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Workforce Development

The Heat Is On

Springfield Operations Manager Meagan Greene

The culinary world is a notoriously challenging place to forge a career, and turnover at the entry level is often high, a problem that constantly challenges restaurants, hotels, colleges, and a host of other food-service companies. Enter Snapchef, which has built a regional reputation for training those workers and matching them with workforce needs to help them get a foot in the door — and then, hopefully, kick it in.

It’s called ‘backfilling.’

That’s a concept businesses in many area industries — from financial services to marketing, from security to hospitality — have been thinking about as MGM Springfield has ramped up its efforts to hire some 3,000 people for its August opening.

Backfilling, simply put, it’s the replacement of an employee who moves on to a different opportunity, and MGM has undoubtedly caused a wave of that phenomenon locally. Because of the casino’s food-service operations, area restaurants, hotels, and other facilities that prepare and serve food have been doing quite a bit of backfilling as well.

If they can find adequate replacements, that is. That’s where Snapchef, a regional food-service training company that opened up shop in Springfield last year, can play a key role.

CEO Todd Snopkowski, who founded Snapchef 16 years ago, said the business model has proven successful in its other four locations — Boston, Dorchester, Worcester, and Providence, R.I. — and has found fertile ground in the City of Homes, where the need for restaurant workers has been on the rise.

“We train folks that are looking to make a career change,” he told BusinessWest. “And, being a staffing company, we don’t only train, we also match folks looking for work in the industry with jobs that are available. If they don’t have the skills to do a job, we actually train them, whether it be dishwashing, cooking, cheffing, you name it. We cover those bases and give them a foothold in the industry.”

As the largest culinary training and staffing company in New England, Snapchef essentially trains and provides staffing help to area food-service establishments. Clients range from large colleges and universities and hospitals to food-service corporations; from hotels and corporate cafeterias to hotels and restaurants.

We train folks that are looking to make a career change,” he told BusinessWest. “And, being a staffing company, we don’t only train, we also match folks looking for work in the industry with jobs that are available. If they don’t have the skills to do a job, we actually train them, whether it be dishwashing, cooking, cheffing, you name it. We cover those bases and give them a foothold in the industry.”

“If they come to me with little or no skills or just want to brush up, we guide individuals in that track,” said Meagan Greene, operations manager in Springfield, noting that Snapchef’s 13-week courses include fast-track culinary training, ServSafe food handling, and workplace safety, among other offerings.

“When the finish the apprentice program, we try to find them full-time jobs, where they can utilize their skills in the workforce,” she went on, noting that all of that is free. The training programs are grant-funded, while Snapchef’s partner employers pay for the hours the employee works, while SnapChef pays the employee directly, with pay depending on the position.

This isn’t culinary school, Greene stressed, but a place to learn enough to get into the culinary world, and advance career-wise from there — an idea Greene called “earning and learning.”

“We go over soups, stocks, sauces, emulsions, salad bar, deli prep. Sometimes, people will go out into the field, come back, and say, ‘hey, Meagan, I did this today at work; is there a better way to do it?’ We also do a little bit of baking, which isn’t our specialty, but you’ll learn how to make pies, quick breads, muffins, and danishes.”

The need for culinary workers, especially at the entry level, is constant, Greene noted, sometimes year-round and sometimes seasonally — for example, colleges need help between September and May, while Six Flags requires a wave of help between April and October.

“For some of the colleges, this will be their second school year with us, so they may buy out some of our employees because they liked them last year,” she told BusinessWest. “It’s kind of bittersweet for us, because the people who get bought out or move forward or find their own job — those are your keepers. Those are the ones who show up for work every day, people who are clean and on time and ready to rock. I’m like, ‘noooo!’ But it’s nice to see somebody move forward.”

Moving forward, after all, is what it’s all about once that foot is in the door.

Slow Burn

Snopkowski has grown Snapchef from its original home Dorchester into a regional force that has trained thousands of workers for potentially rewarding careers in what is, admittedly, a tough field to master, and one where good help is valuable.

Clients have ranged from individual restaurants and caterers to Foxwoods Resort Casino and Gillette Stadium, as well as large food-service corporations like Aramark, Sodexo, and the Compass Group.

Snapchef CEO Todd Snopkowski

Snapchef CEO Todd Snopkowski

“With my background, being a corporate chef, I saw the need for an organization like Snapchef 25 years ago. And I think there’s a huge opportunity down the road for even more expansion,” said, noting that MGM Springfield itself poses significant opportunity. “We’re supporting them, and for businesses suffering the loss of people taking these awesome jobs MGM has to offer, we’re there to make sure we backfill the vacancies.”

Snapchef’s growth has led to a number of accolades for Snopkowski, including the 2015 SBA Small Business Person of the Year award for Massachusetts, and the 2016 Citizens Bank Good Citizens Award. And it has inspired people like Greene, who see the value in training the next generation of food-service workers.

She works with the state Department of Labor and the Regional Employment Board of Hampden County to create apprenticeship models, teaching participants everything from basic knife skills to how to conduct themselves in a kitchen. She also helps them append their résumés based on what they’ve learned.

After studying culinary arts at a vocational high school and earning three degrees from Johnson & Wales University, she became a sous chef at Sturbridge Host Hotel, not far from her home in Warren. She loved the job — and the commute — but traded it in for an opportunity to work for Snapchef.

“To be honest, I’m never bored. I’m always doing something different,” she said, and that’s true of many of her trainees, who typically begin with temporary placements, which often become permanent. But not all are seeking a permanent gig, she added; some love the variety of ever-changing assignments.

“Some people love it because it’s a lifestyle for them,” she said. “They want to work over here, then they come back to me and say, ‘hey, Meagan, I wasn’t really liking that spot; I don’t want to go back there. I didn’t like the size of the kitchen. It was too big for me; I’m used to working in a smaller kitchen.’” I’ll say, ‘OK, I’ll try not to send you back there.’ And it’s a two-way street; clients can say, ‘I don’t want Joe Smith back.’”

Because the training is free, Snapchef offers an attractive opportunity for people who want to get a food in the door in food service.

Finishing Touches

As a company that fills a needed gap — as culinary schools aren’t typically training for entry-level positions — Snopkowski said Snapchef has made significant inroads in Western Mass. over the past year, especially working with FutureWorks Career Center to identify individuals looking to shift into the world of food service.

“Our employees don’t have to pay for transition training and all those attributes that are needed to get a foothold in the business,” he told BusinessWest. “It’s good to see that MGM recognizes it, the colleges as well.”

Speaking of financial perks, Snapchef-trained employees may access round-trip transportation from the Springfield office to their job sites across the region, for only $3 per day, Greene said. “It’s cheaper than Uber, cheaper than Lyft, and better than having your mom come pick you up and drop you off. If you live in the city and are used to taking the bus everywhere, you don’t have to worry about how to get to work.”

As for Greene, she continues to enjoy the variety of her work — a pickling enthusiast, she taught a recent class how to pickle vegetables, and they prepared 300 jars worth — as well as the success stories that arise from it, like a man trained by Snapchef who went on to further his education at Holyoke Community College and is now opening a restaurant with his daughter.

“I’ve had the opportunity to see people progress in a short period of time,” she said. “It’s nice to see someone grow so fast. I love that.”

Snopkowski has seen plenty such stories unfold in the 16 years his company has been training people for a new, challenging career, and then helping them build a foothold in the industry.

“We’ve only been able to scratch the surface; there are so many other opportunities out there,” he said. “The future is bright in culinary.”

Joseph Bednar can be reached at [email protected]

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.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — American International College (AIC) alumnus Darnell Williams will deliver the commencement address to more than 1,000 undergraduate students and master’s degree candidates at the college’s commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 12 at 9 a.m. at the MassMutual Center. Williams will receive an honorary doctor of laws degree for outstanding achievement in the social sciences and for significant community contributions at the local and national levels.

Williams, president and CEO of the Urban League of Eastern Massachusetts, has made a lifelong commitment to equality and the creation of educational, professional, and personal growth opportunities for African-Americans and other minority populations. He has made raising awareness and cultivating solutions to challenges facing communities of color and low-income families his life’s work.

Born in Gary, Ind., Williams attended AIC, graduating in 1979 with a bachelor’s degree in business administration. In 1996, he was elected president of the Springfield branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and became the president of the NAACP’s New England Area Conference. In 2001, he was appointed president and CEO of the Urban League of Eastern Massachusetts (ULEM), and, while in that role, his efforts contributed to Boston’s successful bid to host the 2004 Democratic National Convention. In 2011, the ULEM hosted the National Urban League’s annual conference, marking the first time in 35 years the conference took place in the city of Boston. Williams was elected to a two-year term as president of the Assoc. of Executives for the National Urban League in 2015, and served on the National Urban League Board of Directors.

Williams has been an active participant in many civic, philanthropic, and educational ventures. He is currently a member of Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healy’s Advisory Council on Racial Justice and Equity. Previously, he served Gov. Deval Patrick and Gov. Michael Dukakis as a member of the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority board of directors and Retirement Fund board of trustees. He has served as trustee of the Dana Farber Cancer Institute, Bunker Hill Community College, and the Beaver Country Day School. He was a member of the boards of directors for several organizations, including the Boston Workforce Development Coalition, the Federal Reserve Community Development Advisory Board, and the Chief Executives’ Club of Boston. Locally, he served as director of the United Way of Pioneer Valley and vice chairman for the Springfield Board of Fire Commissioners.

Boston Mayor Thomas Menino presented Williams with a community-service award in 2003 and the Paul Parks Veterans Community Service Award in 2005. Two years later, he was honored with induction into the Human Resources Alliance for African Americans Hall of Fame. Williams received the Civil Rights Leadership Award from Harvard Street Health Center in 2017, and the Transportation Community Partner Award from the Conference of Minority Transportation Officials in 2018.

