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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.

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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.

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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.

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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]