatment issues across the business?

If the answer to any of these questions is yes, you may want to consider establishing a gambling policy.

There are a number of options:

• Adopt a no-gambling policy. Define gambling or the type of behavior that is restricted. Employers are free to establish such a policy. The key factor, as always, will be how consistently will it be enforced by your supervisors.

• Determine what constitutes appropriate disciplinary action against any employee who violates the policy.

• Consider adopting a limited no-gambling policy. One method would be to prohibit gambling above a certain dollar figure or value. Such a policy would recognize that small-stakes gambling such as a few dollars or a lunch is reasonable and will be tolerated even though it remains illegal under state law. The problem — will employees disclose they are doing it? There is also the question of determining what is a reasonable dollar value threshold and how to enforce it.

While it is unlikely any company would face any serious civil or criminal liability for a small-time gambling pool, if its operation makes some employees feel uncomfortable, it may make sense to end the practice as soon as you become aware of it, or before it gets going. Whatever policy you choose to adopt, make sure it is one that is enforceable for your workplace. 

Employment

Ready or Not…

By Timothy M. Netkovick, Esq. and Daniel C. Carr, Esq.

Paid Family and Medical Leave is on the way in Massachusetts.

In order to implement the new program, the newly created Department of Family and Medical Leave has released drafts of the regulations that will govern this new type of leave. Public listening sessions are now being held to allow members of the public to provide input on the draft regulations.

Timothy M. Netkovick

Timothy M. Netkovick

Daniel C. Carr

Daniel C. Carr

Although there will undoubtedly be changes to the current draft before they are officially adopted, Massachusetts employers should be aware of the draft regulations so they can start planning for the implementation of Paid Family and Medical Leave now.

All employers will be covered by the new Massachusetts law. Although there are some similarities between the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and the new Massachusetts law, some provisions of the new Paid Family and Medical Leave will require all employers to modify elements of their current practices. For example, if your company already qualifies for federal FMLA, it will also qualify for Massachusetts Paid Family and Medical Leave.

However, you should not assume that your company will automatically be in compliance with the new law just because you already have policies and practices in place to comply with the federal FMLA. You will need to review your policies now because employers required to make contributions must begin doing so on July 1, 2019.

On Jan. 1, 2021, all employees in the Commonwealth will be eligible for Paid Family and Medical Leave. Paid leave will be funded by employee payroll contributions and required contributions from companies with an average of 25 or more employees.

If you are a seasonal business with a fluctuating workforce, how do you know if your company has an average of 25 employees for purposes of this law? The current draft regulations make it clear that the average number of employees is determined by counting the number of full-time, part-time, seasonal, and temporary employees on the payroll during each pay period and then dividing by the number of pay periods. If the resulting average is 25 or greater, your company will need to pay into the Family and Employment Security Trust.

“Although there will undoubtedly be changes to the current draft before they are officially adopted, Massachusetts employers should be aware of the draft regulations so they can start planning for the implementation of Paid Family and Medical Leave now.”

In one major variation from federal FMLA, Massachusetts Paid Family and Medical Leave will be administered by the state, unless an employer applies for an exemption to use a ‘private plan’ to administer the leave themselves or through a third-party vendor. If an employer wants to utilize a private plan, the employer will need to apply, and be granted the exemption, annually.

At this point, the only requirement for a private plan is that it must provide for the same or greater benefits than the employee would have if the program was being administered by the state. The required logistics of implementing a private plan are unclear. The logistics of implementing a private plan will likely be addressed in the final regulations and advisory opinions as the 2021 start date draws closer.

In addition to paid leave, there are also several other major variations from federal FMLA law. One major variation is the amount of leave available to employees. While federal FMLA allows for a total of 12 total weeks of job-protected leave during a 12-month period regardless of the qualifying reason, the Massachusetts law differentiates between types of leave.

For instance, under the Massachusetts law, employees are allowed up to 20 weeks for an employee’s own serious health condition; up to 12 weeks to care for a family member’s serious health condition; up to 12 weeks for the birth, adoption, or foster-care placement of a child; and up to 26 weeks in order to care for a family member who is a covered service member. While an employee is out on leave, the amount of their benefit is based upon the employee’s individual rate of pay, but with a cap of 64% of the state average weekly wage. This cap will initially be $850 per week.

Employers will need to begin assessing their responsibilities under this program as well as the steps necessary to comply with these requirements. Employers that are required to make contributions to the Family and Employment Security Trust will want to start the process of deciding whether they intend to utilize a private plan, and if so, they should consult with employment counsel as they prepare their plan to insure compliance with the unique provisions of the new Massachusetts law.

Paid Family and Medical Leave will continue to be a hot-button topic for the foreseeable future. It is important for employers to continually monitor the progress of the law as it is being implemented to ensure they will be ready to continue business with minimal disruption on Jan. 1, 2021.

Timothy M. Netkovick, an attorney at Royal, P.C., has more than 15 years of litigation experience, and has successfully tried several cases to verdict. In addition to his trial experience, he has specific experience in handling labor and employment matters before a variety of administrative agencies. He also assists employers with unionized workforces during collective bargaining, at arbitrations, and with respect to employee grievances and unfair labor practice charges; (413) 586-2288; [email protected]

Daniel C. Carr specializes exclusively in management-side labor and employment law at Royal P.C. He has experience handling a number of labor and employment matters in a variety of courts and administrative agencies. He is also a frequent speaker on a number of legal areas such as discrimination law, employee handbook review, investigation strategies, and various employment-law topics; (413) 586-2288; [email protected]

People on the Move
Bernadette Nowakowski

Bernadette Nowakowski

Elms College has appointed Bernadette Nowakowski as its new vice president of Institutional Advancement, effective Feb. 1. Nowakowski has served in various roles in the college’s Institutional Advancement office since 1996. Her collaborative and collegial style embraces shared responsibility and accountability in creating a positive, team-oriented environment to achieve results. Her proven ability to engage and develop effective relationships with key constituency groups, including individuals, corporations, and foundations, has built a solid track record in solicitation of major gifts and strategic fundraising. Most recently, she has served as the assistant vice president of Institutional Advancement since 2017. She has been responsible for co-creating, implementing, and evaluating a comprehensive development plan, as well as participating in intense fundraising planning. She also has provided leadership and strategic direction in IA through exploration of new fundraising options while overseeing major gifts, annual giving, and endowed-scholarship and planned-giving programs. Nowakowski is a current member of the Planned Giving Group of New England, the Assoc. of Fundraising Professionals, and the Council for Advancement and Support of Education. She previously served on the board of Women in Philanthropy of Western Mass. as membership co-chair, as employee campaign coordinator at United Way of Pioneer Valley, and as a member of the Women in Philanthropy of Western Massachusetts and Cooperating Colleges of Greater Springfield Grants Group. She also served on Elms College’s presidential search committee in 2016-17 and its strategic planning (fiscal stability) committee in 2016. In her new role, Nowakowski will be responsible for the planning, management, and execution of a comprehensive advancement program, including oversight of all fundraising initiatives.

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Michael Fenton

Michael Fenton

Attorney Michael Fenton was named a shareholder at Shatz, Schwartz and Fentin, P.C., the firm announced. Fenton concentrates his practice in the areas of business planning, commercial real estate, land use, and estate planning. He earned his law degree and MBA from Western New England University in 2012 and his bachelor’s degree in political science, cum laude, from Providence College in 2009. He is admitted to practice in Massachusetts and Connecticut. He has been selected as a Super Lawyers Rising Star every year since 2014, was named one of the Top 25 Up and Coming Attorneys in Massachusetts by Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly, and was honored by BusinessWest as a 40 Under Forty award recipient in 2012. Active in the Western Mass. community, he volunteers for several organizations and has served as a member of the Springfield City Council since 2010.

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Ralph Abbott Jr.,

Ralph Abbott Jr.,

Susan Fentin

Susan Fentin

Marylou Fabbo

Marylou Fabbo

John Gannon

John Gannon

Amelia Holstrom

Amelia Holstrom

Skoler, Abbott & Presser, P.C. announced that three of its attorneys, Ralph Abbott Jr., Susan Fentin, and Marylou Fabbo were selected to the 2018 Massachusetts Super Lawyers list in the field of employment and labor law. Additionally, attorneys 

and Amelia Holstrom were named to the 2018 Massachusetts Rising Stars list. Abbott has been selected to Super Lawyers for 14 consecutive years. With the firm since 1975, he is known throughout the legal community for his work representing management in labor relations and employment-related matters, providing employment-related advice to employers, assisting clients in remaining union-free, and representing employers before the National Labor Relations Board. Abbott also has numerous credits as an author, editor, and teacher, as well as a record of civic and community involvement. Fentin has been selected to Super Lawyers for 13 years and before that was named twice to the Rising Stars list. She has been with the firm since 1999. Her practice concentrates on labor and employment counseling, advising large and small employers on their responsibilities and obligations under state and federal employment laws and representing employers before state and federal agencies and in court. She frequently speaks to employer groups, conducts training on avoiding problems in employment law, and teaches master classes on both the Family Medical Leave Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act. She was also named one of the Top 50 Women in the Law by Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly in 2015. Fabbo has been selected to Super Lawyers for 10 years and before that was named twice to the Rising Stars list. She is a partner and heads the firm’s litigation team. She represents employers in employment litigation before state and federal courts as well as state and federal agencies in Massachusetts and Connecticut. She also has extensive experience working with employers to reduce the risk of legal liability as the result of illegal employment practices. She is a frequent speaker on employment-related topics and conducts extensive management-training and employment-practices audits. She is a published author and volunteers in the local community. Fabbo was also named one of the Top 50 Women in the Law by Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly in 2016. Gannon and Holstrom have each been selected to the 2018 Massachusetts Rising Stars list for the first time. It is an exclusive list, recognizing no more than 2.5% of the lawyers in the state. Both defend employers against claims of discrimination, retaliation, harassment, and wrongful termination, as well as actions arising under the Family Medical Leave Act and wage-and-hour law. Gannon also regularly guides employers on compliance with state and federal laws, including the Americans with Disabilities Act, Fair Labor Standards Act, and Occupational Health and Safety Act. He is a frequent speaker on employment-related legal topics for a wide variety of associations and organizations and was selected by BusinessWest as a 40 Under Forty honoree in 2016. Holstrom frequently provides counsel to management regarding litigation avoidance strategies. She was selected by BusinessWest as a 40 Under Forty honoree in 2015 and was awarded the Massachusetts Bar Assoc. Community Service Award in 2016. In 2017, she was named an Up & Coming Lawyer by Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly at its Excellence in the Law event.

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Jennifer Fischer

Jennifer Fischer

Spiros Hatiras, president and CEO of Holyoke Medical Center and Valley Health Systems, announced the appointment of Jennifer Fischer as chief experience officer at Holyoke Medical Center. Most recently, Fischer served as an account leader and coach for the Studer Group, an outcomes-based healthcare-consulting firm. In that role, she had a track record of six years of leading healthcare organizations in their service-excellence journeys, achieving targets for patient experience across multiple service lines, creating and sustaining leadership-development programs, and helping executive teams manage change. Fischer’s prior experience included director-level positions at Wuesthoff Health Systems in Rockledge, Fla., and Door County Memorial Hospital in Sturgeon Bay, Wis. She received her bachelor’s degree from Ripon College in Wisconsin, a master’s degree in arts management from Columbia College in Chicago, and her bachelor’s of science in nursing degree from the Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. She also received a juris doctor degree from the John Marshall Law School in Chicago.

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Linda Haley

Linda Haley

Andrew Tulis

Andrew Tulis

Andrew Tulis

Andrew Tulis

Florence Bank has hired a new bank officer and promoted two employees. Linda Haley will serve as commercial loan administration officer of the Commercial Loan Department in the main office in Florence, Andrew Tulis was promoted to assistant Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) officer, and Heidi Hoover was promoted to the position of assistant vice president, Compliance. Haley joined Florence Bank in October 2018 with more than 30 years of banking experience. She currently attends the New England School for Financial Studies at Babson College. Tulis joined Florence Bank in November 2011. Prior to his recent promotion, he had served as BSA administrator. Tulis earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from New York University and graduated with honors from the New England School for Financial Studies. Hoover joined Florence Bank in May 2015 with nearly 20 years of banking experience. She holds a bachelor’s degree from UMass Amherst. Prior to her recent promotion, she served as compliance specialist. She serves her community as a board member for the Western Massachusetts Compliance Assoc., a member of the Baystate Medical Practices Patient and Family Council, and a volunteer for Pioneer Valley Habitat for Humanity.

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Michael Shea

Michael Shea

Pension & Benefits Associates Inc. announced the addition of Michael Shea to its team in the role of retirement consultant. He will focus on retirement business development, assisting plan sponsors and managing all aspects of clients’ retirement, including plan design, investment due diligence, and employee education. Prior to joining Pension & Benefits Associates, Michael Shea most recently worked as a defined contribution investment sales specialist for BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager. He also previously served as a regional sales director for Columbia Threadneedle Investments. A 2010 graduate of the Isenberg School of Management at UMass Amherst, he started his corporate career as an implementation analyst for Empower Retirement.

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After 27 years of service to the Pioneer Valley, Suzanne Beck announced that she will retire as the Greater Northampton Chamber of Commerce’s executive director. She cited the completion of the chamber’s strategic plan as the ideal time to pass the baton. The strategic plan, to be launched over the coming months, is a commitment to serve the health and vibrancy of the community at large as an extension of the growth and strengthening of the business and nonprofit communities under Beck’s leadership. Highlights of Beck’s accomplishments include working with Hampshire County business, nonprofit, and community leaders to create the first economic-development strategy serving all of Hampshire County; supporting a group of young professionals to form Northampton Area Young Professionals (NAYP), now in its 10th year supporting the career and community interests of emerging leaders; partnering with the United Way of Hampshire County to create Leadership Hampshire County (a precursor of Leadership Pioneer Valley) to connect, train, and support business and nonprofit leaders with a shared interest in community leadership; and partnering with the Three County Fair Assoc. and the city on redevelopment of the fairgrounds and construction of new barns.

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Jasmin Hutchinson

Jasmin Hutchinson

Jasmin Hutchinson, associate professor of Exercise Science and Sport Studies and director for Sport and Exercise Psychology at Springfield College, recently had an article, titled “The Influence of Self-selected Music on Affect-regulated Exercise Intensity and Remembered Pleasure During Treadmill Running,” selected as the Sport, Exercise and Performance Psychology (SEPP) Paper of the Year for 2018. The award is given annually to the first author of an article published in SEPP based on the article’s innovation, methodological rigor, quality of data analysis, significance of the issue, and quality of writing. The award consists of free registration to the annual American Psychological Assoc. Convention and the presentation of a certificate of achievement at the convention. In addition, the paper appears as one of the sample papers on the journal website.

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Daniel Danillowicz

Daniel Danillowicz

Westfield Bank announced the appointment of Daniel Danillowicz as assistant vice president and mortgage loan officer. He will be based at the bank’s 10 Hartford Ave. office in Granby, Conn., providing mortgage origination for customers throughout Connecticut as well as those in Westfield, West Springfield, and Southwick. Danillowicz has more than 25 years of mortgage lending experience, most recently as senior loan officer with Washington Trust in Glastonbury, Conn. and as a mortgage specialist with Farmington Bank in West Hartford, Conn. He received a bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of Hartford.

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Pamela Sanborn

Pamela Sanborn

Arrha Credit Union President and CEO Michael Ostrowski recently welcomed Pamela Sanborn as its new assistant branch manager in West Springfield. She has more than 20 years of banking experience, and was recently assistant branch manager at Polish National Credit Union’s Westfield branch. Sanborn has served as ambassador at the Westfield Chamber of Commerce and an American Relay for Life volunteer as team captain, and is active in promoting awareness of bone-marrow disease and testing for donors. She graduated from Saint John’s School of Business.

Pioneer Valley Hotel Group is hosting a job fair for our brand new Homewood Suites by Hilton property in Hadley, MA. We will be conducting interviews at the job fair on February 5, 2019.

Positions Available Part Time and Full Time
Front Desk Agents, Housekeepers, Breakfast Attendants, Evening Social Attendant, Laundry Attendants, and Houseman

Education

Reservoir of Talent

Ware High School graduates

Ware High School graduates, from left, Felicity Dineen, Jordan Trzpit, Valentina Towne, Joe Gagnon, Morgan Orszulak, and Seth Bourdeau with Michael Moran (right), president of Baystate Health’s Eastern Region, which helped fund tuition and textbooks for the students’ EMT training at Holyoke Community College’s satellite in Ware.

 

 

Seth Bordeau had no plans to become a paramedic, but a chance elective at Ware High School last year — “Introduction to Fire Science,” taught by Ware Fire Department Deputy Chief Edward Wloch — led him down an unexpected path.

“I was less than enthusiastic, but slightly interested in the fire-science class,” Bordeau said. “But after every class, I found myself more and more excited for the next. The subject of emergency services was fascinating, and as the year-long course was coming to an end and graduation grew closer, I knew I’d miss this class the most. I also knew that I wanted to pursue this career.”

Fortunately, the elective led to an opportunity to take an EMT class at the Holyoke Community College satellite located at the Education to Employment (E2E) site on Main Street in Ware. He and fellow Ware High students who finished the high-school elective are now contemplating a career in fire science and emergency medicine. Baystate Wing Hospital Corp., one of the E2E’s local business partners, provided a matching grant that covered half the tuition and textbooks for the EMT course for each of the students.

“When we took a step back and took a broader look, we realized there was a hole in the region — there really weren’t any institutions of higher learning past high school, very little if any public transportation, and a lack of resources for people looking for jobs and employers looking for qualified workers.”

“I signed up for the EMT course almost immediately and didn’t think twice about my decision,” said Bordeau. “The EMT course ran from June to August, the whole summer, and looking back, I wouldn’t have wanted the summer to be any different. I have completed the practical exam and passed, and I am now onto taking my written exam. Once that is completed, I’ve been offered a position as an EMT for the town of West Brookfield. I hope to further my career by looking into paramedic school.”

This career pipeline between Ware High School and HCC’s satellite in Ware is just one example of how E2E — initially forged as a partnership between the Quaboag Valley Community Development Corp. (QVCDC) and HCC — is building connections between higher education, local businesses, economic-development leaders, and the community to meet workforce needs, said Jeff Hayden, vice president of Business and Community Services at HCC.

“From an academic point of view, they’re really looking to provide hands-on training activities for students who maybe aren’t sure what they want to do, or aren’t as book-motivated as some students might be. The hands-on training is giving them experience in an actual occupation,” said Hayden, noting that Ware High School added a criminal-justice elective to its roster of project-based, career-focused learning in 2018, and will introduce a certified nursing assistant (CNA) course in the fall of 2019.

Those efforts are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to E2E programming, which features a range of resources for employers looking for talent and individuals seeking jobs (and the skills needed to procure them), and even a transportation service, the Quaboag Connector, that helps people access these services across these lightly populated towns in West-Central Mass.

“E2E is really a unique and innovative facility to help meet the needs of folks in our rural, former mill-town communities,” said Sheila Cuddy, executive director of the QVCDC. Several years ago, she explained, her organization was looking at strategic planning in the 15 communities it serves.

Jeff Hayden said HCC meets a need in Ware and surrounding towns

Jeff Hayden said HCC meets a need in Ware and surrounding towns for students who might be burdened by a long commute to the nearest college campus.

“We had been meeting with educators and small-business people and larger employers about the disconnect in our unemployment rates in this region, which tend to be 1% to 2% above the state average,” Cuddy told BusinessWest. “At the same time, we had employers who had difficulty hiring qualified workers. When we took a step back and took a broader look, we realized there was a hole in the region — there really weren’t any institutions of higher learning past high school, very little if any public transportation, and a lack of resources for people looking for jobs and employers looking for qualified workers.”

After HCC came on board as the QVCDC’s higher-ed partner in E2E, Country Bank stepped up with class-A office space in downtown Ware it no longer needed, and a mix of business funders (including Monson Savings Bank), grants, and tax credits began to take shape. “Since then, it has mushroomed,” Cuddy said.

For this issue’s focus on education, BusinessWest takes a look at how Education to Employment has brought new levels of collaboration and creativity to bear on the persistent problem of matching job seekers with jobs — often jobs, as in Bordeau’s case, they had no idea they’d want.

Key Connections

In one sense, Hayden noted, the E2E center was created to provide a place where individuals could connect with the college, because a 45-minute commute could be an obstacle — in both time and money — to enrolling in college. “So if you had a place where you could get information, resources, and a study place, with technology there, that might be advantageous.”

Indeed, the roughly 3,000-square-foot center located at 79 Main St. in Ware includes two classrooms, as well as private study areas and office space. Computer workstations are available for community members interested in enrolling in credit classes at HCC as online students. Meanwhile, the center has offered non-credit classes in hospitality and culinary arts, manufacturing, and health careers. Staffers are also on hand to help people with résumé writing, job-interview and application advice, and soft skills that all employers seek.

“They might need help with a résumé, or they might need additional classes, either for college credit or workforce-training classes to get certification for a new job. Or there might be questions about how to apply for financial aid,” Cuddy said.

“We have several computers and robust broadband service,” she added. “It really has become what we envisioned it to be — an education-to-employment center. We’ve had several ServSafe classes to help people step into the hospitality industry, which also helps local restaurants. We did some training with the Mass. Gaming Commission to prepare for casino jobs. We’ve also done manufacturing training with MassHire folks from the Franklin-Hampshire region.”

In addition, local employers have come to E2E looking for skilled workers, and sometimes matches are made through job fairs, she said. “We also have a local veterans’ group that meets there once a month. It really has become a vibrant and vital community resource and a respectful place for people to come to learn.”

Hayden agreed, citing efforts like a business-led program aimed at instilling workforce training and soft skills in the 16-to-24 age group. “They’ve also done programs at the QVCDC where they help people save money to start businesses. They do computer classes, literacy classes, financial-literacy classes, and we’ve done some of that stuff as well out there. It has become very active.”

It’s all supplemented by the Quaboag Connector, a mini-bus system that brings people back and forth between Palmer, Ware, and the other Quaboag communities for jobs, classes, and other things, Hayden noted. “That’s been extremely effective. Oftentimes, we think of the poverty in the urban core of Springfield, Holyoke, and Chicopee, and we don’t necessarily think of the rural or suburban poor, especially in the communities out east, where the challenges of transportation, day care, and elder care are the same as in urban communities. Getting to work on time is a challenge without buses and vans to make it work.”

Baystate Health’s Eastern Region, which includes Baystate Wing Hospital and Baystate Mary Lane, is one of the Quaboag Connector’s partners, providing $90,000 in funding to the transportation initiative.

“The consequences of the lack of transportation and unemployment elevate the importance to invest in these local initiatives. Both provide good options for our young people,” said Mike Moran, Baystate’s Eastern Region president. “Baystate Health is strongly committed to the many communities in our region and will continue to work with our community partners to focus and grow programs and initiatives that promote wellness, education, and workforce development.” 

Natural Fit

Surveying the growing roster of programs run through E2E, Hayden said the partnerships forged among higher education, the business community, and other groups, all of whom are seeking similar outcomes when it comes to building a vibrant workforce, have come together naturally and organically.

E2E offices

Country Bank donated space on Main Street in Ware to the QVCDC for the E2E offices.

“It doesn’t feel forced at all; it feels like people really want to work together to make something happen,” he told BusinessWest. “The challenge is always financial resources. None of us singly have enough resources to make it work, and even jointly, it would be difficult to make some of these initiatives work, but we’ve all been working together to find those resources.”

The needs remain significant, Cuddy added.

“We have a number of manufacturers, small and large, based in our region that are facing the challenge of a workforce that’s aging out. I know a company with more than 100 employees, and within five years, 50% of those employees will be approaching retirement age. I know everyone is having difficulty finding people who are certified to be CNAs, especially as the population ages, and other healthcare careers are having the same issues — the aging of the existing workforce and training newer folks needed to take up these careers.”

That’s why Education to Employment makes sense, and is needed, she went on.

“These community partnerships really speak to Western Mass., whether it be out of necessity or creativity or a general spirit of neighborliness. Especially in the smaller communities, there’s a recognition that all of us working together accomplish a whole lot more than we could individually.”

Joseph Bednar can be reached at [email protected]

Economic Outlook

The Employment Picture

As the job market tightens, Meredith Wise says, it becomes an employees’ market, with business owners increasingly having to pay for talent.

As the job market tightens, Meredith Wise says, it becomes an employees’ market, with business owners increasingly having to pay for talent.

Meredith Wise says it’s probably not a recent addition to the business lexicon. But it was certainly new to her when she heard it the first time.

‘Ghosting’ is the phrase in question, and it refers to a situation where an individual applies for a job, is given an offer, accepts the offer, passes a drug test, is given a starting date, accepts the starting date, and when it comes … he or she just doesn’t show up for work.

“That individual doesn’t feel the need or have the courtesy to call the company and say, ‘I’m not going to take the job; I have another opportunity that’s going to be better for me’; they just don’t show up,” said Wise, executive director of the Employers Assoc. of the NorthEast (EANE), adding that, when she first heard the term from one of her members, she thought it was an aberration and certainly not a common occurrence.

Suffice it to say that she has been corrected on that viewpoint at several of EANE’s monthly member roundtables over the past year or so.

“When I first brought it up I said, ‘oh, this can’t really be happening — this isn’t something people would do,’” she recalled, flashing back several months. “I expected pushback and people saying, ‘no, that doesn’t happen to me.’ Instead, there was agreement around the table that it is happening — a lot.”

Wise said this pattern of ghosting, which is happening in many sectors and at all rungs of the ladder — from entry-level service jobs to senior engineering positions — might be a form of role reversal when it comes to the employment process, and a very clear sign that this is an employees’ market.

“When employers get applicants, there are many times when they don’t communicate back to people; they don’t say, ‘thanks for applying, but we don’t have anything at this time,’” she explained. “As a candidate, you feel your résumé or your application has gone into a black hole. And it almost feels to me like the candidates are turning the tables on employers and saying, ‘I’m not going to get back in touch with you, and I’m just going to do what’s best for me.’”

Bryan Picard, president of Springfield-based Summit Careers Inc., agrees with Wise’s take and can certainly verify the overall tightness of the market, at least through most of this year — and the ghosting phenomenon.

To capture it, he cited the example of a company in Northampton trying to fill a basic warehouse position, with the emphasis on trying.

“We had to fill that same position six or seven times,” he explained, “because the first five people just didn’t show up for the job, and this is a position paying $5 an hour more than the average. There were so many opportunities for strong candidates to go somewhere else, they just didn’t show up.”

Finally, Summit decided to send several people to this client at the same time with instructions to pick the one it liked most — on the theory that at least one of them would show. And a few did, actually.

Meanwhile, the firm has strongly advised its clients to condense the overall hiring process — especially the period between when one is offered a job and when one starts — to hopefully keep would-be employees from becoming ghosts.

“The reality is that minimum wage went to $12 an hour four months ago. There are still companies paying $11 an hour, but the vast majority of them are paying more than what the minimum wage is because they know it’s required.”

All this is part of life in the current employment market, one that is expected to continue into 2019, in most ways and in most sectors — although Picard is seeing some signs of a slowdown in manufacturing (more on that later), and economists, in general, are projecting that the pace of expansion will slow in the year ahead.

“Overall unemployment numbers should stay steady into the first quarter of 2019, said Larry Martin, director of Business Services and Market Research for the MassHire Hampden County Workforce Board, noting that unemployment was quite low — 4% to 5% — across the region this year. “We see things being steady in the first quarter without any major shifts or changes — we should remain fairly flat.”

Wise agreed, and said flat means more challenging times for employers. Indeed, for now and the foreseeable future, the laws of supply and demand clearly favor employees, she said, with business owners adjusting, out of necessity, with slightly higher wages and better benefits.

“Employers are now sometimes having to buy talent,” she explained. “The applicant pool just isn’t what it was, and to lure people away from their current employer, they may need to be paying a few dollars per hour more to get people to come.”

For this issue and its Economic Outlook 2019, BusinessWest takes an in-depth look at the employment market and what employers can expect in 2019. For the most part, it is more of the same.

Work in Progress

Picard told BusinessWest that, although the minimum-wage hike to $12 an hour — the first in a series of incremental increases contained in the so-called ‘grand bargain’ legislation — doesn’t become law until Jan. 1, practically speaking, it went into effect long ago.

“The reality is that minimum wage went to $12 an hour four months ago,” he said. “There are still companies paying $11 an hour, but the vast majority of them are paying more than what the minimum wage is because they know it’s required.”

Bryan Picard says he’s seeing a slight slowdown in manufacturing, but overall, the job market remains tight.

Bryan Picard says he’s seeing a slight slowdown in manufacturing, but overall, the job market remains tight.

And this upward movement on wages, at least on the lower end, is yet another sign of how tight the labor situation is and how this is an employees’ market. And while there is speculation on just how long it will stay that way, employers for the moment face a number of challenges, and are responding accordingly, said Wise, who said it starts with the applicant pool, or what passes for one, in many cases.

“Employers are finding real problems with the applicants — they’re just not getting the volume of applicants they used to get, and the people they are getting just don’t have, in many cases, the qualifications and the skills that they’re looking for.”

But the problems certainly don’t end there, Wise said, adding that a huge issue for employers is finding applicants that can pass a drug test. The percentage of applicants that can’t would surprise some, but certainly not anyone working in human resources today, she told BusinessWest.

And if they do have the skills and they can pass a drug test … that generally means that they have many opportunities to choose from and are a solid candidate to become a ghost.

“When we would get candidates of a higher caliber that we would send on a temp-to-perm type of position, the challenge we saw was that they didn’t just have one job offer, they had five job offers,” said Picard. “And the companies that were really struggling starting bringing up their pay scales.”

Indeed, in response to all this, wages are increasing, but the pace of increase is still sluggish, as the chart on page 24 shows.

“I think wages are slightly higher, but wage growth is, overall, very slow,” said Wise, adding that there are several reasons for this, including the fact that retiring Baby Boomers are being replaced by less-experienced, lower-paid employees. Also, pay increases at the top end of wage earners are smaller increases for lower-wage earners, resulting in a lower overall average increase.

Beyond ‘paying for talent,’ to whatever extent they are doing so, employers are also responding to the tight market by altering their hiring policies and practices in some ways to keep good talent from going elsewhere and thus becoming ghosts.