40 Under 40 Class of 2018

Co-owner, Chief Strategy Officer, Universal Plastics Group; Age 37; Education: BA, Northwestern University; MBA, University of Chicago Booth Graduate School of Business

Pia Sareen Kumar

Pia Sareen Kumar

Before her time at Universal Plastics Group, Kumar worked at JPMorgan Chase and American Express. She serves on the boards of the Women’s Fund of Western Massachusetts and the Springfield Technical Community College Foundation, is a member of the Women President’s Organization, and a is reader and school sponsor with Link to Libraries.

What three words best describe you? Committed, optimistic, perceptive.

What do you like most about Western Massachusetts? There is a strong culture of ownership and grass-roots change to improve the local community. We take it upon ourselves to change things.

Who has been your best mentor, and why? As a working mom who is engaged in her community, the mothers I have — my mother and mother-in-law — have shaped my values and priorities tremendously. Both support me unconditionally and encourage me to ignore the constraints and barrel ahead. They also give me the ultimate gift of honest but kind feedback.

What are you passionate about? I am passionate about empowerment, through education, literacy, and leadership training. Also, as a business owner, my greatest moments of actualization and delight come from hearing that, because of working at Universal, someone can do more for themselves or for their family, like buy a house, go back to school, or give their child an opportunity they themselves didn’t have.

Whom do you look up to, and why? I look up to Sue Kaplan, the founder of Link to Libraries, who has brought the community together to provide access and instill in our children a love for the written word, and also Joe Peters, vice chairman of Universal Plastics, for his tremendous contributions to local workforce development and training.

What goal do you set for yourself at the start of each day? To be productive, planful, and effective enough all day so that I am fully present with my three children in the evening.

What will work colleagues say at your funeral? I would like my colleagues to spend only 20% of the time talking about my professional achievements.

What person, past or present, would you like to have lunch with, and why? My father. He lives very far away, and I miss him.


Photography by Leah Martin Photography

40 Under 40 Class of 2018

Youth Counselor and Operations Coordinator, CareerPoint; Age 25; Education: BSW, Westfield State University

Saul Caban

Saul Caban

Caban grew up in a tough section of Holyoke, and early on knew he wanted to be a role model for at-risk youth and others like himself. He is passionate about service and excited to be back working in the Youth Department at CareerPoint, where he continues to deliver intensive counseling to young people in his community, helping them gain awareness of their skills and interests and guiding them on a path to success in the workforce and beyond. The second youngest of six siblings in a first-generation family, Caban was the first to graduate high school, the first to graduate from college, and the first to be admitted to graduate school. He is now working on the completion of an MPA in nonprofit management at Westfield State University.

What did you want to be when you grew up? Growing up, I wanted to be a lawyer, but now I’m still working on my plan to pursue a leadership career in higher education and/or workforce development.

How do you define success? To me, success is when I am performing well and satisfied with my position. It is knowing that my work and efforts are adding value to my company, but also to my overall life and the lives of other people.

What three words best describe you? Outgoing, witty, efficient.

What do you like most about Western Massachusetts? I love the people.

Who has been your best mentor, and why? I’ve had several amazing mentors come into my life, including my current supervisor, Gladys Lebron-Martinez (pictured); Steve Leiblum, former director of the NEARI Jump Start after-school program; and Holyoke legend Steve Dubilo, who left his legacy behind, and I’m proud to have been his ‘son’ for many years before his death. These three have introduced me to amazing people and the resources that I need to be successful in an ever-evolving world.

What goal do you set for yourself at the start of each day? To bring out the best in someone, so that they, in turn, bring out the best in the next person.

What will work colleagues say at your funeral? Saul brought a lot of energy and positive spirit, and he could always be counted on.

What person, past or present, would you like to have lunch with, and why? My mom. Because I don’t get to see her as much as I want to.

Daily News

HOLYOKE — Holyoke Community College is bringing together an all-star lineup of regional leaders for a panel discussion on April 25, focusing on the future of the Pioneer Valley and HCC’s role in it.

That discussion, “Shaping the Future: HCC and the Pioneer Valley,” will be conducted over breakfast from 7:30 to 10 a.m. in the PeoplesBank Conference Room in the HCC Kittredge Center for Business and Workforce Development on the main campus, 303 Homestead Ave.

The breakfast is open to the public. Community members are welcome and encouraged to attend.

HCC president Christina Royal will moderate the discussion, which will begin about 7:50 a.m. The panelists include Tricia Callahan, president of United Personnel; Nathan Costa, president of the Springfield Thunderbirds and an HCC alumnus from the Class of 2003; Dianne Fuller Doherty, a social entrepreneur and community advocate; Scott Foster, co-founder of Valley Venture Mentors, Inc.; Marcos Marrero, director of Planning and Economic Development for the City of Holyoke; Rick Sullivan, president and CEO of the Western MA Economic Development Council; and Katie Allan Zobel, president of the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts.

After the panel, guests will be invited to join a larger dialogue about the opportunities and challenges facing HCC as the college gathers feedback for a yearlong strategic planning process.

“Once complete, this plan will chart our course — not just ours as a community college, but ours as a region,” Royal said. “We strongly believe our work is collaborative and that together we are capable of great things. We want members of the community to join the conversation.”

Briefcase Departments

Local River Advocates Join
National Trend with EPA Lawsuit
GREENFIELD — Last fall, the Connecticut River Conservancy (CRC) joined the Massachusetts Rivers Alliance and eight other watershed groups from across Massachusetts to file suit against the EPA and Administrator Scott Pruitt in Boston’s federal district court. Their request of the court is simple: reject EPA’s one-year delay in implementing Massachusetts’ new stormwater permit because stormwater is one of the greatest threats to clean water in Massachusetts. This lawsuit is part of a growing national trend in suing the EPA in order to protect the environment. The CRC argues that Pruitt and the EPA have been hastily rolling back environmental regulations, but mistakes have been made in their haste and disregard for legal process, such as failing to hold required public comment periods or provide rationale for a repeal or delay. Now, environmental groups across the nation are going to court and using these mistakes to successfully halt environmental rollbacks. For example, the courts have prevented the suspension of rules to curb methane emissions and the delay of tougher standards on air pollutants and lead in paint. River advocates fear the updated stormwater permit could be delayed much longer than one year. “We think the EPA’s legal case is fundamentally flawed,” said Andrew Fisk, executive director of the Connecticut River Conservancy. “Pruitt and the EPA have asked for this delay while permit appeals are being decided, but then in the same breath also asked the court to delay judicial review of the appeals. It is clear that EPA is looking at every maneuver they can find to stop doing the right thing for the public’s water.” The river groups are represented by Kevin Cassidy of Earthrise Law Center and Access to Justice Fellow Irene Freidel. Of particular concern is the public-health issue of harmful bacteria flowing to rivers when it rains. About one in five water samples collected by CRC and partners in 2017 from the Connecticut River and tributaries in Massachusetts showed bacteria levels too high for recreation (swimming and/or boating). “Delaying the implementation of this updated permit puts our rivers and our water at risk, which also put our citizens and local economies that use and rely on our rivers at risk,” Fisk continued. “The EPA is charged with implementing the Clean Water Act for the benefit of the public, yet it did not weigh the public’s interest when it slammed the brakes on the MS4 Permit.” That permit regulates stormwater pollution under the federal Clean Water Act. The current MS4 permit was issued in 2003 and was set to expire on May 1, 2008. Instead, it has been administratively continued and remains in effect. A multi-year, multi-stakeholder process for updating the expired permit began in 2008. In April 2016, the EPA issued the updated MS4 permit after many rounds of public comment. The updated permit was set to go into effect on July 1, 2017 but was abruptly delayed by Pruitt and the EPA just two days before that date. The delay will cause existing stormwater projects to move forward with outdated stormwater controls, forcing costly upgrades in the future rather than the lower-cost option of adding updated controls at the time of construction, river advocates say. The delay also ignores the time and money invested by cities and towns that have already implemented new stormwater protection measures in preparation for the new permit to take effect last July. Stormwater is generated from rain and snowmelt that does not soak into the ground. Instead, it flows over land or impervious surfaces, such as paved streets and driveways, parking lots, and building rooftops into storm drains. During heavy rains, stormwater can flow directly into rivers. Common pollutants in stormwater runoff include antifreeze, detergents, fertilizers, gasoline, household chemicals, oil and grease, paints, pesticides, harmful bacteria, road salt, trash such as plastics and cigarette butts, ammonia, solvents, and fecal matter from pets, farm animals, and wildlife.

Creative Community Fellows
Accepting New England Applications
ALEXANDRIA, Va. — National Arts Strategies (NAS) announced that applications for the Creative Community Fellows program are now open to those living and working in the New England region. NAS is looking for artists, community organizers, administrators, and entrepreneurs who are driving positive change through arts and culture in their communities. Applications are due Sunday, April 22. Creative Community Fellows brings together a group of 25 creative change makers across New England. Fellows will jump-start the program by living and learning together in Vermont for one week in an incubator-like environment, building their skills in strategy, leadership, and design thinking. Over the course of five months, they will take monthly online courses in topic areas such as community development, finding capital and support, budgeting, and more. Together, they will share updates on their projects and meet with leaders in the field who will serve as mentors. Fellows are curious, open, collaborative, and interested in learning new skills and sharing their expertise. They are already doing this work and looking to create and even greater impact. The Barr Foundation has brought this program to New England in order to support creative leaders in the region. Thanks to its support, participation in this program is completely underwritten. “Arts and creativity can play a vital role in engaging communities to spark positive change. It’s our privilege to partner with National Arts Strategies to network and support the development of New England change agents who are artists and leaders across sectors,” said San San Wong, director of Arts & Creativity at the Barr Foundation.