“These trends are forcing employers to go back to what might be considered best practices,” Wise explained, noting, as one example, that after having an applicant accept an offer, the company in question is working harder to stay in touch with that applicant until they arrive for work, asking if they have any questions or just staying in communication with them.

Meanwhile, others are sending soon-to-be employees what she called “swag bags” or “swag items” such as a jacket with the company’s logo on it or a mousepad or other items as a gesture designed to show that the individual is valued.

Meanwhile, and as noted earlier, companies are being advised to condense the hiring process, especially the period between when one is hired and when that individual is slated to start work.

“If there is someone good that you want to put in a position, you put them in right away,” said Picard, adding that he went to far as to encourage clients to skip or accelerate the interview the process, hire promising candidates, and essentially interview them after they were hired.

Hire Power

If all this seems a world apart from what was happening only a few years ago, it is, said Picard, adding that conversations he had with colleagues in this field from across the country revealed that this past year, and especially this past summer, was among the most difficult times anyone could remember when it came to securing qualified help for clients.

“They said it was the worst summer they’d seen in … forever, or at least 50 or 60 years, and that’s understandable with unemployment being at an all-time low,” he said, adding that, while things were not that bad in this market, employers in many markets struggled to find and keep talent.

That’s certainly been the case with precision manufacturing, one of the specific sectors that Summit specializes in.

“Every single company out there right now is looking for CNC machinists,” he told BusinessWest. “Many have more work than they can get out the doors, or more sales orders than they have people to fill them.”

“Employers are finding real problems with the applicants — they’re just not getting the volume of applicants they used to get, and the people they are getting just don’t have, in many cases, the qualifications and the skills that they’re looking for.”

The $64,000 question heading into the new year concerns how long things will stay this way.

As noted earlier, Picard said he has witnessed a slowdown when it comes to some segments of the manufacturing sector, and somewhat easier going when it comes to finding employees for those clients.

“I think things are changing; a lot of times, manufacturing is a leading indicator for what’s going to happen with the economy,” he explained. “The summer was very tight, but now, probably over the past month and a half, things were not as tight. We’re seeing very qualified, strong candidates that are coming through that four months ago … well, we would be begging for someone with half the talent that we’re seeing right now.”

Elaborating, he said he projects that 2019 will be “an interesting year” for his company and a less-busy one for some of his clients, especially those in manufacturing, and he comes to that conclusion mostly by comparing numbers from the fourth quarter this year compared to last year.

“In the fall of 2017, we were very busy, and I brought on someone to help in November,” he recalled. “I said, ‘this is our slowest time of the year, it’s a great time to come on, we’ll be able to do some coaching, things will be nice and easy.’ About January, she said, ‘when is it going to slow down again?’ because it never did.”

This year, it has, and Picard says it may be a sign of what’s to come in the year ahead.

Martin, meanwhile, is projecting essentially the status quo when it comes to the employment market — in manufacturing and most other sectors.

“For manufacturers, it’s going to be steady going, and they are going to need skilled help because of the individuals who are retiring,” he explained. “That’s not going to slow down whatsoever.”

He noted that the region essentially absorbed the arrival of MGM Springfield and its hiring of more than 2,000 people without major disruption to most sectors of the economy, even the broad culinary field, primarily because of proactive steps in anticipation of that seismic event.

“There was a lot of foresight and forecasting done in advance of MGM,” he explained. “There were a lot of new partnerships established, especially with the community colleges to help meet specific needs, such as those in culinary.

“Several sectors were impacted — culinary, retail, financial services, and others — but enough forecasting was done ahead of time to prepare for MGM’s arrival,” he went on. “And a lot of companies planned ahead and internally provided financial encouragement or other types of encouragement for existing staff.”

The challenge moving forward will be with the inevitable churn that the casino complex will experience, he went on, adding that while MGM, working with those partners he mentioned, had enough employees to get the doors open, it must now deal with ongoing turnover and the task of keeping workers in the pipeline.

Learning on the Job

As he talked about the job market and what may come in 2019, Picard concurred with Wise when she talked about many workers not exactly being courteous when it comes to taking better offers and instead becoming ghosts.

Likewise, he said all this amounts to a kind of payback, if you will, for how employers act when the laws of supply and demand are tilted in their favor.

He warned, however, that too much moving around and a great many lines on a résumé may come back to … well, haunt those ghosts when things change and the market is not so tight.

For now, though, it’s an employees’ market and will be for the foreseeable future, and employers looking to land good talent quickly and easily likely have a ghost of a chance of doing so.

George O’Brien can be reached at [email protected]

Cover Story

Getting into the Game

“We’ve been hearing this for years, but it had just reached a boiling point.” That’s how Kermit Dunkelberg chose to sum up the conversation in this region regarding how many individuals lack the soft skills and the essential skills needed to be workforce-ready. This ‘boiling point’ status helped inspire a regional response to a request for proposals for state funding — and a $247,000 grant aimed at putting more qualified workers in the pipeline.

Since the end of the Great Recession, nearly a decade ago now, the region’s economy has been in a slow-but-steady expansion mode characterized by growth in most all industry sectors and almost historically low unemployment.

It’s been a good time for employers and job seekers alike, but there are some who have just not been able to take part in this improved economy, said Kermit Dunkelberg, assistant vice president of Adult Basic Education and Workforce Development at Holyoke Community College (HCC).

These individuals are sitting on the sidelines and not getting in the game for a number of reasons, but the two most common denominators — and this is across the board, in all sectors of the economy — is that they lack hands-on experience in a given field, basic job-readiness skills, or both.

“And in many cases, it is both,” said Dunkelberg, who noted that a soon-to-be-launched, HCC-led project will address both of these concerns.

Indeed, through a $247,000 grant from the Mass. Dept. of Higher Education’s Training Resources and Internships Networks Initiative, better known by the acronym TRAIN, HCC will work with a long list of regional partners to develop a three-stage program that includes:

• Pre-training job readiness;

• Industry-specific training in culinary arts or manufacturing; and

• Some kind of work experience with a local employer.

That list of partners includes Greenfield Community College and Springfield Technical Community College; the MassHire Hampden County Workforce Board; the MassHire Franklin Hampshire Workforce Board; the MassHire career centers in Holyoke, Springfield, and Hampden, and Hampshire counties; and several local employers — University of Massachusetts Auxiliary Dining Services in Amherst, the Log Cabin Group in Holyoke, MGM Resorts in Springfield, Peerless Precision in Westfield, and BETE Fog Nozzle in Greenfield, which have agreed to provide internships, apprenticeships, or job-shadowing opportunities to program participants.

That long list of players speaks to the breadth and depth of the problem and the need for a regional solution, said Dunkelberg, adding that the TRAIN initiative is an ongoing state program, and when area agencies and institutions mulled whether to apply for grants individually or collectively, there was a clear consensus for the latter.

“We brought these partners together, and one of the questions on the table was, ‘should we develop one proposal for the region, or should we develop competing proposals — what do people want to do?’” he recalled. “There was a very strong feeling that we should collaborate and develop a proposal jointly, across the entire Pioneer Valley.

“And part of the reason for that is that we all face the same issue of job readiness,” he went on. “We wanted to develop something we can agree on with all of our partners that meets the standards of what job readiness means.”

As noted earlier, there are three components to this project — pre-training, industry-specific training, and work experience with an area employer, and all three are critical to individuals becoming able to shed those classifications ‘unemployed’ or ‘underemployed,’ said Teri Anderson, executive director of the MassHire Hampshire Franklin Hampshire Workforce Board.

“One of the primary pieces of feedback we receive from employers is that people coming to them looking for work need basic job-readiness skills, and we’ve heard that for several years now,” she told BusinessWest. The career center has been interested in creating a foundational skills program that would prepare people for any job across multiple sectors, and that’s exactly what this program is going to do.”

The job-readiness component will focus on a number of skills lacking among many of those on the outside looking in when it comes to the job market, she said, including communication skills, teamwork, customer service, basic math, reading, and computer skills, along with financial literacy, job-search skills, and more.

Kermit Dunkelberg says the TRAIN initiative

Kermit Dunkelberg says the TRAIN initiative will provide participants with not only job-readiness skills, but also hands-on experience in one of several fields.

Such skills will be provided through 60-hour pre-training courses, after which participants will have the opportunity to continue into an industry-specific training program — a four-week, 120-hour program in culinary arts and hospitality at the HCC MGM Culinary Arts Institute, or a 44-hour manufacturing training program at STCC. Also, participants might instead choose to enter another industry-specific training program offered by one of the community colleges.

The objective is make people currently not ready to enter the workforce better able to do so, said David Cruise, executive director of the MassHire Hampden County Workforce Board, adding that employers in every sector of the economy are challenged to find qualified workers, and in some fields, especially manufacturing, their inability to do so is impacting their ability to grow.

For this issue and its focus on employment, BusinessWest takes an in-depth look at the TRAIN-funded program and its prospects for becoming a model for helping regions like this one enable individuals to become part of the ongoing economic expansion, rather than merely spectators.

A Hire Reach

It’s called the ‘benefits cliff,’ or the ‘cliff effect.’

Both terms are used to describe what happens when public benefits programs phase down or out quickly, leading to an abrupt reduction or loss of benefits for families as household earnings increase through employment, but have not increased enough for self-sufficiency to be reached.

“What had really risen to the top as far as everyone’s sense of urgency was just basic job readiness across all sectors. We’ve been hearing this for years, but it has just reached a boiling point.”

Often, just a small increase in household earnings can trigger loss of eligibility for a benefit, making a family substantially worse off from a self-sufficiency standpoint than prior to the earnings gain. And fear of this eventuality is enough to keep many individuals from trying to enter or re-enter the workforce, said Anderson, adding that understanding and managing the benefits cliff will be an important component of the pre-training aspect of the TRAIN program.

“Oftentimes, people lose their benefits faster than their income rises, particularly if they’re moving into entry-level positions,” she explained. “So we’re incorporating into this training efforts to work with people on how to manage that cliff effect.”

And while it’s difficult to do so, this situation can be managed, or better managed, she told BusinessWest, adding that the state Department of Transitional Assistance is in the process of revising some of its procedures in an effort to ease the cliff effect, and the TRAIN program will help communicate these changes.

And that’s one example of how this program is necessarily broad in scope to address the many barriers to employment and reasons for underemployment in this region, said Dunkelberg.

Overall, and as noted earlier, the TRAIN initiative is a proactive response to a persistent and statewide problem, he noted, adding that it was launched in 2016 to engage long-term unemployed adults, offering foundational education programs, wraparound support services, and industry-specific skills that would enable entry or re-entry into the workforce.

The first funding round resulted in a number of specific training and employment pilot programs, he went on, adding that, locally, the program funded an initiative involving HCC and STCC to train and place individuals as home health aides.

“It was very successful; we had 56 people who went through that training, and we saw close to 90% of them get jobs,” he recalled. “Retention was high, and we received great collaboration from our employer partners.”

The program was not funded in 2017, he went on, adding that by the time the next RFP was issued earlier this year, the conversation in this region had changed somewhat.

“What had really risen to the top as far as everyone’s sense of urgency was just basic job readiness across all sectors,” he said. “We’ve been hearing this for years, but it has just reached a boiling point.”

Alyce Styles, dean of Workforce Development and Community Education at Greenfield Community College, agreed, and said surveys of area employers leading up to the grant proposal revealed that job seekers in the manufacturing sector and many others were lacking many of what are often referred to as the ‘soft’ skills needed to succeed in the workplace.

“Employers responded that they want employees and individuals who have the ability to effectively communicate orally, have ethical judgment and sound decision-making, work effectively with others and in teams, have the ability to apply knowledge and skills to real-world settings, and have critical-thinking and analytical reasoning skills,” she said. “So all of those are being embedded into this pre-training program.”

Work in Progress

The latest TRAIN initiative, proposed with the goal of creating a model for other regions, will involve up to 120 individuals from Hampden, Hampshire, and Franklin counties, and is relatively short in duration — until only next June.

Over the next six months, the regional career centers are slated to develop three-week, 60-hour ‘essential skills/job readiness’ pre-training courses that will be offered at least four times at locations in the three Pioneer Valley counties.

Teri Anderson

Teri Anderson

“One of the primary pieces of feedback we receive from employers is that people coming to them looking for work need basic job-readiness skills, and we’ve heard that for several years now.”

Dunkelberg said the area career centers will soon commence recruitment of individuals for the program, adding that they are likely to come from several different pools, if you will, each facing some unique challenges, but some common ones as well.

Older workers finding difficulty re-entering the workforce comprise one constituency, said Anderson, adding that there are more people in this group than the announced unemployment rates might lead people to believe, because the numbers generated by the state do not count those who have become discouraged and have thus stopped looking for work.

“A lot of the people we see here are older workers who have been laid off, and they’re having trouble becoming re-employed,” she said, adding that other likely recruits face barriers to employment that include everything from lower educational attainment to a lack of basic transportation.

“There are many people who want to work and are ready to work, but they can’t get access to the training or to job sites because they can’t afford a private vehicle and public transportation doesn’t get them there,” she said, adding that the grant provides for some bridge transportation and child-care services so individuals can take part in the training components of the program, and agencies will explore options for keeping such services available to individuals if and when they do find work.

Cruise concurred, and told BusinessWest that, in addition to transportation issues and the benefits cliff, many of those on the outside looking in are simply not ready for prime time.

“Two of the industries we’re identified as high priorities over the next five years are advanced manufacturing and culinary and food service,” he explained. “At MassHire, we offer a number of training programs — as does Holyoke Community College and Springfield Technical Community College — in those two areas. And whenever we go out to look for potential applicants for those seats, there are some who, from an academic perspective or a language perspective, just aren’t ready for the rigors of a 14- or 15-week intensive program.

Dave Cruise says the TRAIN initiative is designed to help those who are unemployed or under-employed

Dave Cruise says the TRAIN initiative is designed to help those who are unemployed or under-employed, and are thus on the outside looking in when it comes to the job market.

“These people are very employable; they just need some additional support,” he went. “And that’s what this program will provide.”

Beyond the needed basic job-readiness skills, many of those still unemployed or underemployed need hands-on experience in a chosen field or exposure with different fields so they can better decide on a career path. The TRAIN program will provide these as well, said Dunkelberg.

“Career exploration is an important part of this,” he told BusinessWest. “Beyond not having the skills or the soft skills, many people are not really sure what they want to do, and they’re not really clear on what some of the opportunities are.”

“Employers … want employees and individuals who have the ability to effectively communicate orally, have ethical judgment and sound decision-making, work effectively with others and in teams, have the ability to apply knowledge and skills to real-world settings, and have critical-thinking and analytical reasoning skills.”

In response to these realities, the program will provide some hands-on exploration of culinary and hospitality careers, primarily because of the many opportunities now opening up in that field across the region, and also in manufacturing, another sector where there are jobs coming available and not enough people in the pipeline.

This exposure will take a number of forms, including internships, job-shadowing experiences, and actual employment, said Dunkelberg, adding that the various employer partners, from MGM to Peerless Precision, have agreed to provide some type of hands-on experience with the goal of helping participants both understand where the opportunities are and discover if these fields are good fits.

When asked if there was a model for what the many partners involved in this initiative are working to create, Dunkelberg said the goal is to build a model for others to use.

And that’s just one of many potential quantitative and qualitative measures of success when it comes to this program. Others include everything from the number of job interviews granted to the program participants — a low bar, to be sure — to growth in enrollment in academic programs such as GCC’s CNC course of study, to ultimate progress in closing the nagging skills gap in this region.

Course of Action

That gap won’t be closed easily or soon, but movement in the right direction is the goal — and the priority — at the moment.

As Dunkelberg noted, the problem has reached a boiling point, and the TRAIN initiative, a truly regional response to the problem, will hopefully help matters cool down considerably.

By doing so, more people in this region — and probably others — can then take part in the economic expansion of which they have only been observers.

George O’Brien can be reached at [email protected]

Employment

One Year Later

By John S. Gannon, Esq. and Amelia J. Holstrom, Esq.

The #MeToo movement began making national headlines just over a year ago.

Since then, more than 200 prominent individuals have been accused of harassment. From Harvey Weinstein to Matt Lauer to newly appointed Supreme Court Justice Brett Cavanaugh, new allegations of sexual harassment have been appearing in the news almost weekly, and sometimes daily, over the last year.

John S. Gannon, Esq

John S. Gannon, Esq

Amelia J. Holstrom, Esq.

Amelia J. Holstrom, Esq.

It should not come as any surprise that employers are feeling the impact of the #MeToo movement. The number of sexual-harassment lawsuits filed increased drastically from 2017 to 2018. In October 2018, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency responsible for enforcing federal discrimination and harassment laws, released preliminary data for fiscal year 2018 showing that, for the first time since at least 2010, the number of sexual-harassment charges filed with the EEOC increased.

Additionally, the EEOC reported that it had filed 41 lawsuits alleging sexual harassment, more than a 50% increase over the previous year, and that it had collected close to $70 million on behalf of sexual-harassment victims in fiscal year 2018. The number of lawsuits is not the only thing on the rise; juries seem more willing to issue large damage awards to plaintiffs alleging sexual harassment. Just a few months ago, a jury in Massachusetts awarded a plaintiff more than $3 million in damages in a sexual harassment lawsuit.

Best Practices for Employers

Businesses that want to avoid being another #MeToo statistic need to take a hard look at their culture and ask: What are we doing to provide a workplace free from harassment? With allegations of harassment and lawsuits on the rise, now is an important time for employers to revisit best practices and take proactive steps aimed at protecting employees and reducing legal risk.

First, employers must have an anti-harassment policy, which should clearly outline the internal complaint and investigation procedure. State law requires employers of six or more employees to have a written sexual-harassment policy that is distributed at time of hire and annually to all employees. Among other things, the policy must include a notice that sexual harassment is unlawful and that it is unlawful to retaliate against someone who reports sexual harassment or participates in an investigation. 

The policy should also outline where and how employees can bring internal complaints of harassment and what the investigation procedure is. If either of these processes are unclear at your workplace, now is the time to revisit them and develop a complaint process and investigation procedure.

Second, employers should be doing annual sexual-harassment training. Although Massachusetts law only encourages training, implementing effective harassment training into your workplace culture demonstrates that you care about the issue. It also can protect you against a costly lawsuit.

Under the law, if a supervisor harasses a subordinate or knows about harassment but fails to take prompt steps to report, investigate, and stop the conduct, the supervisor has created significant legal risk for the employer. As a result, it is important that supervisors receive periodic training on what constitutes sexual harassment and what to do if they receive a sexual-harassment complaint or observe potential harassment in the workplace. A few hours of training per year could save an employer from a costly lawsuit. Further, annual training for all employees can be beneficial because it highlights what is not acceptable and outlines the serious repercussions, including termination, for harassing behavior.

Preventing Costly Litigation

As noted at the outset, juries are issuing multi-million-dollar awards in harassment cases. At the same time, employment-discrimination cases are also seeing record-setting jury verdicts. Earlier this year, a jury in Massachusetts awarded a plaintiff $28 million in a discrimination and retaliation case. Read that sentence again.

Having solid policies and engaging in regular training can get employers only so far. In order to avoid the risk of a runaway jury, employers may want to consider requiring employees to enter into agreements calling for private arbitration of employment disputes. Commonly referred to as arbitration agreements, these employment agreements require that employee and employer submit all disputes to a neutral arbitrator, as opposed to filing a lawsuit in court and having the case decided by a jury.

The arbitration process is typically less costly and time-consuming than court actions. Plus, the arbitration decision is usually final, as there are only limited opportunities for either side to appeal.

Bottom Line

The #MeToo movement is undoubtedly bringing positive changes to the workplace. Still, businesses need to be proactive and take steps to create a culture free from harassment. This starts with an effective workplace policy against harassment and regular training for employees.

If a culture change is necessary, it has to start at the top. Leaders lead by example, and these folks must be more committed than anyone to creating an environment free from harassing behavior.

John S. Gannon and Amelia J. Holstrom are attorneys with Skoler, Abbott & Presser, P.C., one of the largest law firms in New England exclusively practicing labor and employment law. Gannon specializes in employment litigation and personnel policies and practices, wage-and-hour compliance, and non-compete and trade-secrets litigation; (413) 737-4753; [email protected] Holstrom specializes in employment litigation, including defending employers against claims of discrimination, retaliation harassment, and wrongful termination, as well as wage-and-hour lawsuits. She also frequently provides counsel to management on taking proactive steps to reduce the risk of legal liability; (413) 737-4753; [email protected]

Work/Life Balance

Survey Says

While salary is still the most important aspect of a job for most, a new survey from the Employers Associations of America (EEA) notes that lifestyle factors are a significant consideration as well.

In its 2019 National Business Trends Survey, the EEA aimed to determine the top five most important factors prospective employees are looking for, with the goal of assisting employers with recruitment and retention. The top five factors included, in order, competitive pay (named by 82% of respondents), good work/life balance (69.2 %), flexibility in work hours (56.1%), opportunities for advancement (55.4%), and competitive health benefits (49.9%).

“The shortage of labor will be a key factor for employers in 2019,” said Phil Brandt, who chairs the EAA board of directors. “How employers will fill those new jobs is the real story. Employers will need to be even more creative in their recruitment and retention efforts than ever before.”

And if employees are prioritizing balance in their lives, companies should take notice, if only to assess the well-being of their workforce.

“These days, work-life balance can seem like an impossible feat. Technology makes workers accessible around the clock. Fears of job loss incentivize longer hours,” business writer Deborah Jian Lee noted in Forbes recently, noting that, according to a Harvard Business School survey, 94% of working professionals reported working more than 50 hours per week, and nearly half said they worked more than 65 hours per week. “Experts agree: the compounding stress from the never-ending workday is damaging. It can hurt relationships, health, and overall happiness.”

Still, this year’s EEA survey indicates a fair amount of optimism on the part of business executives for 2019. Nearly 74% describe their projected 2019 business outlook as a slight to significant increase in sales and revenue.

“The shortage of labor will be a key factor for employers in 2019. How employers will fill those new jobs is the real story. Employers will need to be even more creative in their recruitment and retention efforts than ever before.”

Supporting that optimistic outlook is the fact that 54% of executives surveyed plan to hire permanent staff in 2019. When asked the primary reasons for their 2019 hiring plans, 72% said their hiring will be to fill newly created jobs. 

When asked which strategies executives are using to overcome recruitment and retention challenges, respondents identified, as the three top strategies, adjusting pay ranges upward, providing additional training and development for existing staff, and increasing starting salaries.

Executives were also asked to identify their top five serious challenges over the next year. The top five were talent acquisition (54%), talent retention (41%), ability to pay competitive wages (33%), ability to pay for benefit costs (28%), and competition in general (28%).

When that question shifted to their serious concerns over the long term — within the next five years — respondents cited talent acquisition (57%), talent retention (48%), ability to pay for benefit costs (43%), ability to pay competitive wages (40%), and competition in general (34%).

Finally, the survey also indicated the top five measures executives say they have been implementing — or are planning to continue to implement in 2019 — to strengthen business. These are investing in technology (52%), investing in equipment (50%), increasing recruiting emphasis (38%), increasing training budget (30%), and increasing total rewards education (22%).

The EAA is a not-for-profit national association that provides this annual survey to business executives, arming them with insights and trends for business outlooks, business-investment plans, staffing levels, hiring plans, job creation, pay strategies, and business challenges. The 2018 survey included 1,295 participating organizations throughout the U.S.

People on the Move
Brenda McGiverin

Brenda McGiverin

WWLP announced that Brenda McGiverin has been promoted to general sales manager of WWLP-22News, wwlp.com, and the CW Springfield. McGiverin has been with WWLP since 2007. She began her career at the media outlet as a digital account executive/new media coordinator. She was then promoted to digital sales director, where she led a sales team of seven account executives, and was responsible for generating and managing all digital revenue.  Most recently, she has served as local sales manager overseeing the entire local sales staff and coordinating all aspects of broadcast and digital sales. Outside of her responsibilities at WWLP, she is the board president of the Advertising Club of Western Massachusetts, a member of the Holyoke Merry-Go-Round board, and on the advisory committee for Providence Ministries. McGiverin is a graduate of Northeastern University, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in business marketing and management. While attending Northeastern, she worked as a marketing coordinator for 8MinuteDating – Boston, and as a client services coordinator for MTV2-Y2M: Youth Media & Marketing Networks, the parent of College Publisher, the largest interactive network of online college newspapers in the U.S.

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Berdie Thompson

Berdie Thompson

Berdie Thompson recently joined the staff of Junior Achievement of Western Massachusetts as the Development director. She previously served as the Charitable Gifts and Events coordinator for the Chicopee Savings Bank Foundation for 10 years. In addition, she has six years of fundraising experience and six years of office management in the nonprofit sector and a solid track record of meeting and exceeding fundraising goals. She brings with her a plethora of knowledge about fundraising from both sides of the table. Prior to her involvement in nonprofits, she was in the banking industry for 15 years.

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Suzanne Rosenberg

Suzanne Rosenberg

Michael Gay

Michael Gay

PeoplesBank recently appointed Suzanne Rosenberg as assistant vice president and manager for its West Springfield banking center, and Michael Gay as manager for its Amherst banking center. In her new position, Rosenberg aims to cultivate a customer-focused, engaging, one-stop resolution environment focused on identifying and providing solutions for all customers’ financial needs. She has 15 years of financial-services and banking experience. She earned a bachelor’s degree in communications from Stonehill College in Easton. She formerly served as a volunteer for the Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce and the Mashpee Boys & Girls Club. In his new position, Gay aims to provide a positive banking experience to both consumer and small-business customers. He has eight years of financial-services and banking experience. He attended Holyoke Community College and Franklin-Covey organizational training. He formerly served as a volunteer for Big Brothers Big Sisters of San Diego, the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, and the Therapeutic Equestrian Center of Holyoke.

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Sr. Kathleen Keating

Sr. Kathleen Keating

The board of trustees of Elms College voted recently to grant the title of president emerita to Sr. Kathleen Keating in recognition of the lasting impact she has had on the college. Keating, a native of Springfield, was installed as the college’s seventh president in 1994. During her tenure, from 1994 to 2001, Elms College underwent extensive changes. In 1997, the college voted to admit male students to all programs of the college, which helped stabilize a declining enrollment. In addition, the college added four new undergraduate majors and one new master’s degree program. She more than doubled the school’s endowment from $2.3 million to $5.8 million and oversaw various campus-improvement projects, including the building of the Maguire Center. She also oversaw the establishment of the Irish and Polish Cultural Centers on the Elms campus. A 1952 graduate of Elms College, Keating received a master’s degree from Villanova University and a doctoral degree from Fordham University. She joined the Sisters of St. Joseph in 1953. She worked as a teacher at St. Joseph High School in North Adams and was assistant professor of History at Elms College from 1966 to 1975. She also served as chair of the college’s Division of Social Sciences. From 1975 to 1978, she was president of the National Assembly of Women Religious in Chicago, and she served as president of the Congregation of Sisters of St. Joseph of Springfield from 1979 to 1987. From 1989 to 1993, she ministered in Nicaragua as an associate member of the Maryknoll Sisters, working as a pastoral minister and a professor of English at the Jesuit University of Central America in the city of Managua. She received the Elms Distinguished Alumni Award in 1983 and a number other national and regional awards over the years.

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Matthew Sosik, president and CEO of bankESB, announced that Tiffany Raines has been hired as assistant vice president and branch officer of the new Holyoke branch located at 170 Sargeant St. Raines brings more than 18 years of experience in banking, most recently serving as assistant vice president and banking center manager of PeoplesBank’s West Springfield banking center. In addition to 10 years as a branch manager and spending time managing the West Springfield, Amherst, and East Longmeadow offices, she also spent six years supervising the High Street and Hampden Street offices in Holyoke. Raines has a strong commitment to serving surrounding communities. She is a past board member of the Amherst Area Chamber of Commerce, as well as the Rotary Clubs of Amherst, Holyoke, and East Longmeadow. Raines is a graduate of Leadership Holyoke, which is an 11-week community leadership course designed to train and motivate people to volunteer in order to make a positive difference in their community. Along with Raines, Tenaya Read has been selected as assistant branch manager. Read joined the bank in 2004 and, over the last 14 years, has held the positions of teller, customer service representative, and, most recently, senior teller at the main office in Easthampton (36 Main St.). In addition, Nadean Eaddy has been selected as senior teller. Eaddy joined the bank this past May with 15 years of banking experience, 11 of which were in a supervisor role. She has been promoted from her current role as teller in the South Hadley branch.

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Susan Fentin

Susan Fentin

Skoler, Abbott & Presser, P.C. announced that Susan Fentin, senior counsel, has retired from the active representation of clients after 20 years with the firm. Fentin joined Skoler Abbott in 1999 after serving as clerk to Judge John Greaney, associate justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, and practicing for several years with the Labor and Employment department of a large law firm in Hartford, Conn. Her expertise in the niche market of employment law enabled her to quickly build a leadership role at Skoler Abbott. In just five years, she was made partner. Fentin graduated magna cum laude from Western New England University School of Law, where she was editor in chief of the Western New England College Law Review. She was the editor of the Massachusetts Employment Law Letter and teaches master classes on behalf of the publisher, Business & Legal Resources (BLR). She will continue to present occasional webinars to national audiences on behalf of BLR and is a regular presenter and keynote speaker for BLR’s annual Advanced Employment Issues Symposium. In addition, Fentin has a long history of supporting charitable organizations in Western Mass. She has served on the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts board of trustees, including three years as president; the Riverside Industries Inc. board of directors, including stints as vice president and president; and the WFCR Public Radio board of directors, where she also served as president. She currently serves on the board of directors for Greenfield Cooperative Bank and the Children’s Advocacy Center in Greenfield and is vice chair of the board of tribunes of WGBY Public Television. Fentin has been named a Super Lawyer since 2008, was one of the Top 50 Women Lawyers in Massachusetts in 2015, has been recognized as one of the top labor and employment attorneys in Massachusetts by the prestigious Chambers and Partners rating organization, and was honored as a distinguished alumna of the Western New England University Law Review.

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Jean Deliso

Jean Deliso

Jean Deliso, CFP has been named a member of the 2018 Chairman’s Council of New York Life. Members of the elite Chairman’s Council rank in the top 3% of New York Life’s sales force of more than 12,000 licensed agents in sales achievement. She has accomplished this level of achievement for seven consecutive years. Deliso is president and owner of Deliso Financial and Insurance Services, a firm focusing on comprehensive financial strategies that help position clients for a solid financial future since 2000. She has been working in the financial field for 30 years, her first seven in public accounting and the balance working in the financial-services industry. She is a graduate of Bentley College. Her extensive experience has led to a focus in certain fields, such as cash management, risk management, investment planning, and financial preparation for retirement, as well as times of transition such as divorce or widowhood. Deliso has been a New York Life agent since 1995 and is associated with New York Life’s CT Valley General Office in Windsor, Conn. She is currently chairman of the board of the Baystate Health Foundation and is a board member of the Community Music School of Springfield. She is past chairman of the board of the YMCA of Greater Springfield, past board member of AAA Pioneer Valley, and a past trustee of the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts and the advisory council at Bay Path University.

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Leadership Pioneer Valley (LPV) announced that Amy Britt has joined the organization as the Leaders OnBoard program coordinator. In this role, she will be responsible for managing LPV’s board-development program, Leaders OnBoard. The program aims to increase and strengthen the skills and capacities of boards of directors. This program is intended to recruit and train people who are new to board service as well as seasoned board members, with the goal of inspiring and strengthening the leadership provided to the network of nonprofit organizations in the Pioneer Valley. Britt comes to Leadership Pioneer Valley with a background in communications, marketing, and event management. She worked for Tapestry, a regional public-health agency, for over 10 years, most recently as director of Communications, where she oversaw communications and marketing for the organization, worked with the Development department on fundraising campaigns and events, and supported the agency’s state and federal advocacy efforts. Britt graduated from Smith College with a bachelor’s degree in biology, and was selected as an American fellow in a U.S. State Department program focused on women’s health leadership in Brazil in 2012. She is a 2014 Leadership Pioneer Valley graduate.

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Marjorie Weeks

Marjorie Weeks

The United Way of Pioneer Valley recently welcomed Marjorie Weeks as director of Resource Development. She brings more than 25 years of experience in fundraising and development as well as school administration. Weeks has done a considerable amount of counseling and coaching for area nonprofits. Much of her experience has been in the independent school world, including time with Academy Hill School and Wilbraham & Monson Academy. Weeks will spend the majority of her time re-energizing long-standing allies and inspiring others to support the essential work of the United Way of Pioneer Valley.

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Kristen Coia, operations manager at Arrha Credit Union, was recognized by the Cooperative Credit Union Assoc. with its Young Professionals Award for being an upcoming, proactive professional. The association also recognized Arrha with the Excellence in Advocacy Award for promoting the interests of credit unions among its legislative, regulatory, and consumer audiences. The engagement in advocacy included many outreach efforts, such as Michael Ostrowski, Arrha’s president and CEO, visiting Washington, D.C., to be part of the ongoing credit-union industry legislative discussions, seeking approvals to fully utilize today’s advances in technology, providing financial literacy, and being part of the World Affairs Committee of Credit Union National Assoc. and its world arm, the World Council of Credit Unions, to lend aid and assistance to Puerto Rico’s credit unions. Ostrowski also traveled to Cuba to engage its government on establishing credit unions and, most recently, to Poland to assist its credit unions in regulatory advocacy with the Polish government.

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Bailey Eastman

Bailey Eastman

Webber and Grinnell Insurance announced that Bailey Eastman, commercial lines marketing manager, was named the MAIA 2018 Young Agent of the Year. This award is given to young agents who have demonstrated career growth and success within their agency as well as significant involvement in the community to which their agency belongs. In addition to Eastman’s work ethic, she is dedicated to her community through volunteering. She is heavily involved with Look Park, has helped organize and run her own nonprofit dealing with child abuse, and serves in various other organizations and community events.

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Ron Davis, a sales professional, business specialist, and founder of WAMF Consulting, has transitioned from president and CEO of the company to chief sales officer. This new position will allow him to offer a comprehensive approach to banks, credit unions, and corporations to support their sales and business-development needs.

After 40 years of selling software and services to financial institutions and corporations in the Northeast, WAMF Consulting was born. WAMF is an acronym for ‘winners are my friends.’ Davis has been recognized nationally, achieved President’s Clubs, and been a top sales performer and district leader. He is trained in major sales methodologies, SPIN selling, power messaging, executive presentations, Dale Carnegie, and strategic selling. Early in his career as an account executive for the Savin Corp., he sold a national contract to United Technologies, the world’s largest corporation at that time. Davis is certified in the Fair Credit Reporting Act and has a bachelor’s degree with a concentration in business, management, and economics. He has written marketing surveys which were implemented in corporate business plans and rolled out company-wide. He coined the phrase ‘lobby dynamics’ to help bank branch personnel sell more products and deepen the customer experience.

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The management of Big Y Foods Inc. announced three new appointments at area Big Y World Class Markets. Samarra DeJesus was named bakery sales manager in Southwick, Trista Sabin was named deli sales manager in Lee, and Thomas Christensen Jr. was named meat/seafood sales manager in Rocky Hill, Conn.

Features

Exciting STUFF

John Cook, president of Springfield Technical Community College

John Cook, president of Springfield Technical Community College, proudly displays the cribbage board given to him by students at Pathfinder Regional Technical High School in Palmer

John Cook, president of Springfield Technical Community College, says he doesn’t play the card game cribbage.

But that doesn’t mean the cribbage board given to him recently gathers dust sitting in a drawer or closet unused. In fact, it now occupies a prominent place on a desk already crowded with items that speak to his personal life and career in higher education.

That’s because the elaborate board was crafted by students at Pathfinder Regional Vocational Technical High School in Palmer. It’s fashioned from metal — Cook isn’t sure exactly what the material is, although he suspects it’s aluminum — and it’s truly a one-off, complete with his name and title printed on it.

As noted, Cook’s never used the gift for its intended purpose, but he’s found an even higher calling for it.

“I take this around, and I tell people that, if they can create one of these at one of those labs like the one at Pathfinder, there’s a $50,000-a-year job waiting for you,” he said as he started to explain, making it clear that his cribbage board has become yet another strategic initiative in a multi-faceted effort to educate people about careers in manufacturing and inspire them to get on the path needed to acquire one.

Other steps include everything from taking young people on tours of area plants — and their parking lots (more on that later) — to working with the parents of those people to convince them that today’s manufacturing jobs are certainly not like those of a generation, or two, or three, ago.

“I take this around, and I tell people that, if they can create one of these at one of those labs like the one at Pathfinder, there’s a $50,000-a-year job waiting for you.”

And there’s good reason for all the time and hard work put toward this cause. It’s all spelled out in the latest Workforce Development and Technology Report prepared as part of the Precision Manufacturing Regional Alliance Project, or PMRAP for short.

Indeed, the numbers on pages 7 and 8 practically jump off the page. The chart titled ‘Workforce Indicators’ reveals that the 41 companies surveyed for this report project that, between new production hires and replacement of retiring employees, they’ll need 512 new workers this year. Extrapolate those figures out over the entire precision-manufacturing sector, and the need is 1,400 to 1,500, said Dave Cruise, president and CEO of the MassHire Hampden County Workforce Board, formerly the Regional Employment Board of Hampden County. Meanwhile, the number of people graduating annually from programs at the region’s vocational high schools and STCC is closer to 300, he said, noting quickly, and with great emphasis, that not all of those graduates, especially at the high-school level, will go right into the workforce.

Those numbers translate into a huge gap and a formidable challenge for this region and its precision-manufacturing industry, said Cruise, Cook, and others we spoke with, adding that additional capacity, and a lot of it, in the form of trained machinists, must somehow be created to keep these plants humming. But before finding the capacity (the expensive manufacturing programs) required to train would-be machinists, the region must create demand for those programs. Right now, there certainly isn’t enough, hence strategic initiatives involving everything from plant tours to Cook’s traveling cribbage board.

BusinessWest has now become an active player in this initiative with an aptly named special publication called Cool STUFF Made in Western Mass. It’s called that to not only confirm that there are a lot of intriguing products made in this region — from parts for the latest fighter jets to industry-leading hand dryers to specialty papers — but to grab the attention of area young people; Cool STUFF will be distributed at middle schools and high schools with tech programs, regional workforce development offices, state college career counseling offices, non-manufacturing employers, top manufacturing firms, BusinessWest subscribers, guidance counselors, community colleges, and employment offices.

Sponsored by the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative, the Massachusetts Manufacturing Extension Partnership, Associated Industries of Massachusetts, and MassDevelopment, Cool STUFF will include a number of profiles of area companies. These profiles will list the products made, the customers served, and the markets these companies supply. But the most important details are the job opportunities, the benefits paid, and the thoughts of those working for these companies.

As BusinessWest continues work on Cool STUFF, to be distributed later this fall (companies interested in purchasing profiles can still do so), it will use this edition of the magazine to set the table, if you will, by detailing the size and scope of the challenge facing this region when it comes to its manufacturing sector, and also highlighting many of the initiatives to address it.

Making Some Progress

Kristen Carlson is working on the front lines of the manufacturing sector’s workforce challenge — in a number of capacities, first as president of the local NTMA chapter, which has about 60 members, but also as owner and president of Peerless Precision in Westfield, a maker of parts for the aerospace and defense industries.

Kristin Carlson, owner of president of Peerless Precision

Kristin Carlson, owner of president of Peerless Precision, says area precision shops are very busy; the only thing holding them back is finding enough good help.

She told BusinessWest that business is booming for Peerless and most other precision manufacturers in this region, and it’s likely to stay that way for the foreseeable future — a fact lost on many not familiar with the high quality of work carried out at area shops and this region’s reputation across the country and around the world as a precision hub.

“In the precision-machining side of the manufacturing sector, companies are not leaving this area,” she explained while debunking one myth about this industry. “There is a skilled workforce here that other states simply cannot compete with. So while it might cost a company less to do business in Tennessee or South Carolina, for example, they’re not going to see the same skill that we need in order to produce the parts our customers need.

“Right now, every industry is booming — aerospace, defense, oil and gas, even the commercial sectors,” she went on. “A lot of us are seeing really large growth percentages over the past 12 months; the only thing that’s holding us back is having the workforce to fill the jobs that we have.”

Peerless has seen 30% growth over the past year, and added six new people over the first six months, she continued, adding that, several years ago, the pace would have been closer to one new person a year.

“I could double in size if I had the workers,” she told BusinessWest, adding that there are many in this sector who could likely say the same thing.

The challenge of inspiring more individuals to become interested in manufacturing is not exactly a recent phenomenon in this region; it’s been ongoing for some time. However, the problem has become more acute as shops continue to add work and also as the Baby Boom generation moves into retirement.

The problem becomes one of supply and demand. There is considerable demand, but simply not enough supply. In most matters involving this equation, supply usually catches up with demand, but this situation is different in many respects.

Indeed, there are many impediments to creating supply, starting with perceptions (or misperceptions, as the case may be) about this sector and lingering fears that jobs that might be there today won’t be there tomorrow. These sentiments are fueled by memories of those with the Boomer generation, who saw large employers such as the Springfield Armory, American Bosch, Uniroyal, Diamond Match, Digital Equipment Corp., Westinghouse, and others disappear from the landscape.

Dave Cruise

Dave Cruise says surveys of area precision manufacturers reveal a huge gap between expected need for workers and the region’s ability to supply them.

Meanwhile, another challenge is creating capacity. Manufacturing programs are expensive, said Rick Sullivan, president and CEO of the Economic Development Council (EDC) of Western Mass., adding that it’s also difficult to find faculty for such facilities because potential educators can make more money working in the field than they can in the classroom.

Regarding those perceptions, the obvious goal is to change the discussion, or the narrative, surrounding manufacturing, said Sullivan, by driving home the relative security of most jobs today and the fact that “these are not your grandfather’s manufacturing jobs.”

“Manufacturing today … is not, for the most part, standing at a machine doing some kind of manual labor,” he told BusinessWest. “The high-end precision manufacturers today are very technology-driven; there’s lot of computer science, lots of IT. It’s a clean environment, and the jobs in manufacturing, especially precision manufacturing, are very-good-paying jobs, and you can have a very good middle or upper-middle lifestyle, particularly in Western Massachusetts.”

Cook, whose school has several manufacturing programs and is the region’s clear leader in supplying workers for the industry, said that, despite the costs and challenges, additional capacity can and will be created — if (and this is a big if) demand for such programs grows and becomes steady.

That’s why Carlson and others say that manufacturers must sell this sector and its employment opportunities to not only the region’s young people, but also their parents.

“And their parents are often the harder sell,” said Carlson. “If I have a class of 20 kids come in and three or four or five of them show a real interest in manufacturing, I consider that a good day. But then, those kids go home, and selling it to their parents is the difficult part, because many of them still believe this is your grandfather’s machine shop — it’s a dark, dingy place, and only people who can’t go to college do that work, which is not the case.”

Meanwhile, young people are not the only targets. Indeed, other constituencies include those who are unemployed and underemployed, those looking for new careers, and the region’s large and still-growing African-American and Latino populations.

Across all those subgroups, women have become a focal point, in part because they — and, again, their parents — have not looked upon manufacturing as a viable career option when, in fact, it is just that.

“We know there are really well-paying jobs out there, but there’s a lot of work to be done to invite new individuals into this career path,” said Cook. “And I talk about two groups in particular — women and students of color — and there’s work to be done there. We have to engage families, and at much younger ages.”

Still Some Work to Do

It’s called the Twisters Café.

That’s the name given to a ’50s-style diner at Sanderson MacLeod in Palmer, a maker of twisted wire brushes for the cosmetic, healthcare, handgun, and other markets.

It was created a year or so ago, not long after the company also added an appropriately named ‘appreciation garden,’ an outdoor break area complete with picnic tables, chairs, umbrellas, and more.

The additions are part of ongoing efforts to make the workplace more, well, livable and attractive to employees and potential employees.

“They’re little things, but they make this a better environment,” said Mark Borsari, the company’s president. “People are here more than they’re at home, and we hope these steps make this a more enjoyable place to be.”

Those sentiments are yet another indication of how manufacturing has changed in recent years. And making people aware of not just perks like the Twisters Café, but also, and more importantly, the jobs and careers available in manufacturing today, is the broad, multi-faceted mission of a growing group of individuals, agencies, and companies.

This constituency includes the EDC, the various MassHire agencies, the vocational high schools and STCC, the NTMA, and individual manufacturers.

Shop owners will go into the schools themselves to talk about what they do and how, said Sullivan, and the shops will host tours of students, taking them onto the floor, and later into the parking lot.

“That’s a big part of these tours,” he said. “They show the students what they can do, what they can have, with the money they can earn from one of these jobs.”

And such initiatives are starting to generate results on some levels, said Sullivan, noting that many of the vocational schools now have waiting lists, especially for their manufacturing programs — something that didn’t exist a decade ago or even five years ago, when such schools were largely viewed as the best option for students not suited for a typical college-bound curriculum.

But those numbers on pages 7 and 8 of the PMRAP report show there is still a huge gap between demand and the current supply, and therefore there is still considerable work to be done, said Cruise, noting that the goal moving forward is to reach more people overall, more young people, and young people at an earlier age.

Cook agreed, and to get his point across, he brought out another item he’s collected — a fidget spinner made by a young student during a summer STEM program staged at the STCC campus.

“We have to do more of that,” he explained. “We have to do more work with younger students; we have to engage their families over the summer, and we have to let the young people get their hands on the equipment and build things like this. And we have to do things like this at scale — we have to start inviting far larger groups of students to our campus to see these programs.”

Cook does a lot of promotional work for the manufacturing sector — and STCC’s programs — himself, and his cribbage board is very often part of the presentation.

“I bring it to meetings every once in a while,” he explained. “It’s that teacher in me that still likes to use something physical for people to see, to touch, and to hold. They can realize that there’s still a very important place for this in our economy, and there’s nothing better than to put this into people’s hands and make them realize that that’s something significant about the ability to generate something like this.”

Cool STUFF will hopefully act like that cribbage board in that young people can see the products many area companies are making, and, in the snapshot profiles of these company’s employees, they can maybe see themselves in a few years.

“Manufacturing has a rich history in this region, but too many people think ‘history’ means ‘in the past,’” said BusinessWest Associate Publisher Kate Campiti. “There’s still history being written in this sector, and the future looks exceedingly bright. Cool STUFF will hopefully drive this point home and encourage young people to include manufacturing in their list of career options.”

Parts of the Whole

Carlson was talking about the salaries and benefits offered by her company — most workers are paid $1,000 a week or more — when she paused for a moment.

“When you add up wages, overtime, and everything else, there are a few guys here making more money than I do,” she said, adding that this is not an exaggeration, but it is a fact lost on many young people, their parents, and other constituencies.

Bringing such facts, and numbers, to life is an ongoing priority for the region, and Cool STUFF will become part of the answer moving forward, as will John Cook’s cribbage board, plant parking-lot tours, and much more.

The stakes are high, but so is the number of opportunities — for potential job holders, the companies that will employ them, and the region as a whole.

People need to be made aware of these opportunities, said all those we spoke with, and, more importantly, inspired to reach for them.

(For more information on Cool STUFF Made in Western Mass., on how to have your company profiled, for advertising opportunities, and to receive copies, call (413) 781-8600.)

George O’Brien can be reached at [email protected]

Employment

(And Also Be at Least Reasonably Happy Doing It)

By John Graham

Most everyone has figured out that performance expectations keep going up. To put it bluntly, we face the challenge of doing more in less time. And it’s not about to change anytime soon.

In the past, those with lots of experience fared well. But not today. Experience can hold us back, like running against a strong wind. Experience is about what we’ve done in the past, and it has value in an ever-changing environment. On the other hand, expertise prepares us for what we must do next so we can face the future with confidence.

The question, then, is how to transition from experience to expertise, from looking backward for answers to looking forward with solutions. Here are 17 ways to do it.

1. Have the right mindset. Experience short-circuits the thinking process. We go from zero to 60 in a split second. We tear into tasks because we’ve been there before and know what to do. It takes an analytical mindset when entering uncharted territory.

2. Figure out what you need to know. More often than not, problems, misunderstandings, and confusion occur because we didn’t ask enough questions — or, more likely, any questions. We get off on the wrong foot by not knowing what we need to know.

3. Give yourself time. Some say they do their best work in a crisis or at the last minute. It’s also easy to deceive ourselves. Where does that leave us when we run out of time? The answer: in trouble and making excuses. And feeling overwhelmed.

4. Work on it and let it sit. The best solutions rarely, if ever, occur on the first attempt, whether it’s writing a report or working on a project. The human mind needs ‘noodling’ time to work in the background without pressure. Remember, everything can be improved.

5. Avoid confrontations. It isn’t easy, particularly since we seem to possess an urge to be right, a gyroscope of the mind. When coming into contact with an opposing view, the mind pushes back to regain its balance. It helps to view it as a signal to take a closer look before having a confrontation.

6. Never assume things will go smoothly. Why do we never get over being surprised when things go wrong? It’s as if someone is playing cruel jokes on us or deliberately throwing us curveballs to cause us grief. It’s best to be prepared by anticipating what might go wrong.

7. Second-guess yourself. To avoid getting blindsided, ask yourself ‘what if’ questions to foresee possible outcomes. Then, when asked about alternatives, you can say you considered various options and why you chose this one.

8. Learn something new. If you can do your job without thinking about it, you’re probably bored and underproductive. The human mind gets moving and stays active by coming up with new ideas, making improvements, and solving problems.

9. Go beyond what’s expected of you. It’s easy to put up a ‘I’ve reached my limit’ or a ‘I’m not paid to do that’ sign. Everyone feels that way at times. If we do, we can count on dismal days ahead.

10. Be present. It’s easy to be at work and not be present. The average employee spends just under eight hours a week on personal stuff, most of it on e-mail and social media. For those ages 18 to 34, add two hours a week, according to a staffing firm Office Team survey. That’s a day each week of not being present.

11. Ask questions. Have you started on a task and get into it only to discover you’re on the wrong track? Most of us have — too many times. It occurs when we’re too sure of ourselves or reluctant (or embarrassed) to ask questions. Asking the right questions is a sign that you’re thinking about what you’re doing.

12. Look for possibilities. Instead of just doing your work each day, take it to another level and interact with it so you get feedback from what you’re doing. Ask yourself: is it clear? Is it complete? Will the recipient understand it? Is it necessary? Will it make the right impression? What have I missed? Should I start over? Is it time for another set of eyes?

13.Take a chance. It’s invigorating to try something new. You may have been thinking about it for a long time, and it doesn’t really make any difference what it is. By taking your mind off all the annoying daily irritations, it can help invigorate your outlook and improve your productivity.

14. Have clear goals. Tedium sets in on any job. One day you realize that what was interesting and challenging is now tiring and unpleasant — perhaps even intolerable. If so, it’s ‘goal think’ time. Start by asking what you want to accomplish today, then add another goal for the coming month, and so on. When you know where you’re going, the tedium fades away.

15. Eliminate confusion. We may not be in a position to control the confusion around us, but we can avoid adding to it. We can make sure our messages are accurate and complete so there’s no misunderstanding, our address book and other files are current so we don’t need to bother others, we meet deadlines so we don’t leave others waiting, and so on.

16. Raise your standards. Others respond to us based on how they view us. How do they see you? Someone who get things done, who takes quality seriously, and who demands a lot from yourself? Make a conscious decision as to how you want to be perceived.

17. Take on a challenge. Nose around to see what you can find, drop a few hints, and even raise your hand. But be sure it’s something you want to sink your teeth into. If it is, you’ll have a great time doing it.

Follow this advice, and not only will you get your work done, but it will be more than you thought possible, and you’ll be happier at the same time. Better yet, your employer and your customers will be happier, too.
As it turns out, happiness doesn’t depend on what others do for us, but what we do for ourselves.

John Graham of GrahamComm is a marketing and sales strategy consultant and business writer. He is the creator of “Magnet Marketing,” and publishes a free monthly e-bulletin, “No Nonsense Marketing & Sales Ideas”; [email protected]

People on the Move
Megan Kludt

Megan Kludt

Curran, Berger & Kludt announced that Megan Kludt has become its newest partner. She joined Curran & Berger in October 2010 after working as an immigration attorney for four years in Boston. She is a founding member of the Immigrant Protection Project of Western MA, and has recently gained media attention for her work to free asylum seekers from ICE detention. Kludt holds a bachelor’s degree in foreign service from Georgetown University, a master’s degree in international relations from Boston University, and a juris doctor with an international concentration from Boston University School of Law.

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Decorti Rodgers-Tonge

Decorti Rodgers-Tonge

Decorti Rodgers-Tonge, chair of the Undergraduate Accounting department and assistant professor of Accounting at Bay Path University, has been selected to receive an African American Female Professor Award (AAFPAA). This award was presented to Rodgers-Tonge at the African American Female Professor Awards (AAFPA) Celebration on Sept. 27 at American International College in Springfield. Rodgers-Tonge is the second Bay Path professor to receive the AAFPAA. Janine Fondon, assistant professor and chair of Undergraduate Communications, was honored at the inaugural event in 2017. The goal of the AAFPA is to recognize African-American female faculty who are full-time, part-time, or adjunct, with the hope that this recognition will help institutions recruit and retain African-American female professors, as well as inspire African-American female educators to continue their work in the classroom and pursue post-secondary assignments.

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Michael Kelley

Michael Kelley

Michael Ostrowski, president and CEO of Arrha Credit Union, recently welcomed Michael Kelley as the institution’s new mortgage loan originator. Kelley has more than seven years of experience in mortgage lending, most recently as mortgage loan originator at Polish National Credit Union. Kelley was recognized as Banker and Tradesman Top 5 Originator for Credit Unions in Western Massachusetts for two years in a row. He is a member of the Springfield Rotary Club and assistant coach for the SOY Boys Basketball team.

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Berkshire Bank announced the promotion of Deanna Markham to first vice president, Retail Distribution manager. In her new position, she will maintain a strong leadership presence and community involvement as she remains local to the Berkshires, working from the company’s Pittsfield office. Markham has held many positions throughout the company since her start with Berkshire Bank in 2006 as a branch manager in Lee. In her 12 years at the bank, she has advanced in the company, including promotions to AVP branch manager; vice president, regional manager in Berkshire County; and, most recently, vice president, Sales and Delivery in 2017. In 2016, Markham graduated from the American Bankers Assoc. Stonier Graduate School of Banking and is a Wharton Leadership Certificate recipient. She attended Marist College, where she received a bachelor’s degree in business administration with a concentration in marketing and a minor in fashion merchandising. Committed to giving back to her community, Markham is a Porchlight VNA and Homecare finance committee member and active in the Berkshire Bank employee volunteer program.

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Jacquelyn (Jackie) Guzie

Jacquelyn (Jackie) Guzie

Michael Ostrowski, president and CEO of Arrha Credit Union, recently introduced Jacquelyn (Jackie) Guzie as Arrha’s new Springfield branch manager. Guzie has more than 18 years of banking experience and been recognized throughout her banking-industry career with several promotions at Rockville Bank. Since 2007, she has been a branch manager, most recently in the Suffield Branch at First National Bank of Suffield. A graduate of the New England College of Business and Finance in Boston, Guzie is also an emergency medical technician volunteering at Suffield Volunteer Ambulance Assoc.

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The United Way of Pioneer Valley (UWPV) announced it has hired Paul Mina as its new president and CEO as part of an overall management agreement. Mina brings 30 years of United Way experience to the Pioneer Valley. In addition, Steve Lowell, president and CEO of Monson Savings Bank and chairman of the UWPV board, announced that the organization is entering into a management agreement with the United Way of Tri-County (UWTC). Mina will be reporting to the UWPV board of directors so that local control and oversight is maintained. The UWTC is responsible for overseeing the Mass 211 program, the statewide source for essential community services. Mina noted that more than 45% of the phone calls to the Mass 211 helpline originate from the UWPV service area, so he is familiar with the work being done in the community.

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Melissa Tetreault

Melissa Tetreault

Michael Tucker, president and CEO of Greenfield Cooperative Bank, announced that Melissa Tetreault has re-joined Greenfield Cooperative Bank as a mortgage loan originator in its Northampton Cooperative division. She will work out of the Florence office for Northampton Cooperative, but is available to meet customers in any of the bank’s 10 offices throughout Hampshire and Franklin County. Tetreault has more than 30 years of experience in banking and mortgage lending, including 16 years with Greenfield Cooperative Bank. She holds a mortgage originator license from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and is a graduate of UMass Amherst with a bachelor’s degree in education. She is also a graduate of the New England School for Financial Studies at Babson College. She is active with the United Way Women’s Way, an affiliate member of the Realtors’ Assoc. of Pioneer Valley, active with the Shelburne Falls Woman’s Club, and a former director of the YMCA and the United Way.

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Matthew Smith

Matthew Smith

Bay Path University announced that Matthew Smith has been promoted to the position of director, Computer Science & Cybersecurity Programs. Smith has been with Bay Path University’s American Women’s College for nearly two years, first serving as an adjunct faculty member and later being named full-time academic director, Cybersecurity and Applied Technology. In June, he was promoted to academic director, Technology, Security & Justice. Smith brings more than 20 years of experience in technology and information-security leadership across the government, financial-services, and technology sectors to his teaching, most recently as a subject-matter expert in digital forensics and incident response at MassMutual Financial in Springfield. He has also held related positions with other Fortune 500 companies, such as General Dynamics and Dell-EMC Corp. He also holds a federal security clearance and is classified within U.S. federal courts for testimony as an expert witness. A veteran of the U.S. Navy, Smith received his MBA from Norwich University, his master’s degree from San Diego State University, and his bachelor’s degree from the University of Maryland.

•••••

UMass Amherst Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy has been named by Gov. Charlie Baker to the new Massachusetts Cybersecurity Strategy Council, which will advise state leaders on ways to spur economic growth and cyber-resilience in the Commonwealth. The appointment of the 19-member council, which includes representatives from state government, the private sector, and the Commonwealth’s leading research institutions, was announced on Sept. 27 during the 2018 Massachusetts Cybersecurity Forum in Boston. Baker also announced the appointment of Stephanie Helm as the first director of the MassCyberCenter at the Mass Tech Collaborative. The Cybersecurity Strategy Council is chaired by retired Rear Admiral Michael Brown, the former director for Cybersecurity Coordination in the National Protection and Programs Directorate of the federal Department of Homeland Security. He now serves as president of Spinnaker Security, LLC.

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Lam Nguyen

Lam Nguyen

Mayhew Steel Products (Mayhew Tools) has selected Lam Nguyen to fill the role of plant manager at the company’s Basque Plastics Division in Westminster. With more than a decade of manufacturing leadership and operational expertise, Nguyen will oversee the plant’s daily operations while simultaneously improving overall operational efficiency and productivity. Nguyen, whom will report to Mayhew Tools President John Lawless, has a proven track record for implementing lean operational techniques that result in significant cost savings while increasing yield and quality. His managerial responsibilities will include, but not be limited to: production, workflow, automation, quality control assurance, purchasing, raw materials management, assembly, maintenance, and strategic planning. Before joining Mayhew Tools, Nguyen spent seven years as vice president of Manufacturing for Advanced Cable Ties Inc. Prior to that, he was plant manager and general foreman for same Gardner-based company, spending more than 18 years there overall. Nguyen holds an associate degree in business management from Quinsigamond Community College and boasts several certifications, including Six Sigma, CSP600 Lean Manufacturing, JIT, Industrial Electric, Project Management, and Scientific Injection Molding, to name a few.

•••••

Morgan Russell has joined the Main Street Hospitality team as the manager of Guest Experiences across four Main Street Hospitality Group properties. Originally from Boston and having grown up in the Berkshires, Russell brings 10 years of luxury hospitality concierge experience to this new position. Prior to joining Main Street Hospitality, he specialized in building guest-engagement programs for various high-end boutique hotels in Colorado, including the Arrabelle at Vail Square, the Sebastian Hotel, and the Christiana. Russell will work collaboratively with partners throughout the region to expand the guest-experience program at all of Main Street’s hotels and provide visitors an added layer of connectivity to the Berkshires experience. Russell will build out the guest-experience program at the Red Lion Inn in Stockbridge, Porches Inn at MASS MoCA in North Adams, Hotel on North in Pittsfield, and Briarcliff in Great Barrington. Russell graduated from the University of Colorado with a bachelor’s degree in international affairs. In his early career, he worked at the Red Lion Inn, filling various positions from busboy and bellhop to the sales office.