Massachusetts Adds
13,700 Jobs in February
BOSTON — The state’s total unemployment rate remained at 3.5% in February, the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development announced. The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) preliminary job estimates indicate Massachusetts added 13,700 jobs in February. Over the month, the private sector added 13,100 jobs as gains occurred in education and health services; construction; trade, transportation, and utilities; professional, scientific, and business services; other services; and financial activities. The jobs level remained unchanged in leisure and hospitality. From February 2017 to February 2018, BLS estimates Massachusetts has added 39,100 jobs. The February unemployment rate was six-tenths of a percentage point lower than the national rate of 4.1% reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Labor and Workforce Development Secretary Rosalin Acosta noted that “2017 was the first time since 2000 in which the monthly unemployment rate remained below 4% for the entire year in the Commonwealth. Our low unemployment rate, coupled with over-the-year job and labor-force gains, all point towards the continued strength of the Massachusetts economy.” The labor force increased by 10,000 from 3,659,600 in January, as 9,500 more residents were employed and 500 more residents were unemployed over the month. Over the year, the state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate decreased four-tenths of a percentage point from 3.9% in February 2017. The state’s labor-force participation rate — the total number of residents 16 or older who worked or were unemployed and actively sought work in the last four weeks — is up one-tenth of a percentage point at 65.4%. The labor-force participation rate over the year has decreased by two-tenths of a percentage point compared to February 2017. The largest private-sector percentage job gains over the year were in construction; leisure and hospitality; professional, scientific, and business services; and other services. The Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development also announced that, compared to February 2017, unemployment rates dropped in 22 labor-market areas, increased in one, and remained the same in one labor-market area. Twelve of the 15 areas for which job estimates are published added jobs from February 2017 to February 2018, with the largest percentage gains in the Haverhill-Newburyport-Amesbury, Brockton-Bridgewater-Easton, Leominster-Gardner, and Lynn-Saugus-Marblehead areas.

Daily News

BOSTON — Local unemployment rates increased in 14 labor-market areas, decreased in one, and remained the same in nine labor market areas in the state during the month of February, the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development reported.

Compared to February 2017, the rates dropped in 22 labor-market areas, increased in one, and remained the same in one labor market area.

Seven of the 15 areas for which job estimates are published recorded a seasonal job gain in February. The largest gains occurred in the Boston-Cambridge-Newton, Springfield, Worcester, and Peabody-Salem-Beverly areas.

From February 2017 to February 2018, 12 of the 15 areas added jobs, with the largest percentage gains in the Haverhill-Newburyport-Amesbury, Brockton-Bridgewater-Easton, Leominster-Gardner, and Lynn-Saugus-Marblehead areas.

In order to compare the statewide rate to local unemployment rates, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates the statewide unadjusted unemployment rate for February was 4.0%.

Last week, the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development reported the statewide seasonally adjusted unemployment rate remained unchanged at 3.5% in the month of February. The statewide seasonally adjusted jobs estimate showed a 13,700-job gain in February, and an over-the-year gain of 39,100 jobs.

The unadjusted unemployment rates and job estimates for the labor market areas reflect seasonal fluctuations and therefore may show different levels and trends than the statewide seasonally adjusted estimates.

The estimates for labor force, unemployment rates, and jobs for Massachusetts are based on different statistical methodology specified by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Daily News

BOSTON — The state’s total unemployment rate remained at 3.5% in February, the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development announced.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) preliminary job estimates indicate Massachusetts added 13,700 jobs in February. Over the month, the private sector added 13,100 jobs as gains occurred in education and health services; construction; trade, transportation, and utilities; professional, scientific, and business services; other services; and financial activities. The jobs level remained unchanged in leisure and hospitality.

From February 2017 to February 2018, BLS estimates Massachusetts has added 39,100 jobs. The February unemployment rate was six-tenths of a percentage point lower than the national rate of 4.1% reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Labor and Workforce Development Secretary Rosalin Acosta noted that “2017 was the first time since 2000 in which the monthly unemployment rate remained below 4% for the entire year in the Commonwealth. Our low unemployment rate, coupled with over-the-year job and labor-force gains, all point towards the continued strength of the Massachusetts economy.”

The labor force increased by 10,000 from 3,659,600 in January, as 9,500 more residents were employed and 500 more residents were unemployed over the month.

Over the year, the state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate decreased four-tenths of a percentage point from 3.9% in February 2017.

The state’s labor-force participation rate — the total number of residents 16 or older who worked or were unemployed and actively sought work in the last four weeks — is up one-tenth of a percentage point at 65.4%. The labor-force participation rate over the year has decreased by two-tenths of a percentage point compared to February 2017.

The largest private-sector percentage job gains over the year were in construction; leisure and hospitality; professional, scientific, and business services; and other services.

Daily News

BOSTON — The state’s total unemployment rate remained at 3.5% in January, the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development announced.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ preliminary job estimates indicate Massachusetts lost 6,100 jobs in January. Over the month, the private sector lost 4,200 jobs; although gains occurred in professional, scientific, and business services; information; and other services. From January 2017 to January 2018, BLS estimates Massachusetts has added 29,000 jobs.

The January unemployment rate was six-tenths of a percentage point lower than the national rate of 4.1% reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“Massachusetts continues to experience a low unemployment rate and labor force expansions,” Labor and Workforce Development Secretary Rosalin Acosta said. “While the overall health of our economy remains strong, and 2017 marked the eighth consecutive year of job growth, persistent skills gaps remain. That is why our workforce-development partners remain committed to ensuring that those who are still unemployed or underemployed have access to the training resources they need to access high-demand jobs.”

The labor force increased by 2,200 from 3,657,300 in December, as 3,900 more residents were employed and 1,700 fewer residents were unemployed over the month.

Over the year, the state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate decreased four-tenths of a percentage point from 3.9% in January 2017.

The state’s labor-force participation rate — the total number of residents 16 or older who worked or were unemployed and actively sought work in the last four weeks — remained at 65.3%. The labor force participation rate over the year has decreased by 0.2% compared to January 2017.

The largest private-sector percentage job gains over the year were in construction; leisure and hospitality; professional, scientific, and business services; and other services.

Sections Workforce Development

Rolling the Dice

Diane Garvey

Diane Garvey, frustrated in her search for a sales position, has started down a much different career path, and was one of the first to sign up for classes at MCCTI.

Diane Garvey was at a career crossroads. In a big way.

In her 50s, she had spent most of her career working at call centers, as an office manager, and mostly in sales positions, specifically in the candy business, supplying retailers with everything from M&Ms to Russell Stover samplings.

Her most recent position had been eliminated in a restructuring last August, and she spent the next several months in a decidedly futile search for something else. By late last year, with her unemployment benefits winding down, her stop at the crossroads ended, sort of, and she started down a road previously not available to her and one she probably couldn’t have imagined last July.

That would be the Massachusetts Casino Career Training Institute, or MCCTI, an acronym that is quickly working its way into the region’s workforce lexicon and into the vocabulary of people like Garvey.

She was on the ninth floor of 95 State St. in downtown Springfield last Monday, taking the first of six weeks of classes that will likely earn her an audition with MGM Springfield, the $950 million casino going up next door, and perhaps a job on the casino floor by early summer, a few months before the sprawling complex is set to open.

“I was unable to relocate into a different position, so I looked at what was available,” she explained. “With MGM coming to the area and all the publicity they’ve had lately and their reputation for being number one in the entertainment business, maybe the best plan would be to go to the dealer class.”

There are roughly 70 people signed up for the first set of classes at MCCTI, a joint venture of Holyoke Community College and Springfield Technical Community College and part of the schools’ hugely successful TWO (Training and Workforce Options) program, which has created training programs to qualify individuals for work in several fields.

For each one of those students, the story is a little different, even though they’ve chosen the same path. Some, like Garvey, are unemployed and looking toward the casino as a place to relaunch their careers. Others are retired or near retirement and looking for something part-time to help fill the day and put a little money in their pocket. Others have some experience working table games in casinos and look upon MGM Springfield as a way to parlay that experience into a job with one of the leading gaming and entertainment companies in the world.

Orlando Marrero can check that last box, and as he talked about what brought him to the ninth floor for the evening class of MCCTI, he borrowed an industry term.

“I rolled the dice,” Marrero, who has a seasonal job delivering propane, told BusinessWest, not once, but several times as he discussed his decision to relocate to the City of Homes and essentially position himself for a job with MGM Springfield when it opens.

With his experience, Marrero probably faces slightly better odds than many of the other students at MCCTI, but all those enrolled stand a good chance of winning a jackpot, in the form of a job, if they are diligent and also passionate about mastering what Alex Dixon, general manager of MGM Springfield, called a “craft.”

“Sometimes people think that you have to know or like table games or like casinos to get into this,” he explained. “This is a craft, and it’s a skill, and with a small investment, you can really become skilled for the rest of your life. As long as you can pass an audition, you’re employable, and these jobs are in high demand.”

Dixon said the casino will need roughly 450 table-games workers and poker dealers when the casino opens, and he admits that MGM has its work cut out for it to not only meet that number but succeed with a much larger goal — sustainability.

“We have our work cut out for us,” he told BusinessWest. “And this is ongoing; we’re looking forward to developing a long-term pipeline of people in Western Mass. who want to choose an opportunity with us.”

For this issue and its focus on workforce development, BusinessWest talked with Marrero and Garvey about their decision to enroll in MCCTI, and with Dixon and others about the many challenges involved with having the casino floor fully staffed by opening night.

Playing the Numbers

With this pipeline-building test in mind, MGM Springfield has taken a number of steps designed to generate interest in the school and prompt more people across that broad spectrum described above to consider careers in table games.