•••••

Jeffrey Trapani

Jeffrey Trapani

Robinson Donovan, P.C. announced that Jeffrey Trapani, a partner with the firm, has received appointments from the Hampshire County Bar Assoc. and the Supreme Judicial Court. Trapani was unanimously approved to fill the upcoming vacancy on the Joint Bar Committee on Judicial Appointments for the Hampshire County Bar Assoc. The committee is an independent, non-partisan entity comprised of two dozen attorneys from across Massachusetts, including three members each of the Massachusetts and Boston bar associations. The Supreme Judicial Court appointed Trapani to the Standing Advisory Committee on the Rules of Civil and Appellate Procedure. As part of the committee, he will assist in reviewing and recommending amendments to the Massachusetts Rules of Civil Procedure and the Massachusetts Rules of Appellate Procedure. Trapani concentrates his practice in civil litigation, including insurance defense, employment law, municipal liability, business litigation, and professional malpractice. He also represents many landlords in summary process action and housing-discrimination claims, and insurance companies in unfair-settlement claims and coverage issues. In addition to trial work, Trapani also represents clients in mediations and arbitrations. He is a member of the Defense Research Institute and the Massachusetts Defense Lawyer Assoc., and since 2008, he has been selected to the Super Lawyers Rising Stars list.

Opinion

Editorial

What’s in a name — or a brand?

Sometimes, very little, especially when it comes to government agencies, state or federal offices, or administrative programs. Changes in names and titles undertaken to eliminate confusion and generate progress rarely succeed in those missions.

We don’t believe that will the case with the state’s decision to rebrand, if you will, its many workforce-oriented agencies under the umbrella name MassHire. For example, the Regional Employment Board of Hampden County is now the MassHire Hampden County Workforce Board; CareerPoint in Holyoke is now the MassHire Holyoke Career Center. Springfield-based FutureWorks is now the MassHire Springfield Career Center; you get the idea.

There are 29 career centers and 16 workforce boards across the state, and they are now all unified under the MassHire brand, replacing what were 45 different names.

It sounds like a simple bureaucratic initiative perhaps designed to save money. But it’s much more than that; it’s an effort to simplify matters for job seekers and employers alike and bring more focus and energy to what is easily this state’s biggest and most vexing ongoing issue when it comes to business and economic development — creating and sustaining a large and effective workforce.

Rebranding to MassHire won’t solve all the problems, but it will make the system that’s been created — and it is a very good system, to be sure — far more user-friendly and reduce a great deal of confusion about where employers, employees, and job seekers should turn for help.

And a good deal of help is needed when it comes to each of those constituencies.

For employers, these are very intriguing times, as we’ve noted on many occasions and in several different ways. The economy is chugging along and doing very well in most respects. Many companies across a number of sectors are in a growth mode, but they are challenged — as in severely challenged — to find talented help that will enable them to achieve that growth.

Rebranding to MassHire won’t solve all the problems, but it will make the system that’s been created — and it is a very good system, to be sure — far more user-friendly and reduce a great deal of confusion about where employers, employees, and job seekers should turn for help.

It’s a numbers game, and it’s reaching a critical stage as unemployment rates continues to fall, even in urban markets such as Springfield and Holyoke, where they have been consistently higher than the state and national averages. In fact, in many states, and in this one, according to most accounts, we’re at what’s known as full employment.

That’s a technical term to describe a situation where, by and large, everyone who needs a job, and is qualified to hold one, has one. Full employment is a good thing, in most respects, but it’s also a dangerous state, because employers are under more duress as they look to fill their ranks.

Meanwhile, this situation is made much worse by the huge numbers of Baby Boomers that are retiring each year.

The phrase you hear most often these days, whether it’s the manufacturing sector (that’s probably where it’s heard most) or healthcare, or even financial services, is that candidates ‘lack the skills’ companies require. The career centers and workforce boards were created to help people acquire those skills and make them workforce-ready.

But because each one had a different name, there was often confusion about just where employers and employees should turn to get the help they needed.

As we said, rebranding to MassHire is not, by itself, going to solve the many workforce challenges facing this state. But it is a big step forward in many respects.

What’s in a name? In this case, plenty.

MGM Springfield

In Good Company

Editor’s Note: From the start, one of the main focal points of the discussion involving MGM Springfield has been the employment opportunities it will bring to the region. Overall, MGM has had to fill roughly 3,000 positions, and it’s filled most of them with residents of the 413. With each job awarded, there is a story. Here are five of them:

Karisma Roach

Karisma Roach

Name: Karisma Roach
Age: 24
Residence: Springfield
Position: Cage Cashier

Why did you seek employment at MGM Springfield?:

I’ve been looking for a better job opportunity for so long and it is finally here. When I came from St. Thomas a couple years ago I never thought I would have the opportunity to build my career at such an amazing company.”

What does this opportunity mean for you?:

This feels just like a dream come true. This is my first full-time and steady job. I remember I cried when I got the position, because I really needed it. I have no words to describe how I feel. But I feel like I’m part of MGM Springfield. I love the management and the staff.”

 

Keishla Morales

Keishla Morales

Name: Keishla Morales
Age: 21
Residence: Springfield
Position: Table Games Dealer

Why did you seek employment at MGM Springfield?:

First of all, I think that MGM is one of the biggest companies worldwide, but most of all in United States. I am taking advantage of the opportunity of working for the first casino at Springfield. This is my reward for all my hard-work successfully completing the Blackjack and Carnival Games courses at MCCTI.”

What does this opportunity mean for you?:

This opportunity means EVERYTHING to me. I have never gambled before, but now I love dealing cards. I’m thankful for all the instructors that helped me out in the process. I’ve had so many struggles in my short life, but being part of this company makes me feel that I can finally take control and secure my future. It makes me feel that I will be able to raise and provide my daughter everything she needs. I’m very happy to finally be here. I look forward to being in the casino life and meet all my co-workers. This experience makes me feel excited, comfortable, but most of all thankful.”

Miguel Figueroa

Miguel Figueroa

Name: Miguel Figueroa
Age: 43
Residence: Longmeadow
Position: Executive Chef at TAP Sports Bar

Why did you seek employment at MGM Springfield?:

I saw the opportunity to grow and the stability the company provides. It’s exciting to grow a concept like TAP. I’m very lucky to lead an outlet like this. I’ve been to Vegas a few times, and I thought it would be great to have something like that in Springfield. It was a no-brainer when I was asked to join the team.”

What does this opportunity mean for you?:

This means a lot. It solidifies that I have made it far, and my hard work has paid off. Running this operation means the world to me, and gives me a sense of pride. Leading one of the outlets the casino has is the ultimate goal as a chef. It separates the good from the great. I feel like I have arrived.

Timothy Mock

Timothy Mock

Name: Timothy Mock
Age: 40
Residence: Connecticut (Moving to Springfield)
Position: Security Officer

Why did you seek employment at MGM Springfield?:

I wanted to be a part of the SHOW. I am a people person, and I love helping people. I wanted to meet different types of people from all different cultures, and MGM provides that. I wanted to be a part of it all.”

What does this opportunity mean for you?:

Working here allows me to be me. I’m fun-loving, outgoing, and I love life. This is who I am. I appreciate MGM for giving me this opportunity. It’s dear to my heart. Being chosen to be a part of this family is very special, and I get to embark on this journey of my life.

Jonathan De Arce

Jonathan De Arce

Name: Jonathan De Arce
Age: 32
Residence: Springfield
Position: Executive chef for the South End Market

Why did you seek employment at MGM Springfield?:

Because I’m from Springfield! I heard about this property since the beginning. I went to Boston for five years, I gained experience, and as soon as I knew that this was real I knew it was my opportunity to come back. I know what MGM Springfield means to the area, I’m aware of where this city has been, and excited about where it is going to be very soon.

What does this opportunity mean for you?:

It means everything! The possibilities are endless. Learning from all the leaders, being able to receive training in Vegas, visiting other properties, meeting all the Executives, this is definitely an eye opener! Sky is the limit!”

Employment

Talking Pot

By Erica E. Flores, Esq.

It took almost two years, but Massachusetts regulators have finally started to issue licenses to businesses looking to grow, manufacture, distribute, and sell recreational marijuana products in the Commonwealth.

The first license went to a cultivation facility in Milford back in June; since then, the Cannabis Control Commission has issued licenses to six other businesses, including provisional licenses for retail locations in Northampton and Easthampton.

Erica E. Flores, Esq.

Erica E. Flores, Esq.

Despite this progress, however, retailers cannot open their doors just yet — retail marijuana products must be tested for various contaminants before they can be sold, and the commission has yet to issue a license to a testing facility. But with the licensing process finally picking up steam, and public pressure on the commission to allow the voter-approved industry to take root, Western Massachusetts employers may be wondering how these changes will affect their workplace and what they can or should be doing to prepare.

Here’s what you need to know now:

Marijuana in the breakroom?

The recreational marijuana law specifically provides that it “shall not require an employer to permit or accommodate conduct otherwise allowed by [the law] in the workplace,” and further, that it “shall not affect the authority of employers to enact and enforce workplace policies restricting the consumption of marijuana by employees.”

This means that employers who pre-screen job applicants for marijuana, have drug-free workplace policies that prohibit employees from working under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and who conduct other lawful drug tests of employees may continue their current practices, and need not accommodate an employee’s use of marijuana for recreational purposes, even when they are off duty.

That being said, the availability of marijuana products for sale at retail locations (and, eventually, at so-called “cannabis cafes”) will likely drive an increase in marijuana use by adults across the state. This means that employers may see a rise in positive drug-test results by applicants and those who are subject to random testing. Employers may also see an uptick in employees arriving to work impaired and/or using marijuana products on the job.

To combat these potential problems, employers who have drug-free workplace policies might consider issuing reminder notices to employees making clear that their policies apply to marijuana just like they do to alcohol, which is also legal.

Employers may also want to adopt a reasonable-suspicion drug-testing program, if they do not have one already, and train their managers and human resources professionals about how to recognize the signs and symptoms of marijuana impairment and how to properly document their observations. Such evidence, in combination with a positive test result, can help an employer prove that its reasons for disciplining or terminating an employee were legitimate should the employee challenge that decision in a legal forum, particularly given the fact that currently available drug-testing methods do not measure current impairment; they can only detect that the drug is in an employee’s system.

Drug-testing Considerations

Employers may also want to reconsider the scope of their pre-employment drug-testing programs. Such tests are legal in Massachusetts, but a 2016 decision out of the Mass. Superior Court suggests that employers who screen applicants for non-safety-sensitive positions run the risk of being sued for an invasion of privacy. Accordingly, employers can reduce their risk of a privacy claim (and possible liability) by eliminating marijuana from the testing panel for non-safety-sensitive positions or even doing away with drug screens for such positions altogether.

“… employers who have drug-free workplace policies might consider issuing reminder notices to employees making clear that their policies apply to marijuana just like they do to alcohol, which is also legal.”

Finally, employers should be prepared to address requests by prospective and current employees to tolerate the use of marijuana as a reasonable accommodation for a disability. Last year, the Supreme Judicial Court ruled that Massachusetts employers have a legal obligation to accommodate a disabled employee’s off-site, off-duty use of medical marijuana, pursuant to a valid prescription, unless there is an “equally effective alternative” or the employer can demonstrate that the accommodation would be unduly burdensome.

The decision relied, in part, on the language of the medical marijuana law, which guarantees to registered users the continued benefit of all “rights and privileges.” But many disabled employees may choose to bypass the medical marijuana registration process when they are able to obtain the drug at a recreational shop, potentially at a lower cost, while avoiding the cost, time and potential stigma associated with becoming a registered medicinal user. Must these employees also be accommodated?

Technically, the SJC’s decision applies only to employees who have registered as part of the medical marijuana program. Additionally, both the legislature and the Cannabis Control Commission may seek to keep it that way. To be sure, it may not be such a good idea for doctors and other healthcare providers to be able to recommend marijuana as a treatment for a medical condition without going through the process that would enable them to actually prescribe the drug.

Further, it may be bad public policy to encourage disabled persons to self-medicate by using marijuana products that are designed for recreational use as medication. On the other hand, if an employee can demonstrate a disabling condition and the absence of an equally effective alternative to marijuana, allowing employers to deny the accommodation just because the employee obtained the drug at a recreational shop seems somewhat arbitrary.

Bottom Line

These competing considerations are not likely to be resolved all at once, and certainly not right away. So employees who do not want to risk becoming the test case should give some thought to the pros and cons of accommodating such employees and devise a strategy that makes the most sense for their unique business.

When in doubt, employers should consider retaining employment counsel to help them navigate these difficult and ever-changing legal issues.

Erica E. Flores is an attorney at the firm Skoler, Abbott & Presser, P.C.; (413) 737-4753 or [email protected]

Employment

Language Course

 By Timothy M. Netkovick, Esq.

Big changes may be on the horizon regarding non-competition agreements. For the first time, there may be legal restrictions on the terms of those agreements, and, in a major development, employers may be required to pay former employees during the non-compete period.

This is the result of a bill passed by the Massachusetts state legislature that, if signed by Gov. Baker, will mandate the timing of non-competition agreements, the employees who can enter into those agreements, and certain language within the agreement.

Timothy M. Netkovick, Esq

Timothy M. Netkovick, Esq

Employers use non-competition agreements in order to protect their business interest in the event an employee leaves the company and begins to work for a competitor. In that scenario, the now former employee could be motivated to entice clients to their new place of business or to use confidential information of the former employer for the benefit of a competitor.

Historically, there has been little restriction on the contents of a non-competition agreement other than what terms would be enforced by a court in the event of a dispute. However, that may be about to change. If signed by Gov. Baker, the bill states that a non-competition agreement will need to include:

• A reasonable geographic reach in relation to the interest sought to be protected;

• A reasonable scope of the activities prevented;

• That the agreement be supported by a garden-leave clause (more on that later); and

• That the agreement comply with public policy.

The new bill is the result of the Legislature’s perception that non-competition agreements have become overused in the Commonwealth. As such, the bill requires that certain steps be taken at each stage of the employment process. At the outset, the bill mandates that non-competition agreements are unenforceable against:

• Nonexempt employees under the Fair Labor Standards Act (hourly workers);

• Interns;

• Employees terminated without cause or due to layoff; and

• Employees under 18 years old.

In a typical scenario, non-competition agreements are entered into at the beginning of the employment relationship, and can be included as part of the employee’s ‘on boarding’ documents, along with a copy of the Employee Handbook and other standard documents.

The Legislature’s apparent concern is that an employee could sign a non-competition agreement without understanding what they are signing.

In order to protect employees, the bill requires that a non-competition agreement must be entered into by the earlier of a formal offer of employment or 10 business days before the start of employment. In addition, the agreement must be signed by both the employer and the employee and, further, must include a statement that the employee has the right to consult with counsel of their choosing prior to entering into the agreement. In effect, this makes a non-competition agreement the subject of a separate negotiation well prior to the first day of employment.

In the event the agreement is entered into after employment has started, the bill requires that there be a 10-day waiting period before the agreement becomes effective, and that it include the same statement that the employee has the right to consult with counsel of their choosing prior to entering into the agreement.

The bill further requires that “fair and reasonable consideration” be exchanged in order to support the agreement. The bill doesn’t state what “fair and reasonable consideration” is, however, it specifically states that “fair and reasonable consideration” must be more than just the employee’s continued employment.

Since there is no definition of “fair and reasonable consideration,” there can be a variety of potential interpretations as to what that phrase means. Could it be a raise for the employee to support the agreement? A bonus? Unfortunately, the legislation is silent. However, it is clear from the overall text of the legislation that the intent is for more than just nominal consideration, i.e. $1.00.

For the most part, once the agreement is signed, the bill adapts the standards typically used by Massachusetts courts in enforcing non-competition agreements in terms of duration and scope. For instance, Massachusetts courts have typically held that non-competition agreements are enforceable so long as they are reasonable in time and scope.

Courts have also typically interpreted non-competition agreements narrowly in terms of enforcing the agreement for a short period of time and limited to the areas where the employee actually performed services for the former employer. In addition, several professions are exempt from non-competition agreements due to public policy reasons, such as doctors and lawyers.

The major potential change is the requirement for employers to pay their former employees during the non-compete period. Under the bill, the agreement must be supported by a “garden leave clause” or other mutually agreed upon consideration. The bill defines a “garden leave clause” as 50% of the employee’s highest annualized salary within the two years preceding termination. In effect, employers will be required to pay the former employee not to work during the non-compete period.

In addition to the other provisions put in place, it seems that the Legislature’s goal is to provide an additional disincentive for an employer to enter into a noncompetition agreement unless the employer views it as absolutely necessary for a legitimate business interest. Given the other restrictions in terms of the category of employees specifically excluded from entering into non-competition agreements, it’s clear that the Legislature intends for non-competition agreements to apply to only executive or upper level management.

If enacted, these new requirements will require employers to review and modify their existing non-competition agreements. Employers will want to monitor the situation and consult their employment counsel regarding any revisions that may be necessary before they seek to enter into new agreements, or run the risk that those agreements will be unenforceable when the employer needs them the most.

Timothy M. Netkovick, an attorney at Royal, P.C., has 15 years of litigation experience. He has successfully tried several cases to verdict. In addition to his trial experience, he has specific experience in handling labor and employment matters before a variety of administrative agencies including the Mass. Commission Against Discrimination, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, National Labor Relations Board, and Department of Industrial Accidents. He also assists employers with unionized workforces during collective bargaining, at arbitrations, and with respect to employee grievances and unfair labor practice charges; (413) 586-2288.

Law

Degrees of Improvement

By Kayla Ebner

Claudia Quintero was inspired by a lawyer who helped her — and now gets to do the same for others.

Claudia Quintero was inspired by a lawyer who helped her — and now gets to do the same for others.

In the years immediately following the Great Recession, many law-school graduates were challenged to find employment, let alone their dream job. But the picture is gradually improving, as evidenced by the experiences of recent graduates of Western New England University School of Law.

Claudia Quintero calls it her dream job.

That’s how she characterized the position she landed as a migrant/farmworkers staff attorney at the Central West Justice Center in downtown Springfield.

It’s a dream job, because she’s doing essentially what she always wanted to do and what she went to Western New England University School of Law to do — help people, but especially in the same way that an attorney helped her when she was 16 years old.

She met an attorney through a legal-services program in Los Angeles, where she grew up, who helped her apply for and obtain her permanent residence in just five short months. Quintero was always impressed and grateful for her own attorney’s diligence, and thought, “I want to be just like her.”

Like she said, hers is a dream job.

And those have been quite hard for law-school graduates to attain in recent years. In fact, for some time after the Great Recession, taking any job became the goal and, for most, a hard reality.

But the situation is improving, said Laura Fisher, director of Law Career Services at WNEU Law. She used the phrase “pretty steady” to describe the current climate, and while that’s a long way from ‘robust,’ ‘healthy,’ ‘solid,’ or other, more positive terms, it represents an improved picture and a better forecast for recent graduates.

“When the economy really took a hit in 2008 and 2009, every sector of the economy was disrupted, including law schools and law graduates,” said Fisher, adding, however, that “we’re seeing a rebound now.”

She offered some numbers to back up those words.

At WNEU Law, the class of 2017 graduated 101 students. According to data from the American Bar Assoc. (ABA), 43 of those graduates were employed at long-term, full-time, bar-passage-required jobs 10 months after graduation. Nineteen graduates were employed at what are known as ‘JD advantage jobs,’ meaning passage of the bar exam is not required, but that having a juris doctor degree provides a significant advantage.

Of the 101 graduates, eight were unemployed and seeking. Others were employed at both professional and non-professional positions or seeking a graduate degree full-time.

“The 10-month report for the class of 2017 indicates that the percentage of students with full-time, bar-passage-required, JD advantage, and other professional positions is 71.2%,” said Fisher. “This figure is approximately equivalent to, but slightly elevated, over the previous year, which was 68.9%.”

Laura Fisher

Laura Fisher

The ABA gathered that, nationally, 75.3% of the class of 2017 had long-term, full-time jobs requiring or preferring JDs. This is an increase from the previous year’s sum of 72.6%. However, the ABA credits the higher percentage of employment to “an approximately 6% decrease in the size of graduating classes at law schools nationally” (more on that later).

“When the economy really took a hit in 2008 and 2009, every sector of the economy was disrupted, including law schools and law graduates. We’re seeing a rebound now.”

Slicing through all those numbers, Fisher sees an improving job market and more opportunities for the school’s graduates — in the field of law, but also other sectors where a law degree is quite valuable, and these sentiments are reflected in the experiences of some of WNEU’s recent graduates, like Quintero.

For this issue and its focus on law, BusinessWest talked with Fisher and several recent graduates to get some barometric readings on the job market and where a law degree can take someone these days. For many, their landing spot was, in fact, a dream job.

Cases in Point

In 2013, the graduating class at WNEU included 133 students, said Fisher, summoning more numbers to get her points across. At that time, 49 students were employed at long-term, full-time, bar-passage-required jobs.

Although the class size at WNEU has decreased since then, Fisher said this is entirely by design. She noted that WNEU, along with other schools, are keeping the class sizes at “a reasonable size that’s reflective of what the market entails.”

Daniel carey

Daniel carey

Despite smaller class sizes, Fisher believes these numbers do not reflect a lack of opportunity in the job market.

“Although the market out there still feels pretty flat and we’re being careful about the number of law students we’re producing, I still feel like there’s plenty of opportunity out there,” she said. “Our alumni go on to do wonderful things.”

“Law school to me seemed like a natural way to really combine a lot of my interests and abilities. I’ve always kind of viewed the law as a way to help people.”

And she used that phrase to describe work both inside and outside the courtroom.

Daniel Carey, assistant district attorney (ADA) at the Northwestern District Attorney’s office and WNEU Law class of 2017 graduate, fits into both categories.

“Law school to me seemed like a natural way to really combine a lot of my interests and abilities,” said Carey. “I’ve always kind of viewed the law as a way to help people.”

Beginning law school in 2013, he was looking for a way to get his foot in the door, so he applied for a job at the DA’s office. He landed one as district court administrator, working behind-the-scenes to help the ADAs. He’s been there ever since, but has continued to move his way up. Since starting his role as ADA, Carey has served as director of the Drug Diversion and Treatment program for two years, a new initiative he helped launch for people struggling with addiction. It assists with treatment, rather than putting people through traditional criminal-justice prosecution.

In addition to his role at the DA’s office, he also served on the Easthampton School Committee and was elected to the Easthampton City Council. And he’s currently running for state representative — a significant change in career-path course from his original plan of being a high-school English teacher.

He is not the only one who was initially unaware of where a law career could take them. Nicole Mule, another member of WNEU’s class of 2017, did not know she was interested in law until she took classes during her time as an undergrad.

Nicole Mule

Nicole Mule

With a major in criminal justice and a minor in communication at the University of New Haven, she was required to take several law courses that were taught by lawyers. She mentioned that the classes were taught very much like they are in law school.

“It made me realize why advocating for businesses was so important. As an attorney, I can have a significant effect on my clients’ businesses for their benefit.”

“After that, I was hooked,” she told BusinessWest.

When in law school, she noted that she did not put all her focus into one practice area, and eventually gravitated toward employment law. In 2016, she accepted a summer position with the firm Robinson+Cole, which has offices in Massachusetts, Connecticut, and several other states, and was offered a job.

She’s currently an associate in the firm’s labor and employment group, representing both public-and private-sector employers in a variety of labor and employment matters.

Both of her jobs during law school helped her realize her love for this profession.

“It made me realize why advocating for businesses was so important,” said Mule. “As an attorney, I can have a significant effect on my clients’ businesses for their benefit.”

Firm Resolve

Both Carey and Mule graduated with law degrees but have gone on to completely different professions. This wide variety of career options is another reason why the job market for law school graduates is doing better than it was 10 years ago.

For Caroline Montiel, another 2017 graduate from WNEU, combining two of her biggest passions was important, and she was able to find the perfect fit.

She completed her undergraduate studies in chemical engineering, and after receiving some inspiration from her host dad while studying abroad in Spain, she decided to get her law degree. However, Montiel had a different experience than some of her peers while applying for jobs during law school.

“I was applying every week, at least one job a day,” said Montiel, adding that she applied to five jobs a weekend. For every 50 applications she filled out, she hoped to get one interview.

After she passed the bar exam, she began her career with a judicial clerkship in Connecticut Superior Court. In mid-June of this year, she began her new job as patent examiner at the Patent Trademark Office in Washington, D.C., working in the field she fell in love with during law school.

Much like Carey, Montiel, and Mule, Quintero completed several internships during her time at law school, including one with the people who helped her obtain permanent residency. She began applying for jobs during her third year of law school, and ended up sending in applications to about 10 jobs. Quintero’s strategy was simple: apply to places where she knew she would be happy.

“I was very picky about the kinds of jobs that I applied to just because I have a very specific thing that I want,” said Quintero. “I don’t like to divert energy or waste time doing things that I know I’m not going be happy doing.”

She got about three offers and ended up at Central West Justice Center. She said she was nervous that she wouldn’t get a job she wanted or that made her happy, but having a strong network was an important factor. Though it was a fairly seamless process for her, she noted that it took some of her friends much longer to find jobs.

“I was very cognizant that I was lucky,” she said.

There are certainly benefits to knowing what you want, and Montiel noted that having an idea of the type of career one wants to go into before starting law school can be very helpful.

Overall, Fisher said she sees that JD-advantage jobs are rising in popularity, both nationally and at WNEU. She noted that a lot more people are using their degrees for JD-advantage jobs in positions like higher education, data privacy, and security.

The JD-advantage sector is a route that students are becoming more interested in, she went on, not because there are fewer jobs elsewhere, but because they are interested in trying alternative paths.

Fisher mentioned that some students choose to opt out of the traditional path at a law firm because it can be stressful, and they want a good work/life balance.

Market Forces

Fisher wouldn’t say the market is booming for law-school grads — again, ‘steady’ was the word she chose, and she chose it carefully — but she does believe there are many opportunities out there in the legal job market because of how valuable it is to have a law degree in countless professions.

“A law degree is valuable far above and beyond how it can help you practice law,” said Fisher. “There’s a lot more you can do with it. Going through the process of learning how to think about laws and regulation and risk, I think all of that just lends itself to creating an employee who’s very aware, very mindful, and very responsible.”

For the graduates, that means a better chance of landing a dream job.

Workforce Development

By the Numbers

By Nikki Graf, Richard Fry, and Cary Funk

Workforce

Employment in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) occupations has grown 79% since 1990, from 9.7 million to 17.3 million, outpacing overall U.S. job growth. There’s no single standard for which jobs count as STEM, and this may contribute to a number of misperceptions about who works in STEM and the difference that having a STEM-related degree can make in workers’ pocketbooks.

A new Pew Research Center analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data takes a broad-based look at the STEM workforce from 1990 to 2016 based on an analysis of adults ages 25 and older working in any of 74 occupations. These include computer, math, engineering, and architecture occupations, physical scientists, life scientists, and health-related occupations such as healthcare practitioners and technicians.

Here are seven facts about the STEM workforce and STEM training.

1. STEM workers enjoy a pay advantage compared with non-STEM workers with similar levels of education. Among those with some college education, the typical full-time, year-round STEM worker earns $54,745 while a similarly educated non-STEM worker earns $40,505, or 26% less.

And among those with the highest levels of education, STEM workers outearn their non-STEM counterparts by a similar margin. Non-STEM workers with a master’s degree typically earn 26% less than STEM workers with similar education. The median earnings of non-STEM workers with a professional or doctoral degree trail their STEM counterparts by 24%.

2. While STEM workers tend to be highly educated, roughly a third have not completed a bachelor’s or higher-level degree. A substantial share (35%) of the STEM workforce does not have a bachelor’s degree. Overall, about three in 10 STEM workers report having completed an associate degree (15%) or have some college education but no degree (14%). These workers are more prevalent among healthcare practitioners and technicians, computer workers, and engineers.

Some 36% of STEM workers have a bachelor’s degree but no graduate degree, while 29% have earned a master’s, doctorate, or professional degree. Life scientists are the most highly educated among STEM workers, with 54% having an advanced degree.

3. About half of workers with college training in a STEM field are working in a non-STEM job. Among workers ages 25 and older with at least a bachelor’s degree, 33% have an undergraduate degree in a STEM field of study. But only 52% of these STEM-trained workers are employed in a STEM occupation.

Among non-STEM occupations, management, business, and finance jobs attract a substantial share of college graduates with STEM training (17%), particularly those who majored in engineering. Roughly a quarter (24%) of engineering majors are in a managerial, business, or finance job.

Overall, among adults with a STEM college major, women are more likely than men to work in a STEM occupation (56% versus 49%). This difference is driven mainly by college graduates with a health-professions major (such as nursing or pharmacy), most of whom are women.

However, 38% of women and 53% of men with a college major in computers or computer science are employed in a computer occupation. And women with a college degree in engineering are less likely than men who majored in these fields to be working in an engineering job (24% versus 30%). These differences in retention within a field of study for women in computer and engineering occupations are in keeping with other studies showing a ‘leaky pipeline’ for women in STEM.

4. STEM training in college is associated with higher earnings, whether working in a STEM occupation or not. Among college-educated workers employed full-time year-round, the median earnings for those who have a STEM college major are $81,011, compared with $60,828 for other college majors.

The earnings advantage for those with a college major in a STEM field extends to workers outside of STEM occupations. Among all non-STEM workers, those who have a STEM college degree earn, on average, about $71,000; workers with a non-STEM degree working outside of STEM earn roughly $11,000 less annually.

5. The share of women varies widely across STEM job types. Women are underrepresented in some STEM job clusters, but in others they match or exceed their share in the U.S. workforce overall. In fact, women comprise three-quarters of healthcare practitioners and technicians, the largest occupational cluster classified as STEM in this analysis, with 9.0 million workers — 6.7 million of whom are women.

And women’s gains since 1990 in the life sciences (up from 34% to 47%) have brought them roughly on par with their share in the total workforce (47%), a milestone reached in math occupations (46%) as well. Women remain underrepresented in engineering (14%), computer (25%), and physical-science (39%) occupations.

6. Women have made significant gains in life and physical sciences, but in other areas their shares have been stable, and in computer jobs it has declined. While there has been significant progress for women’s representation in the life and physical sciences since 1990, the share of women has been roughly stable in several other STEM job clusters.

In engineering, the job cluster in which women have the lowest levels of representation on average, women’s shares have inched up only slightly, from 12% in 1990 to 14% today. And the share of women has actually decreased in one of the highest-paying and fastest-growing STEM clusters — computer occupations. In 1990, 32% of workers in computer occupations were women; today, women’s share has dropped to 25%.

7. Blacks and Hispanics are underrepresented in the STEM workforce relative to their shares in the U.S. workforce as a whole. This underrepresentation is evident across all STEM job clusters, with one exception: 11% of healthcare practitioners and technicians are black, similar to the share of blacks in the total workforce.

Within job clusters, however, the share of blacks and Hispanics varies widely. For example, 37% of licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses are either black or Hispanic. By comparison, other health-related jobs have smaller shares of workers who are black or Hispanic, including physicians and surgeons (11%), pharmacists (10%), dentists (9%), and physical therapists (9%). Just 5% of optometrists, veterinarians, and chiropractors are black or Hispanic.

Asians are overrepresented across all STEM occupational groups, particularly among computer workers and life scientists. They account for 19% of workers in both of these fields, which is much higher than their share in the workforce overall (6%).

The share of Asians varies substantially within occupational groups, however. For example, in engineering jobs, the share of Asians ranges from 30% among computer-hardware engineers to 2% among surveying and mapping technicians. Among healthcare practitioners and technicians, 21% of physicians and surgeons are Asian. But Asians comprise a far smaller share in other occupations, such as veterinarians (3%) and emergency medical technicians and paramedics (2%).

Nikki Graf is a research associate focusing on social and demographic trends at Pew Research Center. Richard Fry is a senior researcher focusing on economics and education at Pew Research Center. Cary Funk is director of science and society research at Pew Research Center.

People on the Move

Local news hires, promotions, awards, and appointments

Daniel Bonelli

Daniel Bonelli

Comcast announced the appointment of Daniel Bonelli as vice president of Finance for the company’s Western New England Region, which includes more than 300 communities in Connecticut, Western Mass., New York, Vermont, and Western New Hampshire. In this role, Bonelli will oversee all financial operations, including finance and accounting, warehouse and materials, information technology, facilities, security, fleet management, and environmental health and safety. Bonelli began his career with Comcast in the Western New England Region in 2007 as a financial analyst. He quickly progressed to manager and then director before being promoted to senior director of Finance in 2014. In 2016, he relocated to the Philadelphia area, where he served as senior director of Finance for one of Comcast’s largest regions, overseeing a team of 60. Bonelli graduated with a bachelor’s degree in finance from Central Connecticut State University.

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Rania Kfuri

MaryLynn Murray

The Women’s Fund of Western Massachusetts (WFWM) announced that Rania Kfuri and MaryLynn Murray have joined its Board of Directors. They will each serve a three-year term. Kfuri currently works as the Communications and Partnerships officer for the Solidago Foundation. Throughout her life experiences, she has worked to support educational opportunities and access to resources that improve the lives of women and girls. She has a professional background in international development, with a master’s degree in ethics, peace, and global affairs from American University in Washington D.C. Murray is vice president for Commercial Lines and Sales at the Insurance Center of New England. She holds an MBA with a concentration in human resources and has been employed in the insurance industry since 2002. She previously served on the board of the Agawam Small Business Assoc. and on the Women’s Fund marketing committee. In addition, new officers elected include Haydee Lamberty-Rodriguez as board president (formerly vice president), Leigh Rae as vice president (formerly board clerk), and Pia Kumar as clerk. Layla Taylor, immediate past board president, will remain on the board through June 2019.

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Valley Venture Mentors CEO Liz Roberts announced that she will be leaving her position as of July 13, at which time current chief operating officer Kristin Leutz will take the helm of the organization that has been dedicated to nurturing entrepreneurship in Western Mass. Roberts plans to depart after a period of growth for Valley Venture Mentors (VVM). During her tenure, she launched the Startup Accelerator program, in which entrepreneurs receive five months of training, mentoring, office space, and access to equity-free funding. Entrepreneurs who graduated from all VVM programs generated $51 million in revenue and fundraising during the past three years, and created 500 full-time and part-time jobs over the course of 2017. The Startup Accelerator program earned recognition as a model rural accelerator by the Obama administration. Prior to joining Valley Venture Mentors as COO in 2017, Leutz served as vice president for Philanthropic Services at the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts, where she helped create programs such as Valley Gives. Leutz also aided entrepreneurs at VVM as a volunteer mentor for many years before joining the team. She has had a career in global philanthropy and business leadership spanning organizations like MassMutual and RefugePoint, a Cambridge- and Nairobi-based, globally recognized social-impact startup. She has led operations, fundraising, and marketing, and brings decades of experience to her role at VVM.

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Patrick Love

Springfield College announced that Patrick Love will serve a two-year interim appointment as vice president for Student Affairs and program director of the Student Personnel Administration (SPA) program, effective Aug. 6.  The college will resume a national search for both positions in 2020. Love will serve as a member of the president’s leadership team in his role as VP for Student Affairs and will work closely with the leadership of the Division of Academic Affairs in his role as SPA program director. He brings to Springfield College a career in higher-education leadership and teaching, spanning managerial work in student affairs and academic affairs, and as a professor in Student Affairs. He is a lifelong educator who focuses on growth, development, and transformation.  He is also an experienced writer, author, speaker, coach, and trainer on leadership and management development.  He has consulted with or spoken at more than 40 colleges and universities, was a tenured professor at two research universities, and is nationally known for his innovative approaches to management as well as a commitment to student education and development.  He is active in both the American College Personnel Assoc. and the National Assoc. of Student Personnel Administrators. Most recently, Love was executive in residence at Bowling Green State University, serving as senior lecturer. Previously, he was vice president for Student Affairs at New York Institute of Technology, associate vice president for Student Affairs at Rutgers University, associate provost for Student Success at Pace University, co-director of the Higher Education Program at New York University, and director of the Master’s Higher Education Program at Kent State University.

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Hector Toledo

Jocelyn Walsh

Jacqueline O’Connell

Joseph Dallair

Greenfield Savings Bank (GSB) announced four team members for its new Hadley office: Hector Toledo, Jocelyn Walsh, Jacqueline O’Connell, and Joseph Dallair. Toledo has been named office manager of the new Hadley office. He joins Greenfield Savings Bank with 28 years of experience in banking. In his role as manager, he will concentrate on business development, in addition to managing the operations of the Hadley Office. Among his volunteer roles for numerous local nonprofit organizations, Toledo is a board member and chair of the finance committee of Baystate Health and a member of the board of the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts. He has previously chaired the board of Springfield Technical Community College and served as a board member of both the YMCA of Greater Springfield and the United Way of Pioneer Valley. Walsh has been promoted to the Hadley office as a super banker. GSB super bankers are customer-service professionals who can assist customers with a wide range of banking services, including account openings, online and mobile banking, as well as account transactions. Before joining the staff in Hadley, she worked for GSB at the Shelburne Falls office for more than two years. O’Connell has joined the staff of the Hadley office as a super banker. She has worked for GSB for more than three years at the Amherst office on University Drive. Dallair has joined the staff of the Hadley office as a teller. Prior to joining the team at Greenfield Savings Bank, he worked for three years in customer-service positions in other industries. He began working at GSB in 2017 as a teller in the Greenfield office.

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Kimberley Lee, a recognized leader in the nonprofit sector of the Western Mass. region, has joined the staff of MHA, a nonprofit provider of residential and support services to people impacted by mental illness, developmental disabilities, substance abuse, and homelessness. Lee is taking on the newly created role of vice president of Resource Development and Branding for MHA. Lee previously served in communications and development roles in several local nonprofit organizations, including CHD, Square One, the Basketball Hall of Fame, and the Community United Way. She has advanced these organizations and the people they serve with an active voice in the community and through vigorous advocacy achieved by constant policy influence at the local, community, and state level. A lifelong resident of Western Mass., Lee earned her bachelor’s degree in mass communication from Westfield State College.

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River Valley Counseling Center (RVCC) named Anna Dyrkacz to be its director of Finance. She was appointed to the position last month by Rosemarie Ansel, RVCC’s executive director. Dyrkacz has more than 17 years experience in the healthcare and human-services industry and came to River Valley Counseling Center from a leadership position at Pathlight. She has also held leadership positions at Southgate Retirement Community, Cooley Dickinson Hospital, and Kindred Healthcare of Springfield. She has a bachelor’s degree and MBA from Western New England University, majoring in finance.

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Jeremy Melton

Florence Bank promoted Jeremy Melton to the position of first vice president/Risk Management, Compliance and Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) officer. Melton joined Florence Bank in 2012. Prior to his recent promotion, he served as vice president/Risk Management, Compliance and CRA officer. Melton supports his community as the board chair and finance/audit committee member at Tapestry. He also serves as a board member for the Western Massachusetts Compliance Assoc.

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Mary Ann Coughlin, associate vice president for Academic Affairs at Springfield College, was recently awarded the John E. Stecklein Distinguished Member Award from the Assoc. for Institutional Research (AIR). The award recognizes an individual whose professional career has significantly advanced the field of institutional research through extraordinary scholarship, leadership, and service. Coughlin has a long-standing relationship with the AIR, including serving as a past president and as a trainer for national workshops sponsored by the association. In 2012, she was the recipient of the Assoc. for Institutional Research Outstanding Service Award, recognizing her professional leadership and exemplary service to AIR and for actively supporting and facilitating the goals and mission of the association. During her tenure at Springfield College, Coughlin has served in a variety of positions, including faculty member, president of the faculty senate, and her current administrative position in Academic Affairs. Coughlin worked as a professor of Research and Statistics at the college prior to moving into administration. In her current role, she supervises academic support services and provides leadership for program review, outcomes assessment, faculty development, student success initiatives, and institutional research.

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The Rotary Club of Springfield elected its new President, Susan Mastroianni, and board of directors at its recent meeting.Originally from the Bronx, N.Y., Mastroianni worked in Springfield for more than 26 years, first as media director for FitzGerald & Robbins Advertising and then as a partner and director of Media Services at FitzGerald & Mastroianni Advertising in Springfield, which closed in 2016. She has been a member of the Rotary Club of Springfield since May 2006. In addition to being president, she chairs the club’s publicity committee also serves as vice president of the board of directors for the Gray House in Springfield. She is a graduate of Marist College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., with a bachelor’s degree in communication arts.

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Every year, the Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women asks every state legislator to nominate someone from their district as an “Unsung Heroine.” For state Rep. Aaron Vega, this year’s pick was Debbie Flynn-Gonzalez, program director at the Gándara Center’s Hope for Holyoke peer-recovery support center. Flynn-Gonzalez began her career in social work as a mental-health clinician performing outreach work in Holyoke 24 years ago before her personal background in recovery led her to work with the recovery community. She launched the first peer-recovery program for pregnant and parenting women in Holyoke and led that program for eight years. She has been program director for three years at Hope for Holyoke, which has 300 active members, with an average of 50 people accessing the center daily. Flynn-Gonzalez earned her bachelor’s degree in social work at UMass Amherst and her master’s degree in counseling and psychology from Cambridge College.

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The United Way of Pioneer Valley announced that Kathryn Dube is serving as interim president and CEO as the board of directors conducts a search for a new CEO. Dube is a former chairman and vice chairman of the board at United Way of Pioneer Valley and has served as chairman to a number of United Way of Pioneer Valley committees. Most recently she was employed as senior advisor for the United Way of Pioneer Valley since her retirement in December 2017 and was recognized as United Way Volunteer of the Year in 2014 and 2015. Prior to retirement, Dube was a senior vice president of Retail Banking and Wealth Management at TD Bank and Berkshire Bank.

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KeyBank recently announced the addition of new retail leaders in markets across Connecticut and Massachusetts. Locally, Brandon Ojakian joined KeyBank with the title of vice president and area retail leader in the Northern Conn. and Western Mass. markets. Ojakian has 20 years of experience in the banking and finance industry. He joins KeyBank from Santander Bank, where he served as a district executive leading branch teams in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island. Prior to Santander, he led several retail regions for Citizens Bank. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Albertus Magnus College.

Employment

Shades of Gray

Free Speech in the WorkplaceRecent high-profile issues around free speech in the workplace — from the NFL’s new national-anthem policy to ABC’s blackballing of Roseanne Barr — have elicited much debate in the public square, with the point often made that private-sector employees have no right to free expression. But that’s not exactly true — or, at least, it’s not as black-and-white as some might believe. That fact creates uncertainty for employers, who must balance their own interests with their employees’ very human desire to speak their mind.

When NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, backed by 31 of 32 owners, announced a new national-anthem policy last month, they hoped it would quell an issue that seemed to be dying down on its own.

They were wrong, to judge by the wave of debate — in the media, online, and among players — that followed, and promises to bleed into the 2018 season. Even President Trump, whom the NFL hoped to placate with the new policy, only intensified his tweeted attacks on players and teams — a tactic he knows plays well to his base.

The new policy removes the existing requirement that players be on the field during the playing of the national anthem, but does require that players who are on the field must stand, and authorizes the NFL to fine teams whose players violate this policy. Supporters of forcing players on the field to stand have repeatedly argued — in internet comment boards and elsewhere — that private employees have no free-speech rights in the workplace.

But is that true?

To a significant degree, it is, area employment lawyers say, but the issue is far more gray than the black-and-white terms on which it’s often debated.

“Obviously, the Bill of Rights is a constraint on government action; clearly, the First Amendment doesn’t restrict what a private-sector employer can do or not do” when it comes to establishing workplace rules, said Timothy Murphy, an attorney with Skoler, Abbott & Presser. “And, if you think about it, the vast majority of employees work in the private sector and are at will, and can be terminated for any reason, as long as it’s not illegal.”

However, he went on, according to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), employees are generally protected when speaking out on issues that impact the workplace. In other words, companies can’t just fire an employer over anything he or she says on social media, even criticism of the company itself — particularly if that criticism specifically targets an employee policy or the workplace environment. In fact, the NLRB has likened such talk to water-cooler chatter, only in a more public forum.

Tim Murphy

Tim Murphy says private-sector workers have far fewer free-speech rights than public-sector workers — but that doesn’t mean they have no rights.

“If you’re taking a knee because you’re concerned about police brutality, are you making a statement on an issue of mutual concern that impacts your workplace?” Murphy asked. “The NLRB does tend to take a broad view of what impacts your workplace. Would something like that be viewed as protected speech under the NLRB? I don’t know.”

Because the NFL’s anthem-policy changes were not collectively bargained with its unionized workforce, they may be susceptible to legal challenge, notes Michael McCann, a sports-law expert who writes for Sports Illustrated. But, intriguingly, free expression of this kind may find even more protection now than before, if a player chooses to file a complaint, because he could argue that kneeling is also a protest against an onerous, hastily implemented workplace policy.

“Players could argue that such a change will impact their wages, hours, and other conditions of employment,” McCann notes. “To that end, a player could insist that, while the new policy does not lead to direct league punishments of players, it nonetheless adversely affects the employment of players who do protest in ways that violate the new policy.”

It’s just one example of many of the ways in which free speech in the workplace is an amorphous beast, pulling in competing issues of discrimination, harassment, and other labor laws.

“That’s why people like me have jobs. The law provides a lot of areas for employers to get in trouble doing things that seem like common sense,” said Daniel Carr, an attorney with Royal, P.C. “It’s entirely reasonable for employers to think employees being critical of them at work are guilty of some egregious conduct, but they may not realize that criticism does contain some protected rights.”

Power to the People

Because the NLRB has established a bit of a record on this front, the issue of speaking out against an employer on social media is a bit clearer right now than other, related situations.

“Generally, if the speech is oriented toward addressing some workplace condition or benefit, if it’s targeted toward concerted activity for the mutual benefit of workers, that can have the largest amount of protection,” Carr said. “But it’s sometimes unclear where the lines are. If you say, ‘company X is awful,’ well, how are they awful? Do they treat their employees badly? That might be protected.”

Daniel Carr

Daniel Carr says employees generally have the right to speak out about work conditions, but it’s sometimes unclear where the lines are.

Even without specifics, he went on, the NLRB has often come down on the side of employees, he noted. For example, saying “the products they sell are terrible” might be protected if someone works on commission, and the product really is terrible, so they don’t sell a lot of them.

“My thinking is, if you work for company X, you couldn’t go online and say, ‘do business with company Y.’ That crosses a line,” he added. “But the NLRB does have a lot of protections for employees criticizing their own companies, and even moreso if the criticism is based on the way employees are treated, or other conditions of employment.”

What to make, then, of the NLRB’s statement in January that Google didn’t violate labor laws last summer when it fired engineer James Damore? He was terminated after distributing a memo criticizing the company’s diversity program.

He filed a complaint, and Jayme Sophir, associate general counsel with the NLRB, concluded that, while some parts of Damore’s memo were legally protected by workplace regulations, “the statements regarding biological differences between the sexes were so harmful, discriminatory, and disruptive as to be unprotected.”

Sophir made it clear that, in this case, an employer’s right to enforce anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policies permits it to restrict the kinds of speech that could lead to a hostile workplace.

“Where an employee’s conduct significantly disrupts work processes, creates a hostile work environment, or constitutes racial or sexual discrimination or harassment,” she noted, “the board has found it unprotected even if it involves concerted activities regarding working conditions.”

Indeed, Carr noted, as one example, employers are expected to grant accommodations for religious expression — certain dress codes, or short breaks for prayer — but not necessary for proselytizing to co-workers.

“There’s a lot of gray area where somebody’s religious beliefs may conflict with somebody else’s protected rights,” he said. “For example, if you have a religious belief against gay marriage, you don’t necessarily have the right to advocate for that in the workplace, where you might potentially discriminate against a gay employee. There are a few areas of anti-discrimination law where one person’s right conflicts with another person’s.”

Even clearer are employers’ rights when it comes to online speech by employees that has nothing to do with work conditions but theatens to cause the company embarrassment or reputational harm — such as ABC shutting down its hit show Roseanne last month after its namesake star, Roseanne Barr, fired off a racist tweet comparing Valerie Jarrett, a prominent African-American woman, to an ape.

Barr’s case is muddled by the fact that the public doesn’t know what stipulations she might have agreed to in her contract — and, considering her past tendencies to be controversial, such stipulations would probably be a wise move by the network.

“That certainly deals with a private employer’s ability to sanction speech it doesn’t agree with,” Murphy noted, adding that employers have much more to worry about in this realm than it did a decade or more ago. “These days, reputational damage can go viral at the drop of a hat, and employers want to be able to act to protect their brands.”

To measure the speed at which this can happen, look no further than the Justine Sacco debacle of 2013. A senior corporate communications director for IAC, an international media firm, she began tweeting travel-related jokes from Heathrow Airport while waiting to board a flight from London to South Africa. The last one was a joke intended ironically: “Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white!” Then she turned off her phone. By the time she turned it back on in Cape Town, she was famous.

Although Sacco had only 170 Twitter followers, tens of thousands of angry responses to her ‘joke’ flooded Twitter, and she even became a trending hashtag, #HasJustineLandedYet — all in the space of a few hours. By day’s end, IAC had fired her. She’s certainly not the only employee to run afoul of an employer’s right to protect its brand through such a termination; Barr is just the latest in a long string of cases.

Public or Private?

It’s clear, Carr said, that private-sector employees need to be more careful about what they say than government employees, who do have greater protections.

“It is true that the First Amendment does not apply to private actors; there has to be a government actor. And there’s even some gray area in terms of what is and what is not a private employer,” he said, citing, for example, the example of a private contractor working on a government project.

“It gets tricky because these free-speech kinds of issues are often less about free speech and the First Amendment and more about labor law,” he said, citing, as one example, anti-discrimination laws that protect employees against being fired for religious reasons. “You don’t have an unfettered right to political speech in a private workplace, but there may be some overlapping and intermingling of, say, political speech with protected speech.”

For example, he noted, “the policies that political figures make do often affect the workplace, and insofar as employees have a right to engage in concerted activity, that can become a gray area. For example, somebody is advocating for a candidate that is proposing to pass anti-union legislation, then you’re clearly intermingling political speech with issues of labor law.”

Murphy noted that these issues tend to proliferate around election time, and employers often handle them on an ad hoc basis as they arise. “Employers want a civil workplace, but they don’t want to seem like heavy-handed censors. I’ve never seen a policy that deals with talking politics or the issues of the day at work; in general, employers say, ‘for everybody’s sanity, let’s try not to ratchet this up too much.’ Because these issues reflect society, and there can be a lot of hard feelings.”

On the matter of off-duty speech, on the other hand, employers are often taken aback by what the law and NLRB rulings actually say, Murphy said. “Is off-duty misconduct something employers have a right to weigh in on or sanction? Most employers say, ‘yes, we do, if it impacts our reputation or customers.’”

Some wrinkles of labor law have decades of case guidance behind them, Carr noted, while others are fairly new — social media being a prime example. “As each successive change in the law occurs, there’s a huge lag in getting guidance from judges. And for every law that’s passed, it’s impossible for us to predict all the possible eventualities. That’s what the judicial system is for — to interpret the law and define those edges.”

That said, he added, there has been a feeling in the legal world that the NLRB under the current administration may be amenable to clawing back some of the speech protections it originally granted employees.

“The pendulum is swinging back a little bit,” Murphy agreed. “They’re actually looking anew at some of those decisions and rules about employers’ handbooks and social-media policies. Generally, under the NLRB, you can speak out about matters of mutual concern among employees. But that’s fluid.”

At the end of the day, he went on, employers simply want a productive workforce and resist anything that might stir the pot, whether it’s a peaceful demonstration in favor of racial justice, an unhinged tweet that promotes racial strife, or something in between.

“There are people who say we’ve become less tolerant as a society and we’re not respectful enough of opposing viewpoints. They say, ‘get out of the bunker and listen to your employees; you don’t necessarily need to be censors,’” Murphy said. “But an employer’s primary responsibility is to protect that business and brand. That’s what they’re up against.”

Joseph Bednar can be reached at [email protected]

Employment

Under Pressure

By Marylou Fabbo

In the year that’s passed since President Donald Trump signed the Buy American and Hire American Executive Order, there’s been increased federal scrutiny on the employment-based visa petition process that has made it more difficult for businesses to hire foreign employees.

President Trump and other critics of employment visa programs believe they displace American workers and drive down wages, while employers maintain they need foreign labor to fill jobs that Americans are not willing or qualified to fill. So far, however, the administration’s actions have taken place through heightened agency action, such as government I-9 audits and immigration ‘raids,’ rather than legislation.

Enforcement Action Substantially Increased

When it comes to employing non-immigrant workers, the message is clear: companies’ hiring practices must be able to withstand heightened scrutiny. In September 2017, Asplundh Tree Expert Co. was ordered to pay a record fine of $95 million for employing thousands of unauthorized alien workers.

The U.S. Customs and Immigration Services (often referred to as ICE) has implemented a worksite-enforcement strategy that focuses on criminal prosecution of employers, human-resources personnel, and talent officers who knowingly hire illegal workers or are ‘willfully blind’ to the same. ICE has already doubled the number of worksite-enforcement cases that it pursued all of its last fiscal year. In New England alone, ICE made more than 680 arrests during the first quarter of its fiscal year. Even companies that don’t employ any immigrants or foreign workers are subject to an ICE audit and can face significant fines and penalties for things such as failing to fully and accurately complete I-9 forms for U.S. citizens.

Number of H-1B Visa Petitions Down

President Trump’s Buy American and Hire American Executive Order is purportedly designed to increase wages, protect the jobs of U.S. citizens, and increase employment rates. Among other things, the order requires federal agencies to review and propose new rules and guidance to protect the interests of U.S. workers and to prevent fraud and abuse in the H-1B visa program. This program allows companies in the U.S. to temporarily employ foreign workers in occupations that require the theoretical and practical application of a body of highly specialized knowledge and a bachelor’s degree or higher in the specific specialty, or its equivalent. H-1B specialty occupations typically include fields such as science, engineering, and information technology.

About 65,000 regular visas and 20,000 masters-level visas are awarded each year through a lottery system, although the ultimate goal is to switch to a point-based merit system. While ICE received more than double the amount of petitions needed to fill the quotas, the total number of petitions submitted decreased by about 10,000 from last year and has decreased more than 50% since its high in 2016. Trump’s executive order — designed to reform the H-1B visa program by making it more difficult to get such a visa — may be driving some away from using the program at all.

Spouse Employment Authorizations Likely to Be Rescinded

Certain spouses of H-1B workers may be eligible to work pursuant to an H-4 visa. However, the Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security have stated that they intend to rescind employment authorization for H-4 visa holders, and it now appears that at least some form of the rescission is likely to take place in the near future.

Yet, some questions remain unanswered. Will current H-4 visa holders be able to renew them? Will there be a drop-dead date after which H-4 authorization is no longer valid at all? What’s clear is that employers who hire H-4 workers need to start thinking about alternate means of legally employing them.

Tougher Standards for H-1B Workers at Third-party Locations

ICE also has increased the scrutiny on employers who petition for H-1B employees and intend to place them at third-party sites. Earlier this year, ICE issued a policy memorandum stating that, for an H-1B visa petition involving a third-party worksite to be approved, the petitioner must show “by a preponderance of evidence” that, among other things, the worker will be employed in a specialty occupation and the petitioning employer will maintain an employer-employee relationship with the beneficiary for the duration of the requested validity period. The third-party recipient of the H-1B worker will also have to come up with some evidence corroborating what the employer provides.

Organizations that provide H-1B workers to third parties should be prepared to respond to requests for evidence beyond what they have experienced in the past, denials of petitions, and, possibly, the granting of H-1B visas for less than the usual three-year period.

Moving Forward

Employers should expect the Trump administration to continue to aggressively pursue immigration reform. Like the visas mentioned in this article, the state of those with C-33 visas — non-immigrants who have been granted Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), remains up in the air, and employers that have DACA recipients with employment authorization may face the loss of the ability to continue their employment.

Companies that have not already done so should carefully review their hiring practices and evaluate alternate means of employing non-immigrant workers regardless of their current visa status. Those employers that have H-1B workers at third-party sites should scrutinize their vendors and their contracts with those third parties. And, perhaps most importantly, companies should make sure their I-9s and other immigration-based records are complete and accurate. u

Marylou Fabbo is a partner and head of the litigation team at Skoler, Abbott & Presser, P.C. She provides counsel to management on taking proactive steps to reduce the risk of legal liability that may be imposed as the result of illegal employment practice, and defends employers faced with lawsuits and administrative charges filed by current and former employees; (413) 737-4753; [email protected]

Chamber Corners Departments

1BERKSHIRE

www.1berkshire.com

(413) 499-1600

• May 16: Chamber Nite & BYP Networking Social, 5-7 p.m., hosted by Dalton Union, 395 Main St., Dalton. Join us for our joint May Chamber Nite and BYP Social at Union Block in downtown Dalton with participating businesses: Hot Harry’s, Berkshire Dream Home, Therapeutic Massage & Wellness, Academy Mortgage Corp., Horace Mann Insurance, McMahon & Vigeant, P.C., Wheeler & Taylor Insurance, Dalton Restaurant, New England Dynamark Security, and 2 Flights Up Dance & Game Studio. Cost: free. Register online at www.1berkshire.com.

GREATER CHICOPEE CHAMBER OF COMMERCE

www.chicopeechamber.org

(413) 594-2101

• May 16: Salute Breakfast, 7:15-9 a.m., at Munich Haus, 13 Center St., Chicopee. Chief greeter: Chicopee Mayor Richard Kos. Keynote Speaker: Kim Kenney-Rockwal, Elms MBA. Sponsored by United Personnel, Westfield Bank, Holyoke Medical Center, Polish National Credit Union, Gaudreau Group, Sunshine Village, Spherion Staffing Services, and PeoplesBank. Cost: $23 for members, $28 for non-members. Sign up online at chicopeechamber.org/events.

• May 18: Chicopee Chamber of Commerce Annual Golf Tournament, 10 a.m. shotgun start, hosted by Chicopee Country Club, 1290 Burnett Road, Chicopee. Presented by Polish National Credit Union. Sponsored by Gaudreau Group, First American Insurance Agency Inc., Westfield Bank, Holyoke Medical Center, Poly-Plating Inc., N. Riley Construction, Hampton Inn, Residence Inn of Chicopee, Tru by Hilton, and Health New England. Cost: $125 per golfer, $500 per team of four, and/or $20 golfer package that includes 25 raffle tickets and one mulligan. Sign up online at chicopeechamber.org/events.

• May 31: Sunshine Soiree, a multi-chamber networking event, 5-7 p.m., hosted by Sunshine Village, 75 Litwin Lane, Chicopee. The event will feature complimentary hors d’oeuvres, wine, and beer. Register in advance for this free event online at springfieldyps.com.

GREATER EASTHAMPTON CHAMBER OF COMMERCE

www.easthamptonchamber.org

(413) 527-9414

• May 24: Chamber on the Vine, 5:30-8:30 p.m., a wine-tasting event hosted by Glendale Ridge Vineyard, 155 Glendale Road, Southampton. Taste wine, enjoy local food, and listen to the music of Trailer Trash. Cost: $20 to enjoy the music, $30 to taste the wine. Pre-registration is a must. For more information, visit www.easthamptonchamber.org or call (413) 527-9414.

• June 14: Networking by Night, 5-7 p.m., hosted by Fort Hill Brewery, 30 Fort Hill Road, Easthampton. Sponsored by Oxbow Ski Show Team and Tandem Bagel. Food and door prizes will be available. Pre-registration is suggested. Cost: $10 for members, $15 for non-members. For more information, visit www.easthamptonchamber.org or call the chamber office at (413) 527-9414.