An instructor works with students of all ages on the first day of classes at MCCTI.

An instructor works with students of all ages on the first day of classes at MCCTI.

These include options when it comes to how many games one wishes to learn, flexibility in the scheduling of classes (they run morning, afternoon, and night); similar flexibility when it comes to hours of employment (there are full- and part-time jobs and several shifts); and even reimbursement of the tuition cost.

Still, with all those incentives and flexibility, creating a large, talented corps of table-games workers in an area new to the casino industry will be a daunting challenge, said Dixon.

But he’s hoping, and expecting, that some of the first students to enter the pipeline — people like Garvey and Marrero — will become effective spokespeople, if you will, and help in the recruiting effort.

This is exactly what happened at MGM’s property in Maryland, National Harbor, which opened just over a year ago. There, a school similar to MCCTI and operated in conjunction with Prince George’s (County) Community College, was instrumental in helping that facility staff up with table-games workers.

“In many cases, our best recruiting tool will be our current students,” he explained. “They can certainly help people understand that this is an opportunity; if you’re a recent retiree or you’re currently employed and are looking to pick up a couple of shifts a week, just about anyone with a good attitude can do this.”

Marrero hasn’t even been hired yet, and he’s already helping in this regard, with comments like these when asked about why he was looking forward to returning to the casino floor — sometime soon, he hopes.

“This is what I like doing,” he explained. “I like interacting with the customers; we have a good time. I have a ball when I’m dealing.”

Marrero was a dealer for several years at Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods. He relocated to Western Mass. so his wife could take a job here, and he has taken odd things (like delivering propane) since. He first contacted Holyoke Community College with inquiries about a dealer school about three years ago, and was one of the first to sign up for the initial cohort of classes.

“I haven’t been a dealer for seven years, and wanted to refresh myself,” he explained, “so I can work at the new casino.”

Overall, Marrero fits just one of many profiles that TWO administrators are seeing in the group signed up for the first cohort that started on Feb. 26, said Jeff Hayden, vice president of Business and Community Services at Holyoke Community College.

He told BusinessWest that students come in all age groups and with a host of different backgrounds. Some signed up looking for a new career; others arrived on the ninth floor at 95 State St. hoping to find something new, different, and fulfilling to do in their retirement.

Orlando Marrero is an experienced dealer who enrolled at MCCTI to refresh his skills and learn more games.

Orlando Marrero is an experienced dealer who enrolled at MCCTI to refresh his skills and learn more games.

“So far, we’ve had a good response, but we’re always looking for more people,” said Hayden. “We’re seeing a mix that reflects the region; we’ve had a significant number of people who have some experience and are looking for a refresher course, or they know two games and want to know four games.

“We’ve had more women than men, but the men are primarily the ones with the prior experience,” he went on. “Some are unemployed, but many others are employed, but feel they’re underemployed or in a dead-end position. Still others are looking for something new and different, and MGM appeals to them.”

Dixon told BusinessWest that widely diverse student bodies are typical at these so-called ‘dealer schools,’ which exist even in areas, like Las Vegas and Atlantic City, where the gaming industry has a huge presence. That’s because table-games workers will often seek to add to their skills by mastering new games or by refreshing themselves on ones they already know, perhaps with the goal of winning a supervisory position.

In markets like Greater Springfield, however, a larger number of students are being introduced to these games — and to careers in gaming.

Hayden said that students essentially sign on for a 10-week block of classes. The first six weeks are spent on a so-called ‘level 1’ class in either blackjack, roulette, craps, or poker. A student would then take a four-week ‘level-2’ class in everything from mini baccarat to pai gow poker to follow-up sessions in blackjack, roulette, and craps.

Successfully completing classes for two or more games guarantees the student an audition with MGM, said Hayden, adding that, if a student were so inclined, they could sign up for two 10-week blocks and learn three or four games, thus likely improving their odds for employment and perhaps advancement.

Those auditions could come as early as mid-spring, said Dixon, noting that MGM Springfield will begin hiring experienced table-games workers in April and early May, and will likely start the hiring process with the first MCCTI graduates around that same time, meaning they could be on the payroll by June.

With that timetable, Diane Garvey will likely need an extension of her unemployment benefits to get by — something individuals can apply for and something that is often granted to those enrolled in training programs like MCCTI.

She told BusinessWest that she didn’t come to her decision to enroll in these classes quickly or easily. Instead, after much consideration, she decided that this seemed like the most logical path to take from the crossroads she arrived at, and maybe the best fit.

“I would have interaction with people, which is what I liked most about sales,” she explained. “And to be in an exciting environment like MGM … I thought that would be good for me as well. It looked like an opportunity I wanted to pursue.”

Improving Their Odds

While each student currently enrolled at MCCTI has a different story and a different perspective, there is a common denominator: they all use that word ‘opportunity.’

They see MGM and a job on the casino floor as a chance to add a missing piece — whether that piece is a career that’s not at a dead end or a part-time position that can add an intriguing wrinkle to retirement.

In both cases and a host of others that fall somewhere in between, it’s an opportunity. And to seize that opportunity, many are doing just what Orlando Marrero decided he had to do.

Roll the dice.

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

Daily News

HOLYOKE — CareerPoint, the Holyoke-based one-stop career center, announced three events for the coming week.

The public is invited to a ribbon cutting for the grand reopening of its College and Career Center at Westfield High School on Wednesday, March 7 at 9 a.m. Westfield Public Schools has engaged in a partnership with CareerPoint to coordinate the center’s activities. The focus of the center is to provide career and job services to students, and to help make connections for students between their academics and their future career options. Rosalin Acosta, state secretary of Labor and Workforce Development, and other state and local dignitaries plan to attend.

Also on Wednesday, March 7, at 11 a.m., Acosta and other state and local dignitaries will participate in a press conference at CareerPoint, 850 High St., Holyoke. Included will be an announcement about the implementation of a Massachusetts Disaster Hurricane Response Dislocated Worker Grant created to assist relocated citizens impacted by Hurricane Marie and Hurricane Irma. Individuals enrolled in the grant will be able to access vocational and ESOL training opportunities.

Finally, a delegation of Puerto Rican workforce-development professionals are visiting Massachusetts this week to learn how the Commonwealth, and specifically community-service organizations in Hampden County, have responded to the influx of relocated citizens impacted by Hurricane Maria. An information-sharing discussion with heads of many of those organizations and local political leaders is scheduled at CareerPoint on Thursday, March 8 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Briefcase Departments

Unemployment Rate Drops to 3.5% in Massachusetts

BOSTON — The state’s total unemployment rate dropped to 3.5% in December, the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development announced. The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ preliminary job estimates indicate Massachusetts lost 300 jobs in December. Over the month, the private sector lost 200 jobs; gains occurred in construction, manufacturing, leisure and hospitality, and financial activities. The November estimate was revised to a gain of 7,800 jobs. From December 2016 to December 2017, BLS estimates Massachusetts has added 63,000 jobs. The December unemployment rate was six-tenths of a percentage point lower than the national rate of 4.1% reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The labor force decreased by 500 from 3,647,500 in November, as 1,900 more residents were employed and 2,500 fewer residents were unemployed over the month. Over the year, the state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate increased four-tenths of a percentage point from 3.1% in December 2016. There were 17,900 more unemployed residents over the year compared to December 2016. The state’s labor-force participation rate — the total number of residents 16 or older who worked or were unemployed and actively sought work in the last four weeks — decreased one-tenth of a percentage point to 65.3% over the month. The labor-force participation rate over the year has increased by 0.7% compared to December 2016. The largest private sector percentage job gains over the year were in construction; professional, scientific, and business services; other services; and leisure and hospitality.

Union Station Wins Prize for Brownfields Redevelopment

WESTFIELD — Springfield Union Station has won the prestigious Phoenix Award grand prize for the best brownfields-redevelopment project in the nation. Announced during the December National Brownfields Training Conference in Pittsburgh, the Union Station project also won the Region 1 Phoenix Award. Both awards recognize exemplary brownfield redevelopment and revitalization. These awards highlight the critical environmental cleanup phase at Springfield Union Station, as well as the demolition and removal of a massive baggage warehouse and the remediation of the former site of the Hotel Charles. It also celebrates the redevelopment of a long-vacant historic train station into a state-of-the-art intermodal transit center. Built in 1926, the original Union Station was boarded up for 44 years before taken over by the Springfield Redevelopment Authority in 1989. After many fits and starts, the $94.1 million redevelopment project was funded by numerous federal, state, and local sources. This included grants from the EPA Brownfield Assessment and Cleanup program, MassDevelopment, the Federal Transit Administration, state transportation bond funds, a state parking grant, and more. Tighe & Bond provided extensive hazardous-building-material evaluations, abatement monitoring, building demolition design, and the assessment and remediation of widespread areas of subsurface contamination. After almost 10 years, Union Station has been transformed and repurposed into a LEED-certified building that opened last June, and is the new headquarters for Peter Pan Bus Lines. It has also spurred a new, adjacent, $15 million, 265-unit housing redevelopment. Besides the Phoenix Award, the project has already won other statewide awards for historic preservation, including the Preservation Massachusetts Paul & Nikki Tsongas Best Then & Now Award for 2017.

Expedia Names Lenox ‘Best Place to Escape in Massachusetts’

LENOX — The Lenox Chamber of Commerce announced that travel-booking website giant Expedia has named Lenox as the “Best Place to Escape in Massachusetts.” Expedia released its “Best Place to Escape in Every State” feature on Jan. 3. These places made the list for being ideal for a relaxing getaway where visitors can recharge, take a breather, and revel in serene solitude. “From quaint small towns to quiet nature preserves, this country is full of places to escape to, and we’ve chosen our favorite in each state, highlighting the perfectly restful things to do there. So, sit back, relax, and start dreaming of better times ahead — these calm places are calling your name,” Expedia author Lily Rogers wrote. Lenox and Berkshire notables highlighted in the article included Blantyre, Pleasant Valley Wildlife Sanctuary, the Mount, Edith Wharton’s Home, and Berkshire Grown.

Study Examines Veterans’ Addiction Risk Related to Childhood Adversity

AMHERST — Results of a national study led by public health scientist Elizabeth Evans at UMass Amherst, along with others at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and UCLA, suggest that risk for alcohol- and drug-use disorders among U.S. military veterans is increased by childhood adversity, and in ways that are different between women and men and different compared to the civilian population. According to Evans, assistant professor of Health Promotion and Policy at UMass Amherst School of Public Health and Health Sciences, in the general population, fewer women than men have an alcohol- or drug-use disorder. “Veterans are different in that there is no gender difference in the prevalence of these problems,” she explained. “Among veterans, a similar proportion of women and men — about 37% — have ever had an alcohol or drug-use disorder. This finding that women veterans are similar to men veterans, and are so different from civilian women, is unexpected. Also surprising are the high rates of childhood adversity among veterans, especially among women; 68% of women veterans report some childhood adversity, and they have the highest rates of childhood sexual abuse.” The study results appeared in a recent early online edition of Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology and will be in print this year. “One of the implications of this study is the need to assess for childhood adversity, to help people recognize its relationship with substance use and cope with its health impacts,” Evans noted. “When people join the military or when veterans access healthcare at the VA or in the community would be good times to assess and treat childhood adversity, and we’re often missing those opportunities now.” The researchers found that, with increasing exposure to adversity in childhood, risks of alcohol-use disorder among civilian men and women grew more similar, but for drug-use disorder, the gender differences in risk widened. By contrast, among veterans, more childhood adversity elevated men’s alcohol risk and increased women’s drug risk. “In general right now, we don’t assess for childhood adversity until there’s a problem, in particular with alcohol or drugs, or attempts to harm oneself or others,” Evans said. “However, we know that childhood adversity is an early life experience that is associated with anxiety, depression, and other risk factors for later health and social problems. We in public health, along with others in the community, can do more to prevent childhood adversity altogether. Also, more can be done to assess and address childhood adversity when it does occur so that we mitigate or undo its harmful effects. The need for such efforts is especially critical now given the devastating impacts of the current opioid epidemic on families and communities.”

Nominations Open for Ubora and Ahadi Awards

SPRINGFIELD — The African Hall subcommittee of the Springfield Museums is seeking nominations for the 27th annual Ubora Award and the ninth annual Ahadi Youth Award. The African Hall subcommittee is a volunteer group comprised of educators, business people, and community leaders from the African-American community. The nomination deadline for both awards is March 31. The Ubora Award is presented to an African-American adult who has demonstrated a commitment to the Greater Springfield area and exhibited excellence in the fields of community service, education, science, humanities, or the arts. The Swahili word ‘ubora’ means ‘excellence.’ Named for the Swahili word for ‘promise,’ the Ahadi Youth Award is presented to a young African-American who has excelled in academics and performed admirable service to the Greater Springfield community. Eligible candidates must be age 19 or younger, live in or have strong ties to the Greater Springfield area, and be currently enrolled in grade 10, 11, or 12. The Ubora and Ahadi Awards will be presented at a ceremony at the Springfield Museums in September. Nominations forms can be downloaded by visiting springfieldmuseums.org/ubora. For additional information, call (413) 263-6800, ext. 325, or e-mail to [email protected] Nominations may be e-mailed to [email protected] or mailed to African Hall Subcommittee, c/o Valerie Cavagni, Springfield Museums, 21 Edwards St., Springfield, MA 01103.

Berkshire Bank Launches $52,500 Scholarship Program

PITTSFIELD — Berkshire Bank announced it will honor 35 high-school seniors across Massachusetts, New York, Connecticut, Vermont, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania for their volunteer service with Berkshire Bank scholarships. The scholarships recognize students who excel academically, have a financial need, and share the bank’s commitment to community service. Additionally, students must attend a high school that is located in a county with a Berkshire Bank or Commerce Bank office. The recipients will share in $52,500 in scholarship funds. Through the program, 35 $1,500 scholarships will be awarded to high-school seniors who will be attending a two-year or four-year college in the fall. Applications are evaluated based on the student’s record of volunteerism in the community, academic standing, and financial need. Applicants must have a minimum GPA of a 3.0 and a family household income under $100,000 to be eligible to apply. A team of 200 bank employee volunteers will review the applications and select this year’s recipients. Recipients will include 15 students in Massachusetts, nine in New York, three in Connecticut, three in Vermont, three in New Jersey, and two in Pennsylvania. Students can apply online at www.berkshirebank.com/scholarships. To be considered, all applications must be submitted online by Wednesday, March 21 at 4 p.m. Additional information about this year’s program can be obtained through the bank’s website or by e-mailing the Berkshire Bank Foundation at [email protected]

Daily News

BOSTON — The state’s total unemployment rate dropped to 3.5% in December, the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development announced.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ preliminary job estimates indicate Massachusetts lost 300 jobs in December. Over the month, the private sector lost 200 jobs; gains occurred in construction, manufacturing, leisure and hospitality, and financial activities. The November estimate was revised to a gain of 7,800 jobs.

From December 2016 to December 2017, BLS estimates Massachusetts has added 63,000 jobs. The December unemployment rate was six-tenths of a percentage point lower than the national rate of 4.1% reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“Throughout 2017, the Commonwealth continued to experience steady economic growth, adding 63,000 jobs, over 64,000 additional residents participating in the labor force, and closing out the year with a low unemployment rate of 3.5%. While much of these job gains continue to be in sectors like professional, business, and scientific services, manufacturing also posted a preliminary 2,800 over-the-year job gain, the first over-the-year over job gain in that sector in 18 years,” Labor and Workforce Development Secretary Rosalin Acosta said.

The labor force decreased by 500 from 3,647,500 in November, as 1,900 more residents were employed and 2,500 fewer residents were unemployed over the month.

Over the year, the state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate increased four-tenths of a percentage point from 3.1% in December 2016. There were 17,900 more unemployed residents over the year compared to December 2016.

The state’s labor-force participation rate — the total number of residents 16 or older who worked or were unemployed and actively sought work in the last four weeks — decreased one-tenth of a percentage point to 65.3% over the month. The labor-force participation rate over the year has increased by 0.7% compared to December 2016.

The largest private sector percentage job gains over the year were in construction; professional, scientific, and business services; other services; and leisure and hospitality.

Daily News

EAST LONGMEADOW — A Massachusetts Workforce Training Fund information session will be held on Feb. 2 from 7:30 to 9:30 a.m. at Bay Path University’s Philip H. Ryan Health Science Center in East Longmeadow. To register, visit workforcetrainingfund.org/events or call (413) 565-1555.

The Workforce Training Fund Program (WTFP) helps address business productivity and competitiveness by providing resources to Massachusetts businesses to fund training for current and newly hired employees. In order to qualify, businesses must pay into the fund. All for-profit companies automatically pay into the fund. Nonprofit organizations can visit www.workforcetrainingfund.org and click on ‘programs’ for more information and to learn if the organization qualifies. Government agencies are not eligible to apply.

While available to businesses and organizations of all sizes, the WTFP focuses on small to medium-sized businesses that would not be able to invest in improving employee skills without the assistance of the Fund. As recently as October, the Workforce Training Fund Program awarded grants to 121 Massachusetts companies and organizations totaling $11.9 million. More than $17 million in grants were distributed in FY17.

Bay Path’s Strategic Alliances division, which offers customized talent and leadership programs, as well as specialized training, is hosting this event. The WTFP information session is part of “How to Build Company Loyalty Through Professional Development” and will include an overview of the features and benefits of each Workforce Training Fund grant program, the amount of available funding, program guidelines, and how to apply for each grant. Participants will have direct access to staff to ask questions about the WTFP and training opportunities.

Speakers on the event agenda include Kristen Rayne, outreach manager, Workforce Training Fund at Commonwealth Corp.; Stephen Brand, executive director of Global Learning, Strategic Alliances at Bay Path University; and two talent-development experts with vast experience in the Western Mass. region.

The Workforce Training Fund is a program of the Massachusetts Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development, administered by Commonwealth Corp.