• June 27: Speaker Breakfast 2018, 7:30-9 a.m., hosted and sponsored by Williston Northampton School, 19 Payson Ave., Easthampton. Keynote speaker Kate Harrington, Human Resource manager for Smith College, will speak on “Hiring the Right Fit.” She will help attendees understand how to develop a diverse applicant pool, know what questions to ask, and recognize what questions to avoid. She will also point out what to look for in a great employee and how to watch for bias. Cost: $25 for members, $30 for non-members. Pre-registration is suggested. For more information, visit www.easthamptonchamber.org or call the chamber office at (413) 527-9414.

GREATER HOLYOKE CHAMBER OF COMMERCE

www.holyokechamber.com

(413) 534-3376

• May 16: Chamber After Hours, 5-7 p.m., hosted by Holyoke Hummus, 285 High St., Holyoke. Meet up with your business associates for a little networking while hosts John and Dawn whip up some munchies. Cost: $10 for members, $15 for non-members. Feel free to bring a door prize. Sign up online at holyokechamber.com.

• May 23: Leadership Holyoke Information Session, 5-7 p.m., hosted by Holyoke Community College, Frost Building, Room 309, 303 Homestead Ave., Holyoke. Join the Greater Holyoke Chamber of Commerce and Holyoke Community College for a free information session for Leadership Holyoke 2018-19. The program is designed for emerging leaders within in the community to sharpen their skills, meet local leaders, and more.

GREATER NORTHAMPTON CHAMBER OF COMMERCE

www.explorenorthampton.com

(413) 584-1900

• May 17: Workshop: “Microsoft Excel Tips, Tricks & Shortcuts,” 9-11 a.m., hosted by Greater Northampton Chamber of Commerce, 99 Pleasant St., Northampton. Presented by Pioneer Training. This workshop will present our favorite tips, tricks, and shortcuts we have collected and developed over 20 years of teaching and using Microsoft Excel. Participants are encouraged to bring laptops and follow along with the instructor, but this is not required. Cost: $35 for members, $45 for non-members. Pre-registration required at goo.gl/forms/pX8YUuC25YdMsLjD2.

• June 6: June Arrive @ 5, 5-7 p.m., hosted by Glendale Ridge Vineyard, 155 Glendale Road, Southampton. Sponsored by Northeast Solar, MassDevelopment, and Kuhn Riddle Architects. A networking event. Cost: $10 for members.

• June 21: Workshop: “Microsoft Word: Advanced Tips, Tricks & Shortcuts,” 9-11 a.m., hosted by Greater Northampton Chamber of Commerce, 99 Pleasant St., Northampton. Presented by Pioneer Training. This workshop will go beyond the basics and explore some of Word’s more advanced features. Cost: $35 for members, $45 for non-members. Space is limited, and pre-registration is required at goo.gl/forms/pX8YUuC25YdMsLjD2.

SOUTH HADLEY & GRANBY CHAMBER OF COMMERCE

www.shgchamber.com

(413) 532-6451

• May 21: After 5 at the Ledges Golf Course, 5-6:30 p.m., hosted by the Ledges, 18 Mulligan Dr., South Hadley. An evening of networking with other community business leaders while overlooking the Connecticut River Valley and Mount Tom across the way. Sponsored by the Ledges Golf Course. Cost: $10 for members, $15 for non-members. Pre-register by May 15 by contacting Sara Lawrence at (413) 532-6451 or [email protected]

• June 1: Annual Legislative Breakfast, 7:30-9 a.m., hosted by the Orchards Golf Club, 18 Silverwood Terrace, South Hadley. Meet with our town and state legislators, who will talk about the hot issues upcoming for the rest of the year. More details to come. By reservation only at [email protected]

SPRINGFIELD REGIONAL CHAMBER

www.springfieldregionalchamber.com

(413) 787-1555

• May 15: C-Suite Conversations & Cocktails, 5-7 p.m., hosted by CityStage, One Columbus Center, Springfield. Exclusive members-only event. Cost: $25 for members ($30 at the door). Reservations may be made at www.springfieldregionalchamber.com, [email protected], or (413) 755-1310.

• May 31: Sunshine Soirée with the Springfield Regional Chamber, the Greater Chicopee Chamber, and YPS, 5-7 p.m., hosted by Sunshine Village, 75 Litwin Lane, Chicopee. Reservations may be made at www.springfieldregionalchamber.com, [email protected], or (413) 755-1310.

WEST OF THE RIVER CHAMBER OF COMMERCE

www.ourwrc.com

(413) 426-3880

• May 17: Networking Lunch, noon, hosted by Springfield Country Club, 1375 Elm St., West Springfield. Must be a member or guest of a member to attend. Enjoy a sit-down lunch while networking with fellow chamber members. Each attendee will get a chance to offer a brief intro and company overview. The only cost to attend is the cost of your lunch if you are a member. Non-member fee: $10. Attendees will order off the menu and pay separately that day. We cannot invoice you for these events. Register at www.westoftheriverchamber.com.

May 22: Job Fair 2018, 3-6 p.m., hosted by Storrowton Tavern/Carriage House, 1305 Memorial Ave., West Springfield. West Springfield and Agawam businesses, along with other employment opportunities, will be showcased. This event is free and open to the public. To be a participating vendor, register online at www.westoftheriverchamber.com.

YOUNG PROFESSIONAL SOCIETY OF GREATER SPRINGFIELD

springfieldyps.com

• May 18: Adult Field Day, 2-5 p.m., Irish Cultural Center, West Springfield, hosted by the Irish Cultural Center, 429 Morgan Road, West Springfield. Adult Field Day is a throwback to elementary school, created with adults in mind. Friends and co-workers will relive their glory days while playing classic games, as well as a few new surprises. For more information, visit springfieldyps.com.

40 Under 40 Class of 2018

Family Lawyer, Law Offices of Alison Silber; Age 34; Education: BA, University of Pennsylvania; JD, University of Maryland

Alison Silber

Alison Silber

Silber is a family lawyer and mediator who owns and runs her own family-law practice in Longmeadow. After clerking on the Superior Court of the District of Columbia for a family-law judge, Silber opened her own practice in 2011. She mediates and litigates all types of divorce and custody matters, including but not limited to complex jurisdictional issues and complicated domestic-violence matters. In addition to her private practice, she also takes on mediations through the Mediation and Training Collaborative in Greenfield and the Family Resolutions Specialty Court in the Hampshire Probate and Family Court.

What did you want to be when you grew up? A Supreme Court Justice. Ruth Bader Ginsburg was appointed when I was in fifth grade, and I still remember feeling like she and Sandra Day O’Connor made space for my friends, me, and all other little girls to attain that height of success in the legal profession.

How do you define success? Success is balance between work, family, and community.

What do you like most about Western Massachusetts? I love the pace of life, which provides the space to be introspective and purposeful about how we all spend our time.

What are you passionate about? As a divorce lawyer, I have the privilege of working closely with my clients to help make their finances work post-divorce, and I have observed that good employment opportunities for my clients seem to be disappearing. On a micro level, I am passionate about helping my clients restructure their lives post-divorce so that they have a living wage, financial security, and the ability to meet their needs. On a macro, nationwide level, I am passionate about ensuring that opportunity for good employment exists for all Americans, not just those who live in certain pockets of the country.

What fictional character do you relate to most, and why? Jo March, from Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, is my favorite. She has a great Massachusetts sensibility, devotion to her family, and a fiery, independent spirit.

What will work colleagues say at your funeral? Hopefully they will give me the best compliment a divorce lawyer can receive — that I have been substantively aggressive while being professional and personally kind.


Photography by Leah Martin Photography

40 Under 40 Class of 2018
Erica Flores

Erica Flores

Attorney, Skoler, Abbott & Presser, P.C.; Age 38; Education: BS, University of Colorado, Boulder; JD, University of Pennsylvania Law School

Flores has spent the past 10 years counseling and defending employers in all manner of employment-related disputes. She also serves on the board of directors of the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts. Before joining Skoler Abbott in 2013, she spent seven years working for prominent law firms in Manhattan and Philadelphia and served as a judicial clerk to Justice Russell Nigro of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania. Flores lives in Westfield with her wife, Elizabeth, and their son, Jackson.

How do you define success? I had a tough childhood, so first and foremost, success for me means being a great mom to my little boy, a dependable partner to my wife, and a good sister to my three siblings. Everything else is secondary.

What do you like most about Western Massachusetts? After more than a decade living and working in big cities, moving to Western Mass. was, literally, a breath of fresh air. I love the hills, the trees, the farms, and the beautiful spring and fall colors. It never gets old to me.

What are you passionate about? I remind myself each day that I do not live to work, but work to live, so the little things mean the most to me — home-cooked meals, gardening, watching football, campfires with friends, good local beer, and spending as much time as possible with my family.

Education Sections

Piece by Piece

Elms College Financial Aid Director Kristin Hmieleski

Elms College Financial Aid Director Kristin Hmieleski

It’s hardly news that college costs have consistently risen over the past two decades, outpacing both inflation and incomes. But there are a host of resources families can access to help bring those costs down and reduce the initial sticker shock. Still, putting the pieces together takes a combination of hustle, clear communication, hard work, and often sacrifice, all in search of what students hope will be a life-changing degree.

 

Bryan Gross calls them “success stories” — incoming students who weren’t sure they could afford college, but somehow manage to make it happen.

“You’ll see a lot of media attention and articles about sticker shock, the cost of tuition, fees, room, and board, and it makes families very nervous,” said Gross, vice president of Enrollment Management and Marketing at Western New England University (WNEU). “But we do work very hard to make college affordable for families, and the sticker price is not what they end up paying.”

But it doesn’t happen overnight.

“It is a lot of piecing things together,” said Kristin Hmieleski, Financial Aid director for Elms College. “We always tell students, ‘you’re not going to get this for free, so let’s look at the resources at hand. What can you get through federal and state aid? What has the institution already offered you by way of merit? What else can we offer based on need? Worst-case scenario, you may have to pay out of pocket or take on additional loans.’ It’s almost like a puzzle we put together.”’

It’s a puzzle that has become increasingly challenging over the past couple decades, as college costs have steadily risen, often outpacing inflation and average income. According to the College Board, which tracks these trends annually, tuition and fees at private, four-year instititions increased by 1.9% from 2016-17 to 2017-18, to an average of $34,740. Meanwhile, public, four-year institutions saw an average increase of 1.3%, to $9,970.

Those increases are substantially lower than the spikes seen during the Great Recession. In 2009-10, for example, private institutions raised tuition and fees by 5.9%, and public schools posted a 9.5% increase.

However, the College Board noted, students still shoulder a heavier burden this year, because even those modest price hikes outpaced grant aid and tax benefits. And that places more pressure on financial-aid officers to help families, well, assemble that puzzle.

The key, both Hmieleski and Gross said, is communication — and lots of it, starting early.

“We do open houses, and as prospective students are looking at Elms College, we talk about different resources they can look at,” Hmieleski said, noting that plenty of opportunities exist beyond the award package — based on academic merit and financial need — that the college puts together for each enrollee.

“They might not know every single website to look at, but we give them some hints about community resources they can look into,” she explained. “Do they belong to a church? Do the businesses their families work for offer scholarships? The students need to do some hunting themselves. Have they reached out to guidance counselors? They might know of some opportunities.”

It’s not an easy process, and it takes legwork and often sacrifice. But if the end result is a degree and a career pathway, families are more than willing to make the effort.

Knowledge Is Power

Gross said communicating with students starts well before they ever sit down in a classroom.

“Being a private institution, being well aware of the current state of the economic landscape, giving families direct and clear information regarding their financial-aid package is really important for us,” he said.

Bryan Gross

Bryan Gross says communication with families — both early and often — is key to helping them forge a strategy to pay for college.

To that end, WNEU started a program three years ago called Culture of Financial Wellness, which includes several components, starting with financial-aid counseling, during which officers help families navigate the process of piecing together available resources. Meanwhile, during spring open houses, financial-aid workshops are offered to inform and educate parents about the financial-aid process to help them make the right decisions for their student.

Following those are SOAR, the university’s Summer Orientation and Registration sessions, featuring presentations by Peter Bielagus, known as “America’s Financial Educator,” who provides information to parents about financing their student’s education.

The final piece of Culture of Financial Wellness continues after the student has joined the campus. The Freshman Focus program offers programming and talks to help students successfully transition to college life, including an overview session each fall on finances and spending designed to teach students about credit-card debt and making sound financial decisions in college and beyond.

“We want to educate students and help them understand the importance of living within your means,” Gross said. “That’s the circle of life — we want to help students for the rest of their lives.”

But that help begins at the financial-aid office, where the allocation of resources has been subtly shifting. This year, the College Board reports, federal loans account for 32% of all student aid, followed by institutional grants (25%), federal Pell grants (15%), tax credits and deductions (9%), state grants (6%), private and employer grants (6%), and veteran and military grants (6%).

“We put together a strategy for each student based on their academic performance,” Gross said. “We offer them scholarships, and of course federal and state grants typically get offered, and after that we have need-based grants we offer depending on their circumstances, and typically at the bottom of all that is federal work studies.”

Hmieleski said some 80 to 100 Elms students benefit from federally funded work-study jobs, 7% of which must be targeted at community-service work, such as the America Reads program administered locally by Valley Opportunity Council, in which college students tutor children after school.

“Unfortunately, federal funding has been so limited — it gets cut every year,” she said, noting that some students work at campus jobs funded by the college, while others secure part-time employment off campus.

Gross said certain enrollees benefit from special circumstances. “Veteran students are a population we work with; we help students directly apply for veterans benefits, and they might be eligible for ROTC as well.”

The bottom line, he told BusinessWest, is that students are given a full picture of what resources are available so they can figure out how to fill in the gaps, even if that means living at home.

“We want them to live on campus, but we want families to make an informed decision. It’s amazing how many families don’t even think about that,” he said. “We just don’t want families to be flat-footed when they receive their first bill.”

Beyond the Gloom and Doom

As Gross noted, he’s gratified by the success stories, but they’re not the whole story, unfortunately.

“To be honest with you, every college also has stories of families that fill out an application for federal aid, then come to us and say, ‘this is not our reality; we can’t afford to pay that.’ We work with families to come up with a plan, and it may work, but it may not work.”

In some cases, he said, students will instead opt to begin their education at a two-year community college. No matter what the outcome, though, he tries to make sure the decisions are made from a place of copious information.

“Families know that it’s not just a matter of crossing their fingers and closing their eyes, and somehow it comes together. You really have to have a plan, and you have to use college and community resources to help you through the process.”

No matter how much thought goes into a strategy, Hmieleski added, it’s impossible to de-stress the process of financial planning for college.

“No matter where you are in life, even if you have wealth, money is always stressful,” she said. “When some people hear about finances or anything involving money, their reaction is almost to shut down and not listen because they don’t feel like they’ll ever understand it.

“But we deal with a lot of first-generation, low-income students here at Elms; we are here to support those students,” she went on, noting that the college is invested not only in their ability to pay for school, but their academic success and keeping them enrolled. “OK, you’re here, you’re able to afford it — now let’s make sure you’re academically successful.”

But it begins with that first look at the unassembled puzzle, and all the decisions that go into putting it together. Hmieleski recalled one student — whose academic record was strong — that she worried about every fall, wondering if she’d be able to continue on, due to tight finances. But each year, the family somehow managed, and she graduated.

“I get goosebumps in so many situations when it looked like doom and gloom, like the student wouldn’t be able to come here, but we work on it,” she said. “And when they’re able to walk through that door, it’s a thrill.”

Joseph Bednar can be reached at [email protected]

Departments People on the Move
Alexandra Fach

Alexandra Fach

Meghan Morton

Meghan Morton

Genevieve Brough, president of Finck & Perras Insurance Agency Inc., recently announced the firm has hired two new employees. Alexandra Fach and Meghan Morton will serve as personal-lines account managers. Fach will work in the firm’s Easthampton office, and Morton at the Florence location. Fach holds a bachelor’s degree in communication technology and visual communication and a master’s degree from Lesley University in Cambridge. She has worked in the industry since 2013 and also holds state insurance licensure. Morton is a certified insurance service representative and a certified insurance counselor. She holds state insurance licensure and has worked in the industry for six years.

•••••

Andrew Caires

Andrew Caires

Pathlight, a provider of services for residential and community services for people with intellectual disabilities, has named Andrew Caires its chief financial officer and vice president of Administration, effective April 9. Caires has significant experience in human services. He was the financial director for Hawthorn Services for 15 years. When Hawthorne merged with the Center for Human Development, he became CHD’s director of Fiscal Services. Most recently, he was the controller for the Williston Northampton School. Caires has a bachelor’s degree in business administration/accounting from Western New England University and an MBA from UMass Amherst. He has maintained his certified public accountant (CPA) designation. Pathlight has been providing programs and services to people with developmental disabilities since 1952. Its programs include residential homes, supports for independent living, family-based living, recreation, enrichment, employment supports, family resources, autism supports, and more.

•••••

Amanda Carpe

Amanda Carpe

The Gove Law Office announced that Amanda Carpe has joined the firm as an associate attorney focused on real-estate transactions, estate planning, and estate administration. Carpe earned her juris doctor from Western New England University in 2016. While in law school, she interned with Gove Law Office and for the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families, where she appeared on behalf of the Commonwealth in child-endangerment cases. She also clerked for Judge Charles Belsky. She began her career in Worcester, where she worked on complex estate planning, elder-law matters, guardianships and conservatorships petitions, and probate administrations.

•••••

Dean Brown

Dean Brown

Teresa Wurszt

Teresa Wurszt

Florence Bank announced recently that Dean Brown and Teresa Wurszt were named to the President’s Club for 2018. The honor recognizes superior performance, customer service, and overall contribution to Florence Bank. Brown, a card operations specialist in the Operations Department in the main branch in Florence, began work at Florence Bank in 2008. Wurszt, an assistant commercial loan administration manager in the main office in Florence, joined the bank in 2015. With nearly 20 years of banking experience, she was praised by her colleagues for her knowledge, collaboration, and dedicated work ethic.

•••••

Erika Gleason

Erika Gleason

Pathlight, a provider of residential and community services for people with intellectual disabilities and autism, named behavior specialist Erika Gleason as the first recipient of its Donald Fletcher Scholarship. The $5,000 scholarship, which will be awarded yearly, is meant to assist an employee in obtaining an undergraduate degree. A committee of Pathlight board members and staff made the selection after receiving applications from employees. The scholarship is named after Pathlight’s former Executive Director Donald Fletcher, who was committed to helping staff pursue their education. This scholarship is in addition to Pathlight’s current tuition-reimbursement program. Gleason started at Pathlight in 2013 as a direct support professional, supporting people with intellectual disabilities and intensive behavioral needs, but quickly moved up the Pathlight career ladder, becoming a behavioral specialist this year. In her new role, she is responsible for checking in with all of Pathlight’s residential homes, as well as conducting safety-training sessions that teach people how to support individuals with special needs. She is currently working toward an associate’s degree in psychology at Holyoke Community College. Her goal is to transfer to Westfield State University, where she hopes to earn her bachelor’s degree.

•••••

Gov. Charlie Baker announced Patrick Carnevale as director of the Governor’s Western Mass. Office in Springfield. Carnevale brings almost 20 years of experience in public service and will be the administration’s primary liaison between Western Mass. constituents and communities. With 18 years of public service in the Commonwealth, Carnevale has spent much of his career in emergency-preparedness response and recovery. He most recently served as regional manager for the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA), where he was responsible for emergency management in Central and Western Mass. Since 2002, he has held multiple roles in the State Emergency Operations Center, responding to natural disasters, developing and implementing municipal preparedness plans, allocating state and federal funding and grants, and improving emergency management in 161 communities. Carnevale graduated with a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts and received his MBA from Western New England University. He also attended the National Preparedness Leadership Initiative and the National Preparedness Leadership in Homeland Security at Harvard University. He holds 14 certificates relating to emergency-preparedness disaster management from the Emergency Management Institute, the National Hurricane Center, and MEMA.

Chamber Corners Departments

1BERKSHIRE

www.1berkshire.com

(413) 499-1600

• May 7 to 17: Dream Auction. Grab great deals on theater tickets, spa services, dining certificates, and one-of-a-kind experiences in our online auction. Proceeds support the Berkshire Marketing Fund, which promotes the region as a destination for all seasons. Visit www.biddingforgood.com/berkshires.

• May 16: Chamber Nite & BYP Networking Social, 5-7 p.m., hosted by Dalton Union, 395 Main St., Dalton. Join us for our joint May Chamber Nite and BYP Social at Union Block in downtown Dalton with participating businesses: Hot Harry’s, Berkshire Dream Home, Therapeutic Massage & Wellness, Academy Mortgage Corp., Horace Mann Insurance, McMahon & Vigeant, P.C., Wheeler & Taylor Insurance, Dalton Restaurant, New England Dynamark Security, and 2 Flights Up Dance & Game Studio. Cost: free. Register online at www.1berkshire.com.

AMHERST AREA CHAMBER OF COMMERCE

www.amherstarea.com

(413) 253-0700

• May 3: Leaders as Readers, 12 noon, hosted by Pasta E Basta, 26 Main St., Amherst. This month in Leaders as Readers, we will be discussing Work It: Secrets of Success from the Boldest Women in Business by Carrie Kerpen. For more information, visit www.facebook.com/events/928353994013860 or e-mail [email protected]

• May 4: Lunch and Learn, “How to Protect Your Most Important Asset: Your Income,” 12 noon, hosted by Lord Jeffery Inn, 30 Boltwood Ave., Amherst. Sponsored by Hollister Insurance. Lunch will be provided. For details, e-mail [email protected]

GREATER CHICOPEE CHAMBER OF COMMERCE

www.chicopeechamber.org

(413) 594-2101

• May 10: Business After Hours, 4:30-6:30 p.m., hosted by Mercedes-Benz of Springfield, 295 Burnett Road, Chicopee. Kentucky Derby theme. Presented by Polish National Credit Union. Cost: $10 for members, $15 for non-members. Sign up online at chicopeechamber.org/events.

• May 16: Salute Breakfast, 7:15-9 a.m., at Munich Haus, 13 Center St., Chicopee. Chief greeter: Chicopee Mayor Richard Kos. Keynote Speaker: Kim Kenney-Rockwal, Elms MBA. Cost: $23 for members, $28 for non-members. Sign up online at chicopeechamber.org/events.

• May 18: Chicopee Chamber of Commerce Annual Golf Tournament, 10 a.m. shotgun start, hosted by Chicopee Country Club, 1290 Burnett Road, Chicopee. Presented by Polish National Credit Union. Cost: $125 per golfer, $500 per team of four, and/or $20 golfer package that includes 25 raffle tickets and one mulligan. Sign up online at chicopeechamber.org/events.

• May 31: Sunshine Soiree, a multi-chamber networking event, 5-7 p.m., hosted by Sunshine Village, 75 Litwin Lane, Chicopee. The event will feature complimentary hors d’oeuvres, wine, and beer. Register in advance for this free event online at springfieldyps.com.

GREATER EASTHAMPTON CHAMBER OF COMMERCE

www.easthamptonchamber.org

(413) 527-9414

• May 24: Chamber on the Vine, 5:30-8:30 p.m., a wine-tasting event hosted by Glendale Ridge Vineyard, 155 Glendale Road, Southampton. Taste wine, enjoy local food, and listen to the music of Trailer Trash. Cost: $20 to enjoy the music, $30 to taste the wine. Pre-registration is a must. For more information, visit www.easthamptonchamber.org or call (413) 527-9414.

GREATER HOLYOKE CHAMBER OF COMMERCE

www.holyokechamber.com

(413) 534-3376

• May 2: Women in Leadership: Leadership in Your Future, 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., hosted by HCC MGM Culinary Arts Institute, 164 Race St., Holyoke. A monthly luncheon series where participants learn from area CEOs while networking with peers from the region. An elegant lunch prepared by the HCC Culinary Arts program provides the setting.

• May 9: Coffee Buzz, 7:30-8:30 a.m., hosted by Loomis House, 298 Jarvis Ave., Holyoke (Sheldon entrance). A free morning networking event sponsored by Loomis House where guests enjoy a light breakfast while networking with the business community. Register online at holyokechamber.com or call the chamber at (413) 534-3376. There is no charge for this event.

• May 14: Holyoke Chamber Cup Golf Tournament, 50th Anniversary, 10 a.m., hosted by the Orchards, 18 Silverwood Terrace, South Hadley. Registration begins at 10 a.m., followed by lunch at 11 a.m., tee off at noon (scramble format), and dinner afterward. Cost: $150 per player, which includes lunch, 18 holes of golf, cart, and dinner. Cost of dinner only is $30. Awards, raffles, and cash prizes follow dinner. For reservations or sponsorships, call the chamber at (413) 534-3376 or register online at holyokechamber.com.

• May 16: Chamber After Hours, 5-7 p.m., hosted by Holyoke Hummus, 285 High St., Holyoke. Cost: $10 for members, $15 for non-members. Feel free to bring a door prize. Sign up online at holyokechamber.com.

• May 23: Leadership Holyoke Information Session, 5-7 p.m., hosted by Holyoke Community College, Frost Building, Room 309, 303 Homestead Ave., Holyoke. Join the Greater Holyoke Chamber of Commerce and Holyoke Community College for a free information session for Leadership Holyoke 2018-19..

GREATER NORTHAMPTON CHAMBER OF COMMERCE

www.explorenorthampton.com

(413) 584-1900

• May 4: Annual Spring Swizzle, 6:30-10:30 p.m., hosted by Eastside Grill, 19 Strong Ave., Northampton. A networking event. Cost: $75; $100 for two. Purchase tickets at www.chamberspringswizzle.com.

• May 9: May Arrive @ 5, 5-7 p.m., host to be announced. Sponsored by Northeast Solar and the Lusteg Wealth Management Group – Merrill Lynch. A networking event. Cost: $10 for members.

• May 17: Workshop: “Microsoft Excel Tips, Tricks & Shortcuts,” 9-11 a.m., hosted by Greater Northampton Chamber of Commerce, 99 Pleasant St., Northampton. Presented by Pioneer Training. Cost: $35 for members, $45 for non-members. Pre-registration required at goo.gl/forms/pX8YUuC25YdMsLjD2.

GREATER WESTFIELD CHAMBER OF COMMERCE

www.westfieldbiz.org

(413) 568-1618

• May 7: May Coffee Hour with Mayor Brian Sullivan, 8-9 a.m., hosted by Westfield Center – Genesis Healthcare, 60 East Silver St., Westfield. This event is free and open to the public. Online registration is available at www.westfieldbiz.org, so we may give our host a proper count. For more information, call Pam at the chamber at (413) 568-1618.

• May 7: May After 5 Connection, 5-7 p.m., hosted by East Mountain Country Club, 1458 East Mountain Road, Westfield. Refreshments will be served. A 50/50 raffle will benefit the chamber scholarship fund. Cost: free for chamber members, $10 for non-members (cash or credit paid at the door). Online registration is available at www.westfieldbiz.org. For more information, call Pam at the chamber at (413) 568-1618.

• May 14: Greater Westfield Chamber of Commerce 57th annual Golf Tournament, 10:30 a.m. to 7 p.m., hosted by Shaker Farms Country Club, 866 Shaker Road, Westfield. Online registration is available at www.westfieldbiz.org. For more information, call Pam at the chamber at (413) 568-1618.

SOUTH HADLEY & GRANBY CHAMBER OF COMMERCE

www.shgchamber.com

(413) 532-6451

• May 9: Educational Breakfast: Insider Travel Tips, 7:30-9 a.m., hosted by Loomis Village, 20 Bayon Dr., South Hadley. Chuck Elias, travel advisor for Pioneer Valley Cruise Planners, will share tips on how to make travel safe and fun. Cost: $10 for members, $15 for non-members. To register, call (413) 532-6451 or e-mail [email protected]

• May 14: The South Hadley & Granby Chamber will join the Greater Holyoke Chamber for a day of golf at the Orchards Golf Club in South Hadley. Registration and lunch will begin at 10:30 a.m., with tee-off beginning at noon. Cost: $150, which includes lunch, a round of golf and cart, a tourney T-shirt, refreshments on the course, and a dinner back at the clubhouse. E-mail [email protected] to register.

• May 21: After 5 at the Ledges Golf Course, 5-6:30 p.m., hosted by the Ledges, 18 Mulligan Dr., South Hadley. Cost: $10 for members, $15 for non-members. Pre-register by May 15 by contacting Sara Lawrence at (413) 532-6451 or [email protected]

SPRINGFIELD REGIONAL CHAMBER

www.springfieldregionalchamber.com

(413) 787-1555

• May 2: [email protected], 7:15-9 a.m., hosted by MassMutual Center, 1277 Main St., Springfield. Cost: $25 for members in advance ($30 at the door), $35 general admission ($40 at the door).

• May 10: Lunch ‘N’ Learn, Equal Pay, 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., hosted by Lattitude restaurant, 1338 Memorial Ave., West Springfield. Cost: $30 for members in advance ($35 at the door), $40 general admission ($45 at the door).

• May 15: C-Suite Conversations & Cocktails, 5-7 p.m., hosted by CityStage, One Columbus Center, Springfield. Exclusive members-only event. Cost: $25 for members ($30 at the door).

• May 31: Sunshine Soirée with the Springfield Regional Chamber, the Greater Chicopee Chamber, and YPS, 5-7 p.m., hosted by Sunshine Village, 75 Litwin Lane, Chicopee.

Reservations for all Springfield Regional Chamber events may be made online at www.springfieldregionalchamber.com, [email protected], or (413) 755-1310.

WEST OF THE RIVER CHAMBER OF COMMERCE

www.ourwrc.com

(413) 426-3880

• May 2: Wicked Wednesday, 5-7 p.m., hosted by the Irish Cultural Center, 429 Morgan Road, West Springfield. For more information, call the chamber office at (413) 426-3880 or register at www.westoftheriverchamber.com.

• May 8: Coffee with West Springfield Mayor Will Reichelt, 8-9:30 a.m., hosted by West Springfield Public Library, 200 Park St. For more information, call the chamber office at (413) 426-3880 or register at www.westoftheriverchamber.com.

• May 17: Networking Lunch, noon, hosted by Springfield Country Club, 1375 Elm St., West Springfield. Must be a member or guest of a member to attend. The only cost to attend is the cost of your lunch if you are a member. Non-member fee: $10. Register at www.westoftheriverchamber.com.