Briefcase Departments

UMass, Research Partners Aim to Improve Flu-season Forecasts
AMHERST — Research teams, including one led by biostatistician Nicholas Reich at UMass Amherst, are participating in a national influenza-forecasting challenge to try to predict the onset, progress, and peaks of regional flu outbreaks to aid prevention and control. This year, the Reich Lab is leading an effort to improve the forecasting by increasing the collaboration between groups. “Every year, the Centers for Disease Control host a flu-forecasting challenge,” Reich said. “It’s the most organized and public effort at forecasting any infectious disease anywhere in the world. Our lab is now in our third year of participating, and we find that each year we get a little better and learn a bit more. This year, we wanted to take it to the next level, so we worked with other teams year-round to develop a way that our models could work together to make a single best forecast for influenza. This entire effort is public, so anyone can go to the website and see the forecasts.” While this flu season has started earlier than usual in the northeastern and southern regions of the U.S., according to the most recent data, the forecasts are still showing a fair amount of uncertainty about how big a season it will be, Reich said. “The holiday season is a notoriously difficult time to forecast because typically fewer people go to the doctor, and yet everyone is traveling around spreading or being exposed to infections such as flu.” Reich and colleagues at UMass Amherst’s School of Public Health and Health Sciences collaborate with teams at Carnegie Mellon University, Columbia University, and a group at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, in a group they have dubbed the FluSight Network. It issues a new flu season forecast every Monday for public-health researchers and practitioners that compares the flu trajectory this year to past years. In a recent publication, Reich and colleagues state that their aim is to “combine forecasting models for seasonal influenza in the U.S. to create a single ensemble forecast. The central question is, can we provide better information to decision makers by combining forecasting models and, specifically, by using past performance of the models to inform the ensemble approach.” Added Reich, “we are working closely with our collaborators at the CDC to determine how to improve the timeliness and relevance of our forecasts.” To prepare for this flu season, he and colleagues spent many hours designing a standard structure that each team needed to use when submitting models. This allowed for comparison of methods over the past seven years of flu data in the U.S. They also conducted a cross-validation study of data from the past seven flu seasons to compare five different methods for combining models into a single ensemble forecast. They found that four of their collaborative ensemble methods had higher average scores than any of the individual models. The team is now submitting forecasts from their best-performing model and are posting them once a week this season to the CDC’s 2017-18 FluSight Challenge. Reich estimates there are about 20 teams this year participating in the CDC challenge nationwide, who produce about 30 different models. Each model forecasts the onset of the flu season, how it will progress over the coming few weeks, when it will peak, and how intense the peak will be compared to other seasons. In a heavy flu season, between 5% and 12% of doctor’s visits are for influenza-like illness, and that number varies regionally in the U.S. This metric is one of the key indicators for the CDC of how bad the flu season is, and it is the measure used in the forecasting challenges. “Certainly for the CDC, there are policy decisions that could be impacted by these forecasts, including the timing of public communication about flu season starting and when to get vaccinated. Models can help with all of that,” Reich said. “Also, hospitals often try to have enhanced precautions in place during a certain peak period for the disease. If you do that too early, or for too long, you run the risk of individuals getting tired of taking the extra time to comply with the policies.” Hospital epidemiologists and others responsible for public-health decisions do not declare the onset of flu season lightly, he noted. In hospitals, flu onset — a technical set of symptoms reported to physicians — triggers many extra time-consuming and costly precautions and procedures such as added gloves, masks, and gowns; donning and doffing time; special decontamination procedures; increased surveillance; and reduced visitor access, for example. There is also healthcare worker fatigue to consider. Hospitals want to be as effective and efficient as possible in their preparations and response to reduce time and money spent and worker burnout. The public-health effort to improve flu season forecasts is relatively recent, Reich said. “There has been tremendous progress in how we think about infectious disease forecasting in just the last five years. If you compare that to something like weather forecasting, which has been going on for decades, we’re in the middle of a long process of learning and improvement. Someday, we might be able to imagine having a flu forecast on our smartphones that tells us, for example, it’s an early season and I’d better get Mom to the clinic to get her vaccination early this year. We’re close, but that’s not here quite yet.”

Massachusetts Adds 6,700 Jobs in November
BOSTON — The state’s total unemployment rate dropped to 3.6% in November, the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development announced Thursday. The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ preliminary job estimates indicate Massachusetts added 6,700 jobs in November. Over the month, the private sector added 7,300 jobs as gains occurred in leisure and hospitality; education and health services; construction; professional, scientific, and business services; and manufacturing. The October estimate was revised to a gain of 3,200 jobs. From November 2016 to November 2017, BLS estimates Massachusetts has added 65,200 jobs. The November unemployment rate was five-tenths of a percentage point lower than the national rate of 4.1% reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Year-to-date the jobs and labor force estimates indicate a strong and stable economy in the Commonwealth. Since December 2016, Massachusetts is estimated to have added 62,200 jobs, 64,300 more residents are participating in the labor force, and the unemployment rate remains low, averaging 3.8%. November also marks the 13th consecutive month of private-sector job growth, with manufacturing adding 1,600 jobs,” Labor and Workforce Development Secretary Rosalin Acosta said. The labor force decreased by 8,200 from 3,656,000 in October, as 4,000 fewer residents were employed and 4,200 fewer residents were unemployed over the month. Over the year, the state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate increased five-tenths of a percentage point from 3.1% in November 2016. There were 18,300 more unemployed residents over the year compared to November 2016. The state’s labor-force participation rate — the total number of residents 16 or older who worked or were unemployed and actively sought work in the last four weeks — decreased one-tenth of a percentage point to 65.4% over the month. The labor-force participation rate over the year has increased by 0.7% compared to November 2016. The largest private-sector percentage job gains over the year were in construction; professional, scientific and business services; leisure and hospitality; and other services.

Applications Open for 2018 Local Farmer Awards
AGAWAM — The Harold Grinspoon Charitable Foundation (HGCF), in partnership with Big Y and a sponsorship team, announced the fourth year of the Local Farmer Awards, supporting local farmers in Western Mass. with funds for infrastructure improvements and farm equipment. Launched in 2015, the awards draw attention to the importance of local farmers to the region’s economy and health. “Big Y has been supporting local farmers since we began over 80 years ago,” said Charles D’Amour, Big Y president and COO. “Through our partnership with the Harold Grinspoon Charitable Foundation, we are providing one more way to help the local growers to thrive in our community.” Awards of up to $2,500 will be given to each recipient farmer. The 2017 awards were made to 49 of the 116 applicants. Essential to the program’s success has been the ongoing advice and assistance from the two regional Buy Local farm advocates, Berkshire Grown and Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture (CISA). “Local family farms are a part of our culture and economy and the reason we call this area home,” said Philip Korman, executive director of CISA. “This unique farm awards program makes it possible for family farms to strengthen that connection in our communities.” Added Barbara Zheutlin, executive director of Berkshire Grown, “we’re thrilled about the continuation of these financial awards for farmers in Western Massachusetts. This helps build the local food economy in our region.” The application is open through Jan. 31, 2018. Interested applicants are encouraged to visit the website for more information: www.farmerawards.org.

DevelopSpringfield Sells 700 State St. to Pride Stores for Redevelopment
SPRINGFIELD — DevelopSpringfield announced the sale of property at the corner of Thompson and State streets to Pride Stores for redevelopment. The site had been identified as a priority for redevelopment in the State Street Corridor Redevelopment Program, a plan focused on the economic revitalization of State Street and adjacent neighborhoods. DevelopSpringfield acquired the former River Inn at 700 State St. in 2013 with adjacent lots on Thompson Street to remove a blight on the neighborhood, promote revitalization, and prepare the site for appropriate commercial redevelopment. The organization performed extensive asbestos remediation, demolished the building, and prepared the site for redevelopment. “We listened closely to the interests of community members, including the Springfield Food Policy Council and the McKnight Neighborhood Council, to identify a developer whose project would meet community needs and be a good neighbor to the many residents near the site,” said Nicholas Fyntrilakis, DevelopSpringfield’s chairman. “Pride’s new store will offer fresh food and produce and address the community’s interests for healthier food options.” Added Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno, “this is exactly why my administration created this public/private partnership of DevelopSpringfield. This in-question property had been a troublesome area for the neighborhood for many years. I look forward to the redevelopment of this site with a project that will bring jobs, tax revenue, and a quality retail operator who cares about our community.” The sale of the property was complete on Dec. 15. Construction is targeted to begin in the spring. The new store will include a Pride gas station and convenience store and will feature a variety of convenient food items, Pride Café Bakery, local produce, and fresh healthy food offerings. In addition, incubator space will be provided to a local food entrepreneur. “We are excited to bring Pride Markets to this important area of the State Street corridor,” said Bob Bolduc, owner of Pride Stores. “Not only will the store have the amenities our customers traditionally expect, but it will also have fresh local produce available through an innovative collaboration led by local food advocate Liz O’Gilvie, who will coordinate a farmer’s market on the site.”

MassDOT: $1B Invested in Infrastructure in 2017
BOSTON — The Mass. Department of Transportation announced that approximately $1 billion was invested in improving and upgrading roads, bridges, sidewalks, multi-use paths, and intersections across the state in calendar year 2017. This $1 billion in capital investments included repairs and improvements to 386 bridges in 123 communities and improved road conditions in more than 155 cities and towns across Massachusetts. An additional $30 million was programmed through the Complete Streets and Municipal Small Bridge programs in order to support local transportation planning and community bridges not eligible for federal aid. “The Baker-Polito Administration has focused on improving the reliability and resiliency of our transportation infrastructure to ensure that people throughout the Commonwealth are able to drive, walk, bike, or use public transit and reach the places they need to go,” said Transportation Secretary and CEO Stephanie Pollack. “By investing in our roads, bridges, sidewalks, multi-use paths, and intersections, we can provide better options to travelers and allow them to utilize their preferred mode of transportation to reach their jobs, homes, businesses, and places that improve their quality of life.” Among the notable construction project highlights from 2017 are reaching the full beneficial use milestone for the $148 million I-91 viaduct rehabilitation project in Springfield approximately eight months ahead of schedule. The majority of the work has now been completed, and the lanes and ramps on I-91 have reopened.

Daily News

BOSTON — Local unemployment rates decreased in four labor market areas, increased in nine areas, and remained the same in 11 labor-market areas in the state during the month of November, the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development reported. Compared to November 2016, the rates were up in 24 labor-market areas.

Eight of the 15 areas for which job estimates are published recorded seasonal job gains in November. The gains occurred in the Springfield, Boston-Cambridge-Newton, Worcester, Brockton-Bridgewater-Easton, New Bedford, Taunton-Middleborough-Norton, Lowell-Billerica-Chelmsford, and Framingham areas.

From November 2016 to November 2017, all 15 areas added jobs, with the largest percentage gains in the Barnstable, New Bedford, Boston-Cambridge-Newton, Haverhill-Newburyport-Amesbury, Springfield, and Lynn-Saugus-Marblehead areas.

In order to compare the statewide rate to local unemployment rates, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates the statewide-unadjusted unemployment rate for November was 3.3%.

Last week, the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development reported the statewide seasonally adjusted unemployment rate dropped to 3.6% in the month of November. The statewide seasonally adjusted jobs estimate showed a 6,700-job gain in November, and an over-the-year gain of 65,200 jobs.

The unadjusted unemployment rates and job estimates for the labor market areas reflect seasonal fluctuations and therefore may show different levels and trends than the statewide seasonally adjusted estimates. The estimates for labor force, unemployment rates, and jobs for Massachusetts are based on different statistical methodology specified by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Daily News

BOSTON — The state’s total unemployment rate dropped to 3.6% in November, the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development announced Thursday.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ preliminary job estimates indicate Massachusetts added 6,700 jobs in November. Over the month, the private sector added 7,300 jobs as gains occurred in leisure and hospitality; education and health services; construction; professional, scientific, and business services; and manufacturing. The October estimate was revised to a gain of 3,200 jobs.

From November 2016 to November 2017, BLS estimates Massachusetts has added 65,200 jobs. The November unemployment rate was five-tenths of a percentage point lower than the national rate of 4.1% reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“Year-to-date the jobs and labor force estimates indicate a strong and stable economy in the Commonwealth. Since December 2016, Massachusetts is estimated to have added 62,200 jobs, 64,300 more residents are participating in the labor force, and the unemployment rate remains low, averaging 3.8%. November also marks the 13th consecutive month of private-sector job growth, with manufacturing adding 1,600 jobs,” Labor and Workforce Development Secretary Rosalin Acosta said.

The labor force decreased by 8,200 from 3,656,000 in October, as 4,000 fewer residents were employed and 4,200 fewer residents were unemployed over the month.

Over the year, the state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate increased five-tenths of a percentage point from 3.1% in November 2016. There were 18,300 more unemployed residents over the year compared to November 2016.

The state’s labor-force participation rate — the total number of residents 16 or older who worked or were unemployed and actively sought work in the last four weeks — decreased one-tenth of a percentage point to 65.4% over the month. The labor-force participation rate over the year has increased by 0.7% compared to November 2016.

The largest private-sector percentage job gains over the year were in construction; professional, scientific and business services; leisure and hospitality; and other services.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Springfield Technical Community College will again offer its popular Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) Training Program, as well as the Certified Nurse Aide (CNA) Plus Program, both starting in January.

The EMT program consists of about 171 hours of lectures, 15 to 20 hours of online instruction, an auto-extrication class, and an eight-hour clinical hospital emergency-room observation designed to prepare the student for the Massachusetts State Certification Examination. The program, based on the Department of Transportation curriculum for Basic Emergency Medical Technician, is approved by the Massachusetts Office of Emergency Medical Services.

“The EMT program gives the student an excellent foundation in Basic Life Support skills and techniques and patient assessment,” said Paul Sheehan, director of the Workforce Development Center at STCC. “This program always fills up long before the start date, and applications are now being accepted.

Daytime and evening classes start Jan. 22. Visit www.stcc.edu/wdc or call (413) 755-4225 to enroll.

Meanwhile, the employment of CNAs is projected to grow by 19%, faster than average, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, which projects employers will add 279,600 CNA positions during the next decade. The CAN Plus Program at STCC is designed to provide participants with job skills that will allow entry into the healthcare field as well as preparation for the Massachusetts state board examination to become a certified nurse aide.

Day classes, which start Jan. 22, will be held Monday through Thursday, 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Students will receive clinical experience in a local nursing home under the supervision of registered nurse (RN) instructors. Major topics will include vital signs; moving and turning patients; personal-care basics; bed making; bed, bath, and feeding; record keeping; and responding to emergencies.

This course will also include a Home Health Aide Training Certificate and an Enhanced Alzheimer’s Module. Students will attend a job fair scheduled at the conclusion of this program.

Evening Classes for BASIC CNA start Jan. 28, and will be held Monday through Friday, 4-9:30 p.m. The Workforce Development Center at STCC offers a wide variety of entry-level health programs. Visit www.stcc.edu/wdc or call (413) 755-4225 to enroll.

Daily News

BOSTON — The state’s total unemployment rate dropped to 3.7% in October, the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development announced.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) preliminary job estimates indicate Massachusetts added 4,800 jobs in October. Over the month, the private sector added 4,100 jobs as gains occurred in leisure and hospitality; professional, scientific, and business services; other services; financial activities; manufacturing; construction; and information. The September estimate was revised to a gain of 10,300 jobs.

From October 2016 to October 2017, BLS estimates Massachusetts has added 69,000 jobs. The October unemployment rate was four-tenths of a percentage point lower than the national rate of 4.1% reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“The low unemployment rate and job gains are indicators of the ongoing strength of the economy in Massachusetts. But not all communities and regions are feeling the benefits of this economy equally. Our workforce-development programs continue to prioritize closing skills gaps and connecting all citizens of the Commonwealth to prosperous career pathways,” Labor and Workforce Development Secretary Rosalin Acosta said.

The labor force decreased by 13,400 from 3,669,500 in September, as 5,600 fewer residents were employed and 7,700 fewer residents were unemployed over the month.

Over the year, the state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate increased five-tenths of a percentage point from 3.2% in October 2016. There were 19,600 more unemployed residents over the year compared to October 2016.

The state’s labor-force participation rate — the total number of residents 16 or older who worked or were unemployed and actively sought work in the last four weeks — decreased three-tenths of a percentage point to 65.5% over the month. The labor-force participation rate over the year has increased by 0.8% compared to October 2016.

The largest private-sector percentage job gains over the year were in other services; construction; professional, scientific, and business services; financial activities; and education and health services.

Banking and Financial Services Sections

Unlocking Financial Health

KeyBank’s Courtney Jinjika and Jeff Hubbard

KeyBank’s Courtney Jinjika and Jeff Hubbard

KeyBank is fairly new to the Western Mass. financial marketplace, taking over eight Hampden County branches following its acquisition of First Niagara Bank last year. But its leaders are already fluent in speaking the language of the region’s customers, who want their institutions to be customer-friendly and civic-minded. With a host of high-tech products melded with a focus on helping customers effectively use them to manage their financial health, Key seems ready to unlock more business.

It’s called HelloWallet.

“It’s an online platform that KeyBank uses to help customers make smarter, more confident financial decisions. The user first inputs information about their account balances, income, spending, demographics, and more to produce a score of sorts — a picture of where they are financially, where they want to be, and how to get there, by setting budgets, planning for retirement, and more.

“We focus on bringing financial confidence and wellness to all of our customers — individuals and business — across a broad spectrum of needs,” said Courtney Jinjika, the bank’s regional retail executive for Connecticut and Western Mass. “A key differentiator for us is HelloWallet, an online, real-time financial-assessment and planning tool, which, coupled with personalized guidance from their trusted banker, helps our clients achieve financial wellness and accomplish their goals.”

When it acquired HelloWallet last year, KeyBank saw it as one of several strategies for better connecting their clients, both retail and commercial, to helpful financial resources.

“Our focus is on our clients’ overall financial wellness and helping them make solid financial decisions,” Jinjika explained. “With HelloWallet, we integrated a tool into our system that allows clients to assess where they stand within a few components of overall financial wellness; it actually gives recommendations and feeds information back to bankers, who are able to reach out to clients and help them make difficult financial decisions and guide them to better financial wellness.”

As a digitally based tool, it also appeals to the growing set of customers who prefer resources they can access at any time, not just in a branch, said Jeff Hubbard, Key’s market president for Connecticut and Western Mass. “It’s an exciting tool to offer to customers, and a way to better focus on financial literacy.”

The theme of connection is one KeyBank touts in its marketing efforts and its services, Hubbard noted. When the institution, currently the 29th-largest bank in the U.S. by asset size, acquired First Niagara Bank in 2016, it inherited a large footprint in Western Mass. and Connecticut to complement its existing New England presence in Maine, Vermont, and the Boston area.

And if there’s one thing Hubbard understands about Western Mass., where KeyBank now operates eight branches boasting 70 employees, it’s that customers appreciate a community-focused model.

Those eight branches — in East Longmeadow, Feeding Hills, Holyoke, Ludlow, Southwick, Westfield, and two in West Springfield — have been busy introducing resources including commercial lending, residential mortgage lending, investments, wealth management, and insurance.

In doing so, Hubbard said, it’s also touting the value of “meeting customers on whatever playing field they might want to be on.”

High-tech, Personal Touch

Jinjika said bank employees are skilled at helping customers navigate the various high-tech banking options available to them, from online bill pay and remote deposit capture to the HelloWallet tool, and show them how they can use them to monitor their financial wellness. There’s also an online scheduling tool customers can use to make appointments at the branch and outline what issues they want to discuss.

After all, Hubbard said, online banking hasn’t killed branch banking, not by a longshot. It has certainly forced the branch model to evolve in the ways Jinjika described, but a street-level presence remains crucial.

“Lots of people want to visit a branch for lots of reasons,” Hubbard said. “Here, they’ll visit highly trained, experienced people who want to help them. To be successful in the Springfield market, you need to meet people anywhere they want to meet.”

A decade ago, he went on, products like remote deposit capture for businesses seemed strikingly innovative, and now clients have come to expect them as a baseline. Meanwhile, Millennials might have led the way in adopting technology that allows them to control their finances from their computers and smartphones, there’s less of a demographic breakdown today.

“Millennials get on board faster; they’re quicker adopters, but they’re targeted at everyone,” Jinjika said. “Keeping people out of the branch line is a good thing, so adoption rates are pretty strong.”

In addition, Jinjika said, the vast majority of customers seeking to make major life changes, like a home mortgage, want to sit down with a professional.

“When our clients have a concern or are making major financial decisions, they want to do that in person at the branch,” she explained. “What we find is that they’ll do their research online, but when it actually comes down to fully making that decision, they want to sit down with someone and get answers face to face.”