• May 22: Job Fair 2018, 3-6 p.m., hosted by Storrowton Tavern/Carriage House, 1305 Memorial Ave., West Springfield. West Springfield and Agawam businesses, along with other employment opportunities, will be showcased. This event is free and open to the public. To be a participating vendor, register online at www.westoftheriverchamber.com.

YOUNG PROFESSIONAL SOCIETY OF GREATER SPRINGFIELD

springfieldyps.com

• May 18: Adult Field Day, 2-5 p.m., Irish Cultural Center, West Springfield, hosted by the Irish Cultural Center, 429 Morgan Road, West Springfield. For more information, visit springfieldyps.com.

Court Dockets Departments

The following is a compilation of recent lawsuits involving area businesses and organizations. These are strictly allegations that have yet to be proven in a court of law. Readers are advised to contact the parties listed, or the court, for more information concerning the individual claims.

CHICOPEE DISTRICT COURT

Nain Oliver v. Petco Animal Supplies Inc.

Allegation: Negligence; slip and fall causing injury: $4,366.40

Filed: 3/21/18

Nichole Gura v. North East Specialty Corp. d/b/a Nescor

Allegation: Unauthorized credit-card charge; unfair or deceptive business act or practice: $6,000

Filed: 3/29/18

HAMPDEN DISTRICT COURT

JR Kakley & Sons Inc. v. Affordable Baths Inc. and Craig S. O’Connor

Allegation: Unpaid balance due from goods sold and delivered: $6,590.31

Filed: 3/13/18

Laura L. Sikes v. Metro Motors of Chicopee Inc. d/b/a Metro Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram

Allegation: Breach of used-car lemon law, breach of implied warranty of merchantability, revocation of acceptance, unfair and deceptive practices in trade or commerce: $25,000

Filed: 3/14/18

Bria Wilson v. BZGJJ Inc. and Irving Oil Corp.

Allegation: Negligence; slip and fall causing injury: $25,000

Filed: 3/27/18

EP Floors Corp. v. Merritt Construction Services, LLC

Allegation: Breach of contract: $9,939.50

Filed: 3/27/18

Emily Montalvo v. All Wheels Detailing & Auto Sales Inc.

Allegation: Breach of service contract, breach of lemon law warranty: $4,395

Filed: 4/4/18

HAMPDEN SUPERIOR COURT

Kurt Wolmart v. In-Land Contracting Inc., Joaquim Borges, Baltazar Contractors Inc., and Paulo Baltazar

Allegation: Employment discrimination: $200,000

Filed: 3/12/18

Rediker Software Inc. v. Bridgewater-Raynham Regional School District

Allegation: Breach of contract: $85,000+

Filed: 3/14/18

Mary Ann Mannix as personal representative of the estate of Joan Watson v. Guidewire Inc.

Allegation: Negligence, wrongful death: $1,030,000

Filed: 3/16/18

Daniel Stebbins and Susan Stebbins v. Joseph E. Flack III, M.D.; Abdallah K. Alameddine, M.D.; Mara Slawsky, M.D.; Sonali Arora, M.D.; Gregory Valania, D.O.; and John or Jane Does, 1-5

Allegation: Medical malpractice: $341,585

Filed: 3/19/18

Mary K. Pijar and John F. Pijar v. Colebrook Realty Services Inc., Baystate Medical Center Inc., John Doe; and XYZ Inc.

Allegation: Negligence; slip and fall causing injury: $85,000+

Filed: 3/20/18

Willwork Inc. v. the Exhibit Source Inc.

Allegation: Money owed for goods sold and delivered: $30,783.23

Filed: 3/22/18

Joya Bruce-Pettway, personal representative of the estate of Dominique Williams v. Cheryl Ruta, RN; and Chandravathi Loke, M.D.

Allegation: Medical malpractice; wrongful death: $25,000+

Filed: 3/22/18

Rick Lajeunesse and David Richter v. the Home Depot U.S.A. Inc.

Allegation: Violation of overtime law: $150,000+

Filed: 3/23/18

HAMPSHIRE SUPERIOR COURT

Pellegrini Development, LLC v. Paul Truehart d/b/a Truehart Paving & Construction

Allegation: Failure to complete agreed-upon work, causing plaintiff to incur expenses completing it at higher cost: $125,000

Filed: 3/27/18

Sherry McGinn v. Greenfield Housing Authority

Allegation: Negligence; slip and fall causing injury: $14,167.16

Filed: 4/2/18

HOLYOKE DISTRICT COURT

Yanitza Bruno-Jimenez v. Lia Auto Group Inc. d/b/a Lia Honda

Allegation: Negligence; plaintiff’s vehicle rear-ended by Lia employee causing injury: $20,768.84

Filed: 3/30/18

Company Notebook Departments

Blue Sox to Host 2018 NECBL All-Star Game

HOLYOKE — The Valley Blue Sox announced they will play host to the 2018 New England Collegiate Baseball League (NECBL) All-Star Game this summer on Sunday, July 29 at Mackenzie Stadium in Holyoke. The league’s showcase event will be the third major NECBL event hosted by the Blue Sox in the past five years. The team last hosted the NECBL All-Star Game in 2014 and hosted the NECBL Championship Series this past August, winning their its NECBL championship in franchise history. The Blue Sox finished first in the NECBL in attendance for the second consecutive season and ranked ninth among all summer collegiate teams, outdrawing 204 affiliated minor-league and independent teams. The event will be sponsored by Trinity Health Of New England and Mercy Medical Center.

MGM Springfield Adds More Than 1,000 Jobs to Employment Website

SPRINGFIELD — MGM Springfield recently announced it added 75 new postings representing more than 1,000 jobs to the resort’s website. There are about 2,400 open positions for hire today at MGM Springfield. This is the largest employment posting by the new resort, and one of the single largest hiring efforts in Springfield history. MGM Springfield will employ 3,000 employees when the $960 million luxury resort opens later this year in downtown Springfield. The expanded list includes job descriptions for new career opportunities not previously posted by the resort. Most of the new opportunities are in the food and beverage area, including cooks and servers. The entire list now includes a diverse array of jobs, including locksmiths, electronics technicians, carpenters, and painters. Many postings represent positions not traditionally associated with the casino industry, ranging from human resources and retail management to conference services. A full list of jobs and detailed descriptions is available at www.mgmspringfield.com/careers. The majority of jobs will be full-time positions with benefits. MGM Springfield established a goal to hire 35% of its workforce from the city of Springfield and 90% from a combination of Springfield and the region. For additional information about the available career opportunities at MGM Springfield, go online or visit MGM Springfield’s Career Center located at 1259 East Columbus Ave., third floor. The Career Center is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and 1 to 7 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays. During those hours, an MGM representative may be reached at (413) 273-5052.

PV Squared Joins Effort to Create Affordable Net-zero-energy Homes

GREENFIELD — PV Squared employees and students from Franklin County Technical School recently worked together to install a solar system on a Pioneer Valley Habitat for Humanity home in Greenfield. This hands-on experience is essential for Franklin County Technical School students enrolled in the electrician program. With installers and licensed electricians from PV Squared acting as mentors, this project was both a learning experience for the students and an opportunity to create high-quality housing for a low-income family. PV Squared has been partnering with Pioneer Valley Habitat for Humanity since 2010 to help make solar energy more accessible to lower-income households in the community. To date, it has worked with Pioneer Valley Habitat for Humanity on eight projects in Franklin and Hampshire counties, specifically in the towns of Easthampton, Turners Falls, Amherst, Northampton, and Greenfield. All these solar PV projects have been completed through grant funding or through the donation of products and services by PV Squared at no cost to the homeowner. Each system was designed with net-zero-energy potential, which means that, depending on the energy use of the household, each homeowner could be meeting all of their energy needs with the solar array.

Pioneer Valley Credit Union Donates $25,000 to Elder-care Unit

SPRINGFIELD — Pioneer Valley Credit Union (PVCU), a not-for-profit financial institution, recently donated $25,000 to the new Acute Care for Elders (ACE) Unit at Baystate Medical Center in Springfield. Seniors are the fastest-growing group in the U.S. population, and their health is declining. The elderly are three times likely to be hospitalized from chronic diseases. Many hospitals across the country haven’t prepared to treat the number of growing elderly patients nearing end of life. With that in mind, Baystate Medical Center created an acute-care unit specifically for treating the growing number of elderly patients. Since 2014, the program has cared for more than 500 senior patients.

Be Vital Wellness Opens Second Clinic in Wilbraham

WILBRAHAM — Stephanie Nascimento and Jeanette Wilburn, owners of Be Vital Wellness, LLC, recently expanded their weight-loss practice opening a second clinic in Wilbraham. Located at 2121 Boston Road, Unit N, in Wilbraham, the team specializes in medically derived weight-loss programs, weight-loss coaching, detox and cleansing, as well as various wellness services. In October 2011, Nascimento, a registered nurse, and Wilburn, a doctor of chiropractic, partnered in search of a business that promoted overall wellness and weight loss. After much research, they selected the Ideal Protein Protocol, a medically derived weight-loss method developed and refined for more than 20 years. They tested the program themselves and successfully lost a combined 30 pounds. Their weight loss inspired them to open their first clinic in Amherst; that clinic is now located in Hadley.

Chamber Corners Departments

1BERKSHIRE
www.1berkshire.com
(413) 499-1600

• April 18: Good News Business Salute, 7:30-9 a.m., hosted by Berkshire Hills Country Club, 500 Benedict Road, Pittsfield. Join us for our morning breakfast, where we will honor members and announce the winner of this year’s Esther Quinn Award. Cost: $35-$45. Register online at www.1berkshire.com.

• April 26: Creative Resources Conference, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., hosted by Stationery Factory, 63 Flansburg Ave., Dalton. The format has three tracts, with a total of nine workshops for creatives, entrepreneurs, and small businesses. More information to come. Register online at www.1berkshire.com.

AMHERST AREA CHAMBER OF COMMERCE
www.amherstarea.com
(413) 253-0700

• April 26: Margarita Madness, 5:30-7:30 p.m., hosted by Lord Jeffery Inn, 30 Boltwood Ave., Amherst. Come taste margaritas and vote for your favorite. There will also be delicious dishes from participating restaurants and dozens of great raffle prizes. Cost: $30 pre-registered, $40 at the door. Register online at www.amherstarea.com.

FRANKLIN COUNTY CHAMBER OF COMMERCE
www.franklincc.org
(413) 773-5463

• April 20: Monthly Breakfast Series, 7:30-9 a.m., hosted by Greenfield High School, 21 Barr Ave., Greenfield. Full breakfast will be served during the program, which will feature an Entrepreneur of the Year panel. Sponsored by Franklin County Community Development Corp. and the Franklin Hampshire Regional Employment Board. Cost: $13 for members; $16 for non-members. Register at franklincc.org or by e-mailing [email protected]

• April 26: Business After Hours, 5-7 p.m., hosted by Hawks and Reed Performing Arts Center, 289 Main St., Greenfield. Networking event with special guest Sue Dahling Sullivan from Massachusetts ArtWeek. Come kick off the debut of ArtWeek in Western Mass. Refreshments and cash bar will be available. Cost: $10. Register at franklincc.org or by e-mailing [email protected]

GREATER CHICOPEE CHAMBER OF COMMERCE
www.chicopeechamber.org
(413) 594-2101

• April 19: Business After Hours: A Salute to the ’70s Disco Party, 4:30-6:30 p.m., hosted by Ohana School of Performing Arts. Cost: $10 for members, $15 for non-members. Sign up online at chicopeechamber.org/events.

• April 24: B2B Speed Networking, 8-9 a.m., hosted by Chicopee Boys and Girls Club. For more information, visit chicopeechamber.org/events.

• April 25: Salute Breakfast at the Moose Family Center: “Easy, Cost-neutral Sustainability for Businesses,” 7:15-9 a.m. Chief Greeter: Phil Norman, CISA. Keynote: Center for EcoTechnology. Sponsored by United Personnel, Westfield Bank, Holyoke Medical Center, Polish National Credit Union, Gaudreau Group, Sunshine Village, Spherion Staffing Services, and PeoplesBank. Cost: $23 for members, $28 for non-members. Sign up online at chicopeechamber.org/events.

GREATER HOLYOKE CHAMBER OF COMMERCE
www.holyokechamber.com
(413) 534-3376

• April 18: Chamber After Hours, 5-7 p.m., sponsored and hosted by Fairfield Inn & Suites, 229 Whiting Farms Road, Holyoke. Meet up with your friends and business associates for a little networking. Cost: $10 for members, $15 for non-members. Feel free to bring a door prize. Sign up online at holyokechamber.com.

• April 20: Economic Development Breakfast, 7:30-9 a.m., hosted by Holyoke Community College, Kittredge Center, PeoplesBank Conference Room. Learn from EMPATH about how to break the cycle of poverty and utilize the bridge to self-sufficiency theory to approach economic mobility. EMPATH helps low-income people achieve long-term economic mobility, and has developed a holistic approach to mentoring. Event emcees are Mary Coleman, EMPATH; Dr. Christina Royal, Holyoke Community College; and Kathleen Anderson, Greater Holyoke Chamber of Commerce. Cost: $25 for members, $30 for non-members and walk-in guests.

GREATER WESTFIELD CHAMBER OF COMMERCE
www.westfieldbiz.org
(413) 568-1618

• April 24: Home & Business Community Marketplace & Tabletop Event, 4:30-7 p.m., hosted by the Ranch Golf Club, 65 Sunnyside Road, Southwick. An opportunity to market and sell your products and services to area residents and businesses. Sip and shop your way through the marketplace with a beer and wine tasting, live music, and a chance to vote for your favorite nosh at the food court. Cost: $50 for vendor rental space (table not included; bring your own, six feet or less with tablecloth), $75 for vendor table (includes six-foot table; bring your own tablecloth). Attendance is free to the public. For more information, contact Southwick Economic Development at (413) 304-6100.

SOUTH HADLEY & GRANBY CHAMBER OF COMMERCE
www.shgchamber.com
(413) 532-6451

• April 19: Business After 5, 4:30-6:30 p.m., hosted by Ohana School of Performing Arts, 470 Newton St., South Hadley. Sponsored by Berkshire Hills Music Academy. This Everything 70’s Disco Party is a networking event for members and friends of the chamber. We are joining with the Greater Chicopee Chamber of Commerce on this event, so there will be many new business colleagues to meet and greet over the three floors of studio space. The event will feature music, food, beverages, and dancing. Cost: $10 for members, $15 for non-members. For further information and to register, visit www.shgchamber.com or call the chamber office at (413) 532-6451.

• April 22: Mohegan Sun bus trip, 9:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Proceeds support the chamber’s scholarship fund and its two community Councils on Aging. There are bonuses on food and other pluses included in the cost. Bus departs from and returns to the former Big Y parking lot at 501 Newton St. Cost: $35. For further information and to register, visit www.shgchamber.com or call the chamber office at (413) 532-6451.

• April 24: An Educational Breakfast: “Cybersecurity: What We All Need to Know,” 7:30-9 a.m., hosted by PeoplesBank and Loomis Village, 20 Bayon St., South Hadley. We will learn how cybersecurity impacts our own lives, both personally and professionally. The presentation will be led by Joseph Zazzaro, senior vice president, Information Technology, and David Thibault, first vice president, Commercial Banking at PeoplesBank. Cost: $10 for members, $15 for non-members. For further information and to register, visit www.shgchamber.com or call the chamber office at (413) 532-6451.

SPRINGFIELD REGIONAL CHAMBER
www.springfieldregionalchamber.com
(413) 787-1555

• April 25: Beacon Hill Summit, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., day-long trip to the State House to meet legislators. Cost: $180 for members, $225 general admission, which includes transportation, lunch, and reception. To make a reservation, visit www.springfieldregionalchamber.com, e-mail [email protected], or call (413) 755-1310.

WEST OF RIVER CHAMBER OF COMMERCE
www.ourwrc.com
(413) 426-3880

• April 26: Coffee with Agawam Mayor Sapelli, 8:30-10 a.m., hosted by Agawam Senior Center Coffee Shop, 954 Main St., Agawam. Join us for a cup of coffee and a town update from Mayor Bill Sapelli. Questions and answers will immediately follow. For more information, contact the chamber office at (413) 426-3880 or [email protected]

YOUNG PROFESSIONAL SOCIETY OF GREATER SPRINGFIELD
springfieldyps.com

• April 19: YPS Third Thursday: “Career Development & Networking,” 5-7 p.m., hosted by Lattitude Restaurant, 1338 Memorial Ave., West Springfield. Cost: free for YPS members, $10 for non-members.

Sections Women in Businesss

Teachable Moments

Nicole Griffin

Nicole Griffin says her company’s new name, ManeHire, is meant to evoke the lion-like qualities of strength, courage, and resilience.

A job seeker came to see Nicole Griffin recently after making a careless mistake — one he didn’t even recognize at the time.

The mistake was leaving a temporary position at a large, well-known firm two weeks before his contract was up because he didn’t like the environment and the job wasn’t quite what he thought it would be.

“I said, ‘you kind of ruined all the work you did there for several months by leaving before your assignment ended,’” said Griffin, president of the employment firm she launched in 2013 as Griffin Staffing Network. “That was a teachable moment. I said, ‘you have to make the most of your opportunities. Now you’ve closed your door for a reference. Plus, while you’re there, you’re supposed to network.’”

He quickly realized he’d burned a bridge he was two weeks away from crossing, and he regretted the decision. But he learned from it, and was planning on interviewing for a similar position the day after Griffin sat down with BusinessWest to talk about her company’s client-focused model, its growth over the past five years, and a recent rebranding with a new name, ManeHire.

“It’s nice to have a company in your name — it’s easy for people to recognize who you are when they walk through the door — but I want to let my employees who work internally shine,” she said. “I don’t want the whole focus of the company to be about me, so I’m taking me out of the name and highlighting all the talent we have.”

With physical offices in East Longmeadow, Springfield, and Windsor, Conn. — and a reach well beyond the region — Griffin wanted a new name that evoked lion imagery, for a reason. “I like the lion — it represents strength and courage and resilience, and those are some of the key components you need when you’re looking for employment.”

Griffin put all three attributes to work when building her career. While working at MassMutual as a financial underwriter — providing analysis, sales, and marketing for the company’s products — she became a certified interviewer and started a small nonprofit on the side, called the ABCs of Interviewing. There, she consulted with other nonprofits, companies, and individuals, helping them with interviewing skills.

While volunteering at a MassMutual Community Responsibility event at Western New England University, helping high-school students through a Junior Achievement employment-awareness program, she was struck by some teenagers’ total lack of understanding of how to act and even dress in a job-interview situation, and that soon became a passion for helping people position themselves for employment — a passion she exercised when she left MassMutual to open Griffin Staffing Network.

As the CEO of an agency for temporary, permanent, direct-hire, temp-to-hire, and executive-level positions — placing people in administrative, medical, financial, professional-services, hospitality, insurance, and information-technology jobs — she strives to understand the big picture in the regional employment landscape, while recognizing it’s made up of many small pieces.

“It’s still the same soft skills — showing up to work, the little stuff. Some people don’t realize the value in those things,” she said, again evoking the individual who walked away from his contract, and other, equally cavalier decisions people make.

“Some people don’t realize the weight that has — decisions made in the moment that have a lasting impact,” she said, such as taking time off with no warning on multiple occasions. “There’s a process. You don’t just call out an hour before you’re due to work. You have to be very mindful of the decisions you make.”

Through her work helping client employers find talent, she’s also helping job seekers not only access those jobs, but learn the skills necessary to keep them. In so doing, she knows she’s helping to change lives.

“We impact the family unit,” she said. “Of course, when you offer someone a position, it has an immediate impact on them, but it also impacts the whole family. It’s generational.”

Course Correction

An MP in the Army National Guard in her early 20s, Griffin originally thought her future was in correctional or police work, and she was offered a third-shift job at Hampden County Jail in Ludlow, where her father worked as a correctional officer.

But she wasn’t crazy about the work, as it turned out, or the hours. A friend at MassMutual offered to put in a good word for her there, but warned that’s all she could do — the rest was up to Griffin.

She admitted she wasn’t qualified, but made enough of an impression to get a job offer.

“I learned the value of having someone else speak for you, and how impactful that is,” she told BusinessWest. “And that’s what I want to do for other people. I want to help them find opportunities that may not be reachable by themselves.”

And that’s what she does — but securing an interview is a far cry from nailing down a good job. “You have to do the work. And if you do get a position, you have to maintain it.”

To help people do that, Griffin originally conducted free weekly workshops for applicants to hone their skills on the interview process, proper dress for an interview, business etiquette, and other soft skills. Today, instead of classes and workshops, that training is built into the application process for each job seeker who walks in the door.

“In the interview, we talk about your skill set, but also how we can mentor you. I tell my staff, ‘stop for a moment and really dig into why they left their last place of employment. What is the teachable moment in there for them?’”

Some applicants have walked out of those meetings in tears, shocked at what they didn’t know. “Some are just thankful — ‘no one’s ever told me that; no one’s ever corrected my résumé to tell me about the mistakes are making and why I’m going to all these places and not being selected.’”

Sometimes those tears are necessary, she went on. “I think honesty is key. You have to be honest with people and speak their language.”

Still, while the soft-skills gaps Griffin encounters aren’t surprising, they can be troublesome. Moreso are applicants she encounters who lack even the basics of financial literacy — who don’t know how a checking account works, or wonder why that account shows just a tiny balance after a direct deposit on payday, only to be told by the bank that the account had been $500 in the red. She recalled one woman who brought in her mother so these concepts could be explained to both of them.

“Financial literacy is passed down from generation to generation. It’s real for people. Things we take for granted, they honestly do not know,” she said. “We can make an impact by finding gainful employment for you, but if you’re not understanding how that money works…”

She trailed off, knowing there’s no good conclusion for that sentence — except to keep doing the work she’s doing, helping people gain the skills, knowledge, and wisdom they need to secure and keep good jobs.

“At the end of the day, we want you to be gainfully employed, whether through Griffin Staffing or another employer. We mean that, because it impacts the community.”

Better Days

That community is living through a historically solid economy right now, Griffin said, with Springfield the beneficiary of a string of good news, from MGM Springfield’s opening later this year to CRRC ramping up production of rail cars; from MassMutual and Big Y bringing new jobs to the City of Homes to a wave of entrepreneurial energy in the form of scores of successful startups — hers included.

“It’s a really exciting time for both employers and employees,” she said. “It’s one of those times when the opportunities are there; you have to seize the moment. I’m excited to say I’m from the city of Springfield.”

For those still in the job market, however, it can still be a challenge to find well-paying, satisfying work. A relationship-focused business model, one that digs deep to make the best matches, is appreciated by employer clients who have stuck with Griffin from when she first opened.

“We’re very client- and applicant-focused. Relationships are huge for me,” she said. “Someone may have the hard skills and soft skills, but do they fit into the culture of the company? We look at an applicant as a whole instead of just as a skill set.”

That’s a lesson she learned from MassMutual, when she was hired not necessarily for her raw skills — what they saw on her résumé — but what she brought to the table as a whole person. And it worked out; she was promoted four times.

In seeking to understand the whole person in today’s applicants, she’s come to recognize that young people value flexibility in a work situation as much as — or more than — the salary, which is useful for employers (at nonprofits, for instance) who can’t pay as much as they’d like. In short, today’s young job seekers will often sacrifice in the pay department to gain work-life balance. They also want a clear picture of where they’ll be in a few years, and how they will fit into a company culture, add value, and grow.

When the unemployment rate is low, she added, employers obviously find it more difficult to secure workers with the skill sets they need. “So what we’re doing is going after passive candidates — someone who’s currently employed but may be open to new opportunities.”

Over the years, Griffin has leveraged the skills of her staff to provide recruiting opportunities and career guidance to current and graduating students at area colleges and universities, was recognized with the Community Builder Award from the Urban League for helping meet employment needs in Springfield, and was named to the BusinessWest 40 Under Forty class of 2014 — and then won the magazine’s Continuing Excellence Award last year.

She also serves on the boards of YWCA of Western Massachusetts and the Regional Employment Board of Hampden County, and partners each year with the New England Farm Workers Council to hire a summer job applicant. “It’s very important that we give back to the community because we live here too, and our children are growing up here.”

That’s why she sees her work as making the community a better place to live, one job at a time. She’s especially gratified at the success stories that advance far beyond entry level, like a marketing intern who advanced to an executive role in an insurance company, and someone who went from working in a local warehouse to managing it.

“That’s so cool. That’s what empowers me, to see people grow in their positions. That’s so exciting,” Griffin said. “I love what I do. I don’t feel like I work. I get to get up and do what I love every single day. And I want people to wake up feeling the same way I do.”

Joseph Bednar can be reached at [email protected]

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Pathlight, a provider of services for residential and community services for people with intellectual disabilities, has named Andrew Caires its chief financial officer and vice president of Administration, effective April 9.

“I am thrilled that Andy has joined the organization” Executive Director Ruth Banta said. “His financial skills, human-services experience, and compassion will help Pathlight continue to advance its mission.”

Caires has significant experience in human services. He was the financial director for Hawthorn Services for 15 years. When Hawthorne merged with the Center for Human Development, he became CHD’s director of Fiscal Services. Most recently, he was the controller for the Williston Northampton School.

“I am happy to join an innovative and energized organization with a distinguished history of having a positive impact on the intellectual-disability community,” he said.

Caires has a bachelor’s degree in business administration/accounting from Western New England University and an MBA from UMass Amherst. He has maintained his certified public accountant (CPA) designation.

Pathlight has been providing programs and services to people with developmental disabilities since 1952. Its programs include residential homes, supports for independent living, family-based living, recreation, enrichment, employment supports, family resources, autism supports, and more.

Daily News

PITTSFIELD — Berkshire Theatre Group (BTG) was honored as Employer of the Year for “providing valuable employment opportunities for the members of Berkshire Pathways” at the Massachusetts Clubhouse Coalition’s annual Employment Celebration at the State House in Boston on April 3. Joanne Rosier, a BTG ticket-office associate, was also honored as a Clubhouse member and Berkshire Theatre Group employee.

In addition, BTG received a congratulatory citation in recognition of its award from the Massachusetts House of Representatives, offered by state Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier. Berkshire Theatre Group also received a congratulatory citation from the Massachusetts Senate in recognition of “providing employment to members of Berkshire Pathways through work with Human Resources Unlimited and the Massachusetts Clubhouse Coalition,” offered by state Sen. Adam Hinds.

Daily News

CHICOPEE — In honor of Autism Awareness Month in April, Gina Kos, executive director of Sunshine Village, announced the organization is partnering with community organizations on several special events focused on inclusivity, acceptance, and celebrating unique abilities. As a local provider of day programs and employment services, the organization regularly seeks partnerships to promote goodwill and give back to the community by volunteering and offering educational opportunities.

On April 2, Sunshine Village programs visited the offices of Chicopee Mayor Richard Kos, and Chicopee Treasurer Marie Laflamme, and Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno, along with the Chicopee Fire Department, Chicopee Police Department, and Springfield Fire Department, to deliver handmade crafts, treats, and artwork celebrating Autism Awareness Month. Visits are also planned for fire and police departments in other towns served by the organization to raise awareness and to thank first responders for their dedication to the community.

Representatives from Sunshine Village will also be at several fairs during the month, and will also partner with Chicopee Public Library for interactive events. For more information and registration, visit www.chicopeepubliclibrary.org.

Law Sections

Taking the Pulse

By Kimberly A. Klimczuk, Esq.

Kimberly A. Klimczuk, Esq.

Kimberly A. Klimczuk, Esq.

It’s been almost three years since Massachusetts’ Earned Sick Time Law went into effect (how time flies), but employment-law attorneys still frequently receive questions about the law and the administration of earned sick leave.

Like any leave law, the sick-leave law presents unique challenges to employers. Here are some of the questions encountered most often:

Does the sick leave law apply to my organization?

This is an easy one. Unless your organization is a federal or municipal employer, it must provide earned sick leave to all employees (including part-time, temporary, per diem, and seasonal employees), regardless of the size of your organization. If the employer has 11 or more employees, the sick leave must be paid at the employee’s regular hourly rate (with the exception of tipped employees, who must receive at least minimum wage).

As a reminder, the law entitles employees to earn one hour of sick leave for every 30 hours worked, up to 40 hours per year, and employees may use the earned sick leave to attend routine medical appointments (for themselves or for a child, spouse, parent, or parent-in-law); to care for their own illness, injury, or medical condition or that of a child, spouse, parent, or parent-in law; or to address the effects of domestic violence.

Can I discipline employees for excessive absences?

It depends on what you mean by ‘excessive.’ The sick-leave law prohibits employers from retaliating against employees who use earned sick leave, so if an employee has earned sick leave available that applies to an absence, an employer cannot discipline the employee for taking the time off, nor can it consider the use of sick time as a factor in the discipline for non-sick-leave-related absences. Therefore, employers must be very careful when issuing attendance-related discipline.

Employers may discipline for absences exceeding the amount of sick leave to which the employee is entitled or for absences that occur before the employee has accrued sufficient sick leave to cover the absence. However, employers must make sure the employee’s use of sick leave is not a factor in the discipline. Although it seems obvious, this can be tricky.

Consider two employees. The first employee has one unplanned absence in a two-week period. The second employee has one unplanned absence in a two-week period and five sick-leave-related absences in that same two-week period. Which employee is a supervisor more likely to want to discipline?

While employers generally can discipline employees for unplanned absences unrelated to earned sick leave, they cannot take the use of sick leave into consideration when determining appropriate discipline. Thus, in the above example, it would be unlawful to discipline the employee who took sick leave if the employer did not also discipline the employee who had just the one unplanned absence.

Relatedly, employers should be sure to document any attendance-related discipline and make clear in that documentation that the discipline is not related to sick-leave-related absences. The best way of doing this is to note the specific dates for which the discipline is being issued. If an employer simply writes that the discipline is for “poor attendance,” and the employee had sick-leave-related absences, it will be difficult for an employer to demonstrate that the discipline for poor attendance did not take into account the absences due to sick leave. If the employer specifies the absences at issue, it can show that it considered only the non-sick-leave absences.

What if an employee is out sick but wants to save paid sick leave for later use?

We often hear of employees with accrued paid sick leave who call out sick but then ask the employer to count the absence as an unpaid day off so that the employee can save the paid sick for use later in the year. Employers should not grant these kinds of requests. First, because the sick-leave law requires employers to pay employees who are absent due to illness (assuming the employee has earned sick leave available), an employer who fails to pay an employee for a sick-leave-related absence violates the law, even if the failure to pay was at the request of the employee.