The same goes for commercial customers, Hubbard said, noting that Key likes to tout itself as a “Main Street bank with Wall Street capabilities,” which can leverage its investment-banking team and industry-specific bankers to bring added resources to commercial clients. We believe that these capabilities, along with our state-of-the-art cash-management services and insurance and benefit consulting services, give us a competitive advantage with our business clients.

He understands the fierce competition in a market that many analysts have called overbanked in recent years, but said loan demand is steady.

“We’re certainly getting our fair share,” he told BusinessWest. “Springfield is a wonderful market with lots of opportunities. We’re grateful to have into some very large clients, very good-sized companies in Greater Springfield, in addition to small, mom-and-pop businesses.”

Another business-minded program is [email protected], which partners with companies and provides free and discounted banking services employees at no cost to the employer. A dedicated [email protected] ‘relationship manager’ delivers a customized program on site to meet the specific needs of workers through financial-education presentations and one-on-one financial assessments.

It’s another way KeyBank aims to broaden its customer base in its existing branches, rather than having to open new branches to grow.

“We’re very happy with the branch locations we have today,” Hubbard said. “The objective is to get our employees out of the branch into the community and grow our business organically.”

Community Ties

The bank also understands that the region’s community-banking culture means community involvement on a charitable level, Hubbard said, noting that Key expects to make $100,000 in community sponsorships and charitable grants to nonprofits serving the Greater Springfield market in 2017. “We think it’s very important to support the market where we live and work. That’s something we take seriously.”

On a national level, KeyBank also released its National Community Benefits plan last year, which includes $16.5 billion in investments across the communities it serves. The commitments are part of a comprehensive blueprint for steps Key will take over the next five years.

As part of a partnership with the National Community Reinvestment Coalition, KeyBank committed to $16.5 billion in mortgage lending, small-business lending, community-development lending, and philanthropy, with the goal of stimulating job and economic growth in those communities. KeyBank has also committed to reducing neighborhood blight as well as maintenance and disposition of foreclosed properties.

Additionally, the KeyBank Foundation is committing $175 million in philanthropic investments for its traditional priorities of education and workforce development. The investments will also focus on the stabilization of urban neighborhoods and rural communities through local capacity building, affordable housing, and building technical assistance to execute locally.

Nationwide, KeyBank employees will support the plan through local service projects and board leadership. Employees will continue to be heavily engaged in their communities, with the expectation of 500,000 of additional volunteer hours over the next five years.

“Key has jumped into this in a big way,” Hubbard said, noting that the effort crosses 15 states, but each market will feel an impact. “This is a broad but very meaningful delivery of strong foundational support.”

The bank has also earned national recognition as one of Points of Light’s top 50 most community-minded companies for the last three consecutive years; a Top 50 Company for Diversity by Diversity Inc. for the last seven years, and eight annual ‘outstanding’ ratings from the Community Reinvestment Act for its levels of lending, investment, and service to low- and moderate-income communities — one of less than 10% of all U.S. banks to achieve that goal.

Those accolades further demonstrate, Jinjika noted, that KeyBank aims to be an effective partner both for customers who walk in the branch and in the communities surrounding those branches.

“We keep clients at the center of all we do,” she told BusinessWest. “We compete where some of the bigger banks won’t, and where the smaller banks can’t. We really think about the individual in front of us when we put together a package that will work for their financial wellness.”

Joseph Bednar can be reached at [email protected]

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — The Workforce Development Center at Springfield Technical Community College (STCC) will offer a certified auto-damage appraisal course beginning Tuesday, Nov. 28.

The 60-hour course is designed to train insurance-claims professionals and auto-body technicians for the Massachusetts Auto Damage Appraisers License Examination. Twenty sessions will be held Tuesdays and Thursdays, 6:30 to 9:30 p.m., through Feb. 8. The fee is $599, which includes the cost of class materials.

The idea for the course came from William Johnson, a member of the STCC board of trustees, who owns Pleasant Street Auto Body & Repair in South Hadley and Belchertown.

“STCC changed my life,” Johnson said. “I took the course in the late ’70s. I never attended college. I took this one course, and I got my appraiser’s license, which allowed me to open my body shop. It allowed me to expand into the mechanical, towing, and other business entities. It truly was a life-changing experience.”

Johnson said people who complete the certificate and obtain an appraiser’s license will be in demand in the job market. But what does an appraiser need to know?

“You need to have the ability to look at damage and understand the damage and the dynamics of a crash,” he said. “You have primary damage, secondary damage, hidden damage. You need to understand how to reverse that damage, whether it’s by replacing or repairing. You have to have good negotiation skills and good math skills. This course will help prepare someone looking for an entry-level job as an auto damage appraiser.”

An appraisal-industry professional, licensed since 1992, will teach the course. Approved by the Massachusetts Division of Insurance, the training offers an in-depth discussion of insurance regulations, policy arbitration, and work-completion forms. The course will include use of flat-rate manual, collision diagnosis, cost estimation, and preparation of written estimates.

To become licensed, students will need to complete the course and a three-month apprenticeship with a licensed Massachusetts automobile appraiser. In addition, they will need to obtain a certified letter verifying the apprenticeship.

For more information and to enroll online, visit www.stcc.edu/autoappraisal.

Daily News

HOLYOKE — Holyoke Community College will mark a new chapter in its history with the inauguration of Christina Royal as its fourth president on Friday, Nov. 3, at 10 a.m. in HCC’s Leslie Phillips Theater in the Fine & Performing Arts building.

Royal started working at HCC in January. She is just the fourth president in the 71-year history of HCC and the first woman to hold the position.

The inauguration ceremony will include a processional of HCC faculty, staff, and distinguished guests, including the presidents of the other Massachusetts community colleges, as well as the presidents from some of HCC’s top local transfer partners: Smith College, Mount Holyoke College, Elms College, and Westfield State University.

Also attending and offering brief remarks during the ceremony will be Carlos Santiago, state commissioner of Higher Education; Holyoke mayor Alex Morse; state Rep. Aaron Vega; Gillian McKnight-Tutein, vice president of Academic and Student Affairs from Front Range Community College; Monica Torregrosa, HCC professor of Spanish; and HCC student Boshan Zheng. Robert Gilbert, chair of the HCC board of trustees, will present the presidential medallion to Royal, who will give an address.

For those who cannot attend and would still like to watch, the inauguration ceremony will be livestreamed on the HCC website, www.hcc.edu.

The ceremony will be immediately followed at about 11:20 a.m. by an inauguration celebration showcasing HCC’s “Proud Past and Bright Future” in the lobby outside the theater and in the adjoining Kittredge Center for Business and Workforce Development.

Before coming to HCC, Royal served as the provost and vice president of Academic Affairs at Inver Hills Community College in Inver Grove Heights, Minn. She holds a PhD in education from Capella University and a master’s degree in educational psychology and a bachelor’s degree in math from Marist College. At HCC, she succeeds President William Messner, who retired in August 2016 after serving for 12 years.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — A new educational and workforce development partnership between Springfield Technical Community College and Northeastern University creates an opportunity for current STCC students, graduates and the general public to earn bachelor’s degrees in mechanical engineering technology and advanced manufacturing systems onsite at STCC.

In a ceremony on Wednesday at STCC, leaders from both institutions officially signed a memorandum of understanding to mark this partnership.

In the planning stages for more than a year, the agreement with STCC marks the first time Northeastern has partnered with a community college to offer bachelor’s degrees on site.

“Our engineering and manufacturing programs continue to be a signature of STCC, and we are very pleased to collaborate with Northeastern to deepen and enhance workforce efforts for Western Massachusetts,” said Dr. John B. Cook, president of STCC.

“We’re pleased to partner with Springfield Technical Community College as it expands opportunities for students,” said Dr. Mary Loeffelholz, dean, Northeastern University College of Professional Studies. “Both of our institutions value experiential learning and industry-aligned degrees to prepare students for career and life success.”

Students may choose either a pathway to a bachelor of science degree in mechanical engineering technology or in advanced manufacturing systems from Northeastern to be completed online and at STCC.  Both degrees are part of the Lowell Institute School at Northeastern, which offers 15 bachelor’s degree programs, 10 of which are available completely online.

“This partnership with STCC is in keeping with the mission and tradition of the Lowell Institute School which began when A. Lawrence Lowell created the Lowell Institute School for Industrial Foremen in 1903,” said Dr. Kemi Jona, founding director of the Lowell Institute School and associate dean of undergraduate programs. “The goal then was to bring essential knowledge and opportunity to the people doing the work driving the economy of the new century. Today, the Lowell Institute School is still committed to this goal, reaching students in new ways and places.”

The agreement maximizes convenience and cost-effectiveness for STCC graduates who wish to obtain bachelor’s degrees in the two programs, said Dr. Adrienne Smith, dean of the School of Engineering Technologies & Mathematics at STCC.

Smith said most STCC students have families in the area and would prefer to get their bachelor’s degrees in the Springfield area. In addition to some online courses, classes will take place in the evening and possibly Saturdays, a benefit for the many students who work full time during the day, she said.

“This is a great opportunity for our students,” Smith said. “Rather than traveling to Boston, they can come to our campus in the evening for classes. They are already familiar with our institution. They are familiar with our classrooms and labs. It will be like coming home to get their bachelor’s degree.”

Daily News

The big day has arrived. The MassMutual Center in downtown Springfield will be the place to be today as BusinessWest hosts the Western Mass. Business & Innovation Expo, presented by Comcast Business.

A full day of programs and events is slated, starting with the Revitalize CDC JoinedForces Annual Veterans Breakfast. The lunch program, starting at 11:30 will feature Ron Insana, CNBC senior analyst and commentator.

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Other highlights