Second, if the employee saves the paid sick leave for use at a later time, the employer may lose the ability to discipline for excessive absences. The employer can discipline for excessive absences only after an employee has exhausted any available paid sick leave. If the employer allows the employee to save paid sick leave, it will take longer for the employee to exhaust the leave, and the employer will, in effect, be required to accept more absences than it otherwise would have.

The best practice for employers is to require the use of paid sick leave for all sick-leave related absences and then later decide whether it wants to allow unpaid leave once the paid leave is exhausted.

Kimberly A. Klimczuk, Esq. is an employment law attorney with Springfield-based Skoler, Abbott & Presser, P.C.; (413) 737-4753.

Departments People on the Move
Erin Couture

Erin Couture

Florence Bank named Erin Couture its Community Support Award winner for 2018. The award was established by the bank in 1997 to recognize employees who are active participants in community events and donate their personal and professional time to local not-for-profit organizations. Each year, the award recipient has the opportunity to select a not-for-profit organization of his or her choice, and the bank makes a donation to that organization. At Couture’s recommendation, Florence Bank will make a donation to Big Brothers Big Sisters of Hampshire County, for which Couture serves as president on its advisory board. Couture, vice president of commercial loans and a commercial lender, joined Florence Bank in November 2011. She holds a bachelor’s degree in finance from UMass Amherst and an MBA from Western New England University. Couture is actively involved with the Northampton Chamber of Commerce as a finance committee member and is also the committee chair at the W.E. Norris School in Southampton. Couture is an award recipient of BusinessWest’s 40 Under Forty. “Erin is the ideal choice for the Community Support Award,” said John Heaps Jr., president and CEO of Florence Bank. “Her positive energy, commitment to numerous local nonprofit organizations, and dedication to helping those in need within our community is exemplary.”

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Samuel Headley

Samuel Headley

Springfield College has selected Professor Samuel Headley of the School of Health, Physical Education, and Recreation in the department of Exercise Science as its inaugural recipient of the Karpovich Chair for Wellness at Springfield College. This award honors and supports Headley’s record of scholarship and innovation in exercise science. It is a competitive, three-year, honorary appointment that promotes interdisciplinary research across health-science fields through the testing of ideas and the creation of new initiatives and practices that have the potential to be brought to scale and lead to a sustainable avenue of scholarship that would be competitive for future external funding. The new chair will pursue collaborative and interdisciplinary scholarship in the area of wellness. Graduates from the class of 1954 established an endowment in honor of their 50th reunion to recognize Peter Karpovich, a member of the Springfield College faculty from 1927 until 1969. He was a founder the American College of Sports Medicine and is widely considered the father of exercise physiology in the U.S., having published more than 130 journal articles in the field. A professor of exercise physiology, Headley joined Springfield College in 1992 as an assistant professor, receiving promotion to associate professor in 1997 and to professor in 2003. He is a fellow of the American College of Sports Medicine and a registered clinical exercise physiologist. He has served as a principal investigator or co-investigator on numerous grants and contracts, including a major award from the National Institutes of Health and, most recently, a contract with Relypsa Inc. to examine nutritional, behavioral, pharmaceutical, and counseling interventions with patients suffering from chronic kidney disease. As the first Karpovich Chair awardee, Headley will lead a nationwide team of 12 scholars and researchers to delve into the potential interactions of prebiotic supplementation and moderate aerobic exercise training on critical health concerns of chronic kidney-disease patients, ranging from inflammatory responses that predispose kidney patients to premature death due to cardiovascular disease to psychological markers of health and well-being. “Our group is excited for this opportunity to test our hypotheses because we believe our work has the potential to positively impact upon the lives of patients who have chronic kidney disease,” Headley explained. “The study that we have proposed is the result of the collaborative efforts of members of our research team.” The Karpovich chair comes with a commitment of $40,000 annually over three years to support the project.

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Ariel Rothstein Clemmer

Ariel Rothstein Clemmer

The Hampden County Bar Assoc. (HCBA) announced the hiring of attorney Ariel Rothstein Clemmer as pro bono director. In this newly created role, funded by a grant from MassMutual, Clemmer will help elevate the HCBA Legal Clinic’s operations to better serve the increasing unrepresented population in Hampden County. Clemmer will manage existing pro bono programs, develop new pro bono opportunities, increase volunteer activity, partner with local businesses and organizations on new initiatives, and ensure that pro bono activity under the auspices of the Legal Clinic meets the highest standards of excellence and professionalism. A 2010 graduate of Harvard Law School, Clemmer recently relocated from New York City to the Pioneer Valley. She started her career as a public defender at Bronx Defenders, where she represented indigent clients charged with misdemeanor and felony crimes. She then worked for the firm Weil, Gotshal & Manges, LLP, defending clients against security class actions and other complex financial matters, while continuing to develop her pro bono practice litigating matrimonial, civil, and criminal cases. In 2014, Clemmer was selected by the partners at Weil to participate in a pro bono externship at Legal Services of New York City (LSNYC). She excelled there, which led to her being named one of the “Top 30 Pro Bono Attorneys of 2014” by LSNYC. Immediately prior to accepting her role as pro bono director at HCBA, she worked as a matrimonial and family-law associate with a boutique Manhattan firm, Donohoe Talbert, LLP. She also served as an active member of LSNYC’s Pro Bono Associate Advisory Board. “Ariel had a distinguished career that demonstrates her commitment to public-interest initiatives,” said HCBA President Wm. Travaun Bailey. “In a nutshell, she is just the perfect person for the job, and we are excited to have her.”

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Jessica Wheeler

Jessica Wheeler

Jessica Wheeler recently joined Bulkley Richardson as a litigation associate. Wheeler’s prior experience as a senior associate at a New York firm equipped her with hands-on experience, including assistance with oral arguments, motions to dismiss and for summary judgement, class actions, SEC investigations, testimony preparation, discovery, and trial preparation. She was also part of a team that successfully represented a wrongfully convicted former inmate, leading to a $7.5 million settlement. Wheeler received a bachelor’s degree, cum laude, from Yale University in 2004 and a juris doctor from New York University School of Law in 2011, where she served as articles editor of the New York University Law Review. She was an Arthur Garfield Hays Civil Liberties Fellow and earned scholarships, including the Dean’s Scholarship, based on academic achievement. While attending law school, Wheeler demonstrated her commitment to the legal community by taking on advocacy roles as an intern at several organizations, including the Legal Aid Society’s Juvenile Rights Practice, the American Civil Liberties Union’s Speech Privacy and Technology Project, and the Urban Justice Center’s Peter Cicchino Youth Project. Prior to law school, she was a paralegal for child-advocacy organization Children’s Rights.

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John Glenn

John Glenn

Skoler, Abbott & Presser, P.C. announced that attorney John Glenn, senior counsel, retired on March 1 after a long and industrious legal career. “Over the years, John’s wisdom, dedication, and friendship have made a lasting impact on every one of us here at Skoler Abbott,” said attorney Timothy Murphy, a partner at the firm. “His work has been invaluable in labor relations with his common sense and problem-solving approach. I speak for our clients as well as our team when I say we deeply appreciate and will miss John and his contributions.” Over a career that spanned nearly 40 years, Glenn specialized in representing management in labor-relations matters. His practice focused on assisting clients in developing positive relationships with their workforces to decrease the likelihood of unionization. He has extensive experience working with employers during union campaigns, negotiating collective bargaining agreements, and representing employers at arbitration hearings before the National Labor Relations Board and at state and federal agencies. Prior to joining Skoler, Abbott & Presser, Glenn was employed by the National Labor Relations Board in Cincinnati. He has also served as an adjunct professor of Labor Law at Western New England College School of Law. For many years, he has been included in Best Lawyers in America and has been named a Super Lawyer by Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly, which recognizes the top 5% of the lawyers in specific practice areas in the Commonwealth. Outside of his legal practice, Glenn often worked with young men recently released from prison to assist them with acquiring life and academic skills to enhance their employment opportunities. He now looks forward to spending more time playing tennis, watching college basketball, and continuing to take challenging biking and hiking trips throughout the country and around the world.

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Nicole Bambury

Nicole Bambury

Tru by Hilton Chicopee Springfield named Nicole Bambury general manager. She will be in charge of directing all aspects of hotel operations, including guest services and satisfaction, hotel administration, and overseeing marketing efforts. Bambury has 13 years of experience in the hospitality industry and was most recently general manager at Days Inn Chicopee, where she oversaw all responsibilities of a 100-room hotel and 30 employees. Her work experience also includes management positions at Hampton Inn by Hilton Chicopee as well as guest service at Hampton Inn by Hilton Bangor in Maine. Tru by Hilton Chicopee Springfield is expected to open this spring. The hotel is owned by Chicopee Hospitality, LLC and managed by BK Investments.

Berkshire Bank announced that Scott Pasquale has returned to Berkshire Bank as first vice president, senior commercial relationship manager. In his new position, Pasquale will be responsible for originating and managing commercial and industrial loans and building client deposit relationships in the Pioneer Valley and Western Mass. region, continuing Berkshire’s momentum. Pasquale brings more than 30 years of experience to his new role, including his previous work with Berkshire in 2013 as part of its commercial-lending team. Most recently, he held the role of first vice president, Commercial Loans at Country Bank, where he held a leadership role managing the Worcester commercial-lending team and portfolio totaling over $250 million, while creating and executing its small-business underwriting policy. “We’re excited to have Scott rejoin the commercial team in the Pioneer Valley. He brings a wealth of lending experience to a very talented group as we continue our momentum and expand our business,” said Jim Hickson, senior vice president, commercial regional president. “Scott will draw upon his industry experience developing and servicing middle-market commercial-lending opportunities and expanding relationships with private banking, wealth management, and insurance products.” Pasquale earned a bachelor’s degree in economics from the College of Wooster. Active in the community, he serves as a board member of the Western Massachusetts Chapter of the National Tooling and Machining Assoc., a board member of Springfield Technical Community College Foundation, and co-chair of the annual goods-and-services auction for the Western Massachusetts Council of the Boy Scouts of America.

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Maria Teal

Maria Teal

Tony Volpe

Tony Volpe

HUB International New England, LLC, a division of HUB International Limited, recently announced that Maria Teal has joined the agency as an account manager for Personal Lines in the South Hadley office, and Tony Volpe has also come on board as an account executive in the Commercial Lines department. Teal holds her certified insurance service representatives (CISR) and vertified professional in personal lines (CPPL) designations and has been in the insurance industry for 18 years. She will specialize in personal coverages including home, auto, renters, and umbrella insurance. Volpe has more than 17 years of experience and has been recognized as an award-winning account executive. He is an eight-time Presidential Club winner “for distinguished performance in achieving overall production and profitability goals.” He has succeeded in meeting and exceeding company goals and sales profitability, and previously worked at Zurich Insurance, Allstate Insurance, Connecticut Casualty Company, and Insure.net. Volpe holds his property, casualty, life, and accident/health licenses in Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, and Rhode Island. At HUB, he will specialize in all types of auto-dealership and garage insurance liability products and more, and will focus in the Connecticut area.

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The Insurance Center of New England (ICNE) announced the continued expansion of its Group Benefits team with the addition of Valerie Francis, a 15-year insurance-industry veteran and group-benefits specialist. As account executive at ICNE, Francis will have multiple responsibilities, including helping business clients strategize employee-benefits programs at annual renewal time and throughout the year. “One of my most important roles will be supporting business owners and human-resource managers as they try to manage the costs of their benefits solutions, whether it be for their health, vision, dental, voluntary benefits, group life, or any other benefits solutions,” she said. Additionally, she will be responsible for helping ICNE bring in new business clients, particularly those who are looking for an insurance partner that takes a customized and strategic team approach to benefits planning and renewal negotiations with carriers. In 2003, Francis began her career in insurance at Aetna in Springfield, where she served as a customer-service representative (CSR) trainer in the benefits group and focused on educating her CSRs on how to explain benefits to employees. After seven years as a trainer, she transitioned to the group benefits team at Health New England in Springfield, where she was promoted to a supervisory role and eventually moved into the sales department. By the time she left Health New England to start her career at ICNE, she was supporting more than 600 accounts and employers of all sizes and from a wide variety of industries. “Through my other insurance jobs, I had had the pleasure of working with members of ICNE’s group benefits team, and I was always highly impressed with how they responded to requests and how they demonstrated true care and concern for every single person they came in contact with. I could not be more thrilled about having the opportunity to now work with these talented professionals to help our clients with all of their group-benefits needs.”

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Christine Roukey joined the Realtor Assoc. of Pioneer Valley as Marketing and Communications director. She is responsible for member and public communications, including the digital and print brand. Roukey joins the association from the Massachusetts Mutual Financial Group, where she was a sales support consultant for nine years, working closely with the assistant vice president of Recognition & Conferences. She was responsible for the communication and promotion of company annual sales campaigns, including creative, communications, electronic, and printed materials, and distribution of awards and rewards. Previously, she served as director of Communications and Marketing for the Satellite Agency Network Group. Roukey holds a bachelor’s degree in communications and business administration from Granite State College and an associate degree in mass communications from the University of Hartford. She earned the professional certified marketer (PCM) digital marketing designation from the American Marketing Assoc.

Chamber Corners Departments

1BERKSHIRE

www.1berkshire.com

(413) 499-1600

• April 18: Good News Business Salute, 7:30-9 a.m., hosted by Berkshire Hills Country Club, 500 Benedict Road, Pittsfield. Join us for our morning breakfast, where we will honor members and announce the winner of this year’s Esther Quinn Award. Cost: $35-$45. Register online at www.1berkshire.com.

• April 26: Creative Resources Conference, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., hosted by Stationery Factory, 63 Flansburg Ave., Dalton. The format has three tracts, with a total of nine workshops for creatives, entrepreneurs, and small businesses. More information to come. Register online at www.1berkshire.com.

AMHERST AREA CHAMBER OF COMMERCE

www.amherstarea.com

(413) 253-0700

• April 26: Margarita Madness, 5:30-7:30 p.m., hosted by Lord Jeffery Inn, 30 Boltwood Ave., Amherst. Come taste margaritas and vote for your favorite. There will also be delicious dishes from participating restaurants and dozens of great raffle prizes. Cost: $30 pre-registered, $40 at the door. Register online at www.amherstarea.com.

FRANKLIN COUNTY CHAMBER OF COMMERCE

www.franklincc.org

(413) 773-5463

• April 20: Monthly Breakfast Series, 7:30-9 a.m., hosted by Greenfield High School, 21 Barr Ave., Greenfield. Full breakfast will be served during the program, which will feature an Entrepreneur of the Year panel. Sponsored by Franklin County Community Development Corp. and the Franklin Hampshire Regional Employment Board. Cost: $13 for members; $16 for non-members. Register at franklincc.org or by e-mailing [email protected]

• April 26: Business After Hours, 5-7 p.m., hosted by Hawks and Reed Performing Arts Center, 289 Main St., Greenfield. Networking event with special guest Sue Dahling Sullivan from Massachusetts ArtWeek. Come kick off the debut of ArtWeek in Western Mass. Refreshments and cash bar will be available. Cost: $10. Register at franklincc.org or by e-mailing [email protected]

GREATER CHICOPEE CHAMBER OF COMMERCE

www.chicopeechamber.org

(413) 594-2101

• April 3: Chamber Seminar: “Pay Equity,” presented by Employers Assoc. of the NorthEast, 9-11 a.m, hosted by La Quinta Inn & Suites. Sponsored by Westfield Bank. Cost: $20 for members, $25 for non-members. Sign up online at chicopeechamber.org/events.

• April 11: Multi-chamber Table Top Expo: “A Taste of Commerce,” 4:30-7 p.m., hosted by Bartley Center at Holyoke Community College. Table fee of $150 includes table, two entrance passes, a light supper, and parking. Admission: free with pre-registration only, $15 at the door. Sign up at chicopeechamber.org/events.

• April 19: Business After Hours: A Salute to the ’70s Disco Party, 4:30-6:30 p.m., hosted by Ohana School of Performing Arts. Cost: $10 for members, $15 for non-members. Sign up online at chicopeechamber.org/events.

• April 24: B2B Speed Networking, 8-9 a.m., hosted by Chicopee Boys and Girls Club. For more information, visit chicopeechamber.org/events.

• April 25: Salute Breakfast at the Moose Family Center: “Easy, Cost-neutral Sustainability for Businesses,” 7:15-9 a.m. Chief Greeter: Phil Norman, CISA. Keynote: Center for EcoTechnology. Sponsored by United Personnel, Westfield Bank, Holyoke Medical Center, Polish National Credit Union, Gaudreau Group, Sunshine Village, Spherion Staffing Services, and PeoplesBank. Cost: $23 for members, $28 for non-members. Sign up online at chicopeechamber.org/events.

GREATER EASTHAMPTON CHAMBER OF COMMERCE

www.easthamptonchamber.org

(413) 527-9414

• April 4: Networking by Night, 5-7 p.m., hosted by Suite3 in the Mill 180 Building, 180 Pleasant St., Easthampton. Sponsored by Suite3. Take your connection building to the next level when we partner with the Greater Northampton Chamber of Commerce on this Networking by Night event. Cost: $10 for members, $15 for future members. For more information, visit www.easthamptonchamber.org or call the chamber office at (413) 527-9414.

• April 11: Multi-chamber Table Top Expo: “A Taste of Commerce,” 4:30-7 p.m., hosted by Bartley Center at Holyoke Community College. Friends and colleagues can come together for new networking opportunities and new features such as Made in Mass., Minute Clinic, and Food for Thought. Admission: free with online registration, $15 at the door. Table space is still available. For more information, visit www.easthamptonchamber.org or call the chamber office at (413) 527-9414.

• May 10: Networking by Night, 5-7 p.m., hosted by Amy’s Place, 80 Cottage St., Easthampton. Sponsored by bankESB. There will be food and door prizes. Cost: $10 for members, $15 for non-members. For more information, visit www.easthamptonchamber.org or call the chamber office at (413) 527-9414.

GREATER HOLYOKE CHAMBER OF COMMERCE

www.holyokechamber.com

(413) 534-3376

• April 4: Women in Leadership Series, 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., hosted by HCC Culinary Arts Institute, 164 Race St., Holyoke. Join us April through July to learn from area CEOs while networking with your peers from the region. An elegant lunch prepared by students from the Holyoke Community College Culinary Arts program will provide the setting, which will create the opportunity for a meaningful dialogue on some key leadership issues for those building their careers. Each month your table will join one of the region’s leading CEOs.

• April 11: Multi-chamber Table Top Expo: “A Taste of Commerce,” 4:30-7 p.m., hosted by Bartley Center at Holyoke Community College. Presented by the Greater Holyoke, Greater Chicopee, Greater Easthampton, Greater Northampton, South Hadley/Granby, and Quaboag Hills chambers of commerce. Vendor tables cost $150. Admission: no charge with advance registration, $15 at the door. This event sells out. Call (413) 534-3376 or your local chamber to reserve a table.

• April 18: Chamber After Hours, 5-7 p.m., sponsored and hosted by Fairfield Inn & Suites, 229 Whiting Farms Road, Holyoke. Meet up with your friends and business associates for a little networking. Cost: $10 for members, $15 for non-members. Feel free to bring a door prize. Sign up online at holyokechamber.com.

• April 20: Economic Development Breakfast, 7:30-9 a.m., hosted by Holyoke Community College, Kittredge Center, PeoplesBank Conference Room. Learn from EMPATH about how to break the cycle of poverty and utilize the bridge to self-sufficiency theory to approach economic mobility. EMPATH helps low-income people achieve long-term economic mobility, and has developed a holistic approach to mentoring backed by the latest brain science that busts through silos and combats chronic stress. Event emcees are Mary Coleman, EMPATH; Dr. Christina Royal, Holyoke Community College; and Kathleen Anderson, Greater Holyoke Chamber of Commerce. Cost: $25 for members, $30 for non-members and walk-in guests.

GREATER NORTHAMPTON CHAMBER OF COMMERCE

www.explorenorthampton.com

(413) 584-1900

• April 4: April Arrive @ 5, 5-7 p.m., hosted by Suite3 in the Mill 180 Building, 180 Pleasant St., Easthampton. Sponsored by Applied Mortgage, H&R Block, and MassDevelopment. A networking event. Cost: $10 for members.

• April 11: Protecting Your Data from Security Risks, 9-11 a.m., hosted by Northampton Chamber of Commerce, 99 Pleasant St., Northampton. Presented by Pioneer Training. CyberSafe is a two-hour workshop for non-technical users that focuses on using technology without compromising personal or organizational security. Students will learn the skills they need to protect digital data on computers, networks, mobile devices, and the Internet. They will learn how to identify many of the common risks involved in using technology, such as phishing, spoofing, malware, and social engineering, and then learn how to protect themselves and their organizations from those risks. Pre-registration is required, and space is limited. Cost: $25 for members, $35 for non-members. To register, visit goo.gl/forms/pX8YUuC25YdMsLjD2.

• April 11: Multi-chamber Table Top Expo: “A Taste of Commerce,” 4:30-7 p.m., hosted by Bartley Center at Holyoke Community College. A networking event. Cost: $150 for a table for members, $225 for a table for non-members, $10 walk-in fee for members.

• May 4: Annual Spring Swizzle, 6:30-10:30 p.m., hosted by Eastside Grill, 19 Strong Ave., Northampton. A networking event. Cost: $75; $100 for two. Purchase tickets at www.chamberspringswizzle.com.

• May 9: May Arrive @ 5, 5-7 p.m., host to be announced. Sponsored by Northeast Solar and the Lusteg Wealth Management Group – Merrill Lynch. A networking event. Cost: $10 for members.

• May 17: Workshop: “Microsoft Excel Tips, Tricks & Shortcuts,” 9-11 a.m., hosted by Greater Northampton Chamber of Commerce, 99 Pleasant St., Northampton. Presented by Pioneer Training. This workshop will present our favorite tips, tricks, and shortcuts we have collected and developed over 20 years of teaching and using Microsoft Excel. Topics will include shortcuts for selecting ranges, using autofill to create a series of dates or numbers, setting the print area, using page-break preview, adding headers and footers, and using page-layout view. You’ll learn how to group spreadsheets in the same workbook in order to type or format more than one sheet at the same time, as well as how to create 3D formulas that calculate across several spreadsheets in the same workbook. Participants are encouraged to bring laptops and follow along with the instructor, but this is not required. Cost: $35 for members, $45 for non-members. Pre-registration required at goo.gl/forms/pX8YUuC25YdMsLjD2.

• June 6: June Arrive @ 5, 5-7 p.m., hosted by Glendale Ridge Vineyard, 155 Glendale Road, Southampton. Sponsored by Northeast Solar, MassDevelopment, and Kuhn Riddle Architects. A networking event. Cost: $10 for members.

• June 21: Workshop: “Microsoft Word: Advanced Tips, Tricks & Shortcuts,” 9-11 a.m., hosted by Greater Northampton Chamber of Commerce, 99 Pleasant St., Northampton. Presented by Pioneer Training. This workshop will go beyond the basics and explore some of Word’s more advanced features. You’ll learn how to use Word styles to make global changes to a document quickly and easily. The class will also cover working with templates to automate document creation. You’ll learn to use several of Word’s features for working with longer documents — adding a table of contents, inserting section breaks, inserting headers and footers, and inserting and modifying page numbers. Cost: $35 for members, $45 for non-members. Space is limited, and pre-registration is required at goo.gl/forms/pX8YUuC25YdMsLjD2.

GREATER WESTFIELD CHAMBER OF COMMERCE

www.westfieldbiz.org

(413) 568-1618

• April 2: April Mayor’s Coffee Hour, 8-9 a.m., hosted by the Arbors, 40 Court St., Westfield. Join us for our monthly Mayor’s Coffee Hour with Westfield Mayor Brian Sullivan. Event is free and open to the public. Register online at www.westfieldbiz.org so we may give our host a proper count. For more information, call Pam at the chamber at (413) 568-1618.

• April 11: WE2BA High School Career Fair, 7:45-11:30 a.m., hosted by Westfield State University at the Woodward Center, 395 Western Ave., Westfield. Don’t miss the chance to help shape our future through workforce development in our community. Join us to help inspire Westfield High School and Westfield Technical Academy students with career exploration. More than 400 students will be in attendance. We are looking for 75 vendors to participate. The vendor tables are free. Register online at www.westfieldbiz.org. For more information, call Pam at the chamber at (413) 568-1618.

• April 9: April After 5 Connection, 5-7 p.m., hosted by Betts Plumbing & Heating Supply Inc., 14 Coleman Ave., Westfield. Refreshments will be served. A 50/50 raffle will benefit the chamber scholarship fund. Bring your business cards and make connections. Cost: free for members, $10 for non-members (cash or credit paid at the door). Register online at www.westfieldbiz.org. For more information, call Pam at the chamber at (413) 568-1618.

• April 24: Home & Business Community Marketplace & Tabletop Event, 4:30-7 p.m., hosted by the Ranch Golf Club, 65 Sunnyside Road, Southwick. An opportunity to market and sell your products and services to area residents and businesses. Sip and shop your way through the marketplace with a beer and wine tasting, live music, and a chance to vote for your favorite nosh at the food court. Cost: $50 for vendor rental space (table not included; bring your own, six feet or less with tablecloth), $75 for vendor table (includes six-foot table; bring your own tablecloth). Attendance is free to the public. For more information, contact Southwick Economic Development at (413) 304-6100.

SOUTH HADLEY & GRANBY CHAMBER OF COMMERCE

www.shgchamber.com

(413) 532-6451

• April 11: Multi-chamber Table Top Expo: “A Taste of Commerce,” 4:30-7 p.m., hosted by Bartley Center at Holyoke Community College. This business networking and marketing event, now in its 24th year, will provide business professionals and entrepreneurs an opportunity to promote their businesses — to “strut their stuff.” Tables are available for $150. Admission is free if you pre-register with the chamber or $15 at the door. Whether you plan to be a participating vendor or want to simply attend, go to www.shgchamber.com for more information or to register, or call (413) 532-6451.

• April 19: Business After 5, 4:30-6:30 p.m., hosted by Ohana School of Performing Arts, 470 Newton St., South Hadley. Sponsored by Berkshire Hills Music Academy. This Everything 70’s Disco Party is a networking event for members and friends of the chamber. We are joining with the Greater Chicopee Chamber of Commerce on this event, so there will be many new business colleagues to meet and greet over the three floors of studio space. The event will feature music, food, beverages, and dancing. Cost: $10 for members, $15 for non-members. For further information and to register, visit www.shgchamber.com or call the chamber office at (413) 532-6451.

• April 22: Mohegan Sun bus trip, 9:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Proceeds support the chamber’s scholarship fund and its two community Councils on Aging. There are bonuses on food and other pluses included in the cost. Bus departs from and returns to the former Big Y parking lot at 501 Newton St. Cost: $35. For further information and to register, visit www.shgchamber.com or call the chamber office at (413) 532-6451.

• April 24: An Educational Breakfast: “Cybersecurity: What We All Need to Know,” 7:30-9 a.m., hosted by PeoplesBank and Loomis Village, 20 Bayon St., South Hadley. We will learn how cybersecurity impacts our own lives, both personally and professionally. The presentation will be led by Joseph Zazzaro, senior vice president, Information Technology, and David Thibault, first vice president, Commercial Banking at PeoplesBank. Cost: $10 for members, $15 for non-members. For further information and to register, visit www.shgchamber.com or call the chamber office at (413) 532-6451.

SPRINGFIELD REGIONAL CHAMBER

www.springfieldregionalchamber.com

(413) 787-1555

• April 4: [email protected], 7:15-9 a.m, hosted by Delaney House, One Country Club Road, Holyoke. Featuring the Mayor’s Forum with Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno, West Springfield Mayor William Reichelt, and newly elected Easthampton Mayor Nicole LaChapelle, who will be interviewed by Western Mass News anchor Dave Madsen. Cost: $25 for members in advance ($30 at the door), $35 general admission ($40 at the door). To make a reservation, visit www.springfieldregionalchamber.com, e-mail [email protected], or call (413) 755-1310.

• April 5: Leadership Institute Graduation, 6 p.m., hosted by Springfield Sheraton, One Monarch Place, Springfield. Cost: $40 for members. To make a reservation, visit www.springfieldregionalchamber.com, e-mail [email protected], or call (413) 755-1310.

• April 25: Beacon Hill Summit, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., day-long trip to the State House to meet legislators. Cost: $180 for members, $225 general admission, which includes transportation, lunch, and reception. To make a reservation, visit www.springfieldregionalchamber.com, e-mail [email protected], or call (413) 755-1310.

WEST OF THE RIVER CHAMBER OF COMMERCE

www.ourwrc.com

(413) 426-3880

• April 4: Wicked Wednesday, 5-7 p.m., hosted by CHD Cancer House of Hope, West Springfield. Wicked Wednesdays are monthly social events, hosted by various businesses and restaurants, that bring members and non-members together to network in a laid-back atmosphere. For more information about this event, contact the chamber office at (413) 426-3880, or register online at www.westoftheriverchamber.com.

• April 12: Networking Lunch, noon to 1:30 p.m., hosted by Lattitude, West Springfield. Must be a member or guest of a member to attend. Enjoy a sit-down lunch while networking with fellow chamber members. Each attendee will get a chance to offer a brief sales pitch. The only cost to attend is the cost of lunch. Attendees will order off the menu and pay separately that day. We cannot invoice you for these events. Register online at www.westoftheriverchamber.com.

• April 26: Coffee with Agawam Mayor Sapelli, 8:30-10 a.m., hosted by Agawam Senior Center Coffee Shop, 954 Main St., Agawam. Join us for a cup of coffee and a town update from Mayor Bill Sapelli. Questions and answers will immediately follow. For more information, contact the chamber office at (413) 426-3880 or [email protected]

YOUNG PROFESSIONAL SOCIETY OF GREATER SPRINGFIELD

springfieldyps.com

• April 19: YPS Third Thursday: “Career Development & Networking,” 5-7 p.m., hosted by Lattitude Restaurant, 1338 Memorial Ave., West Springfield. Cost: free for YPS members, $10 for non-members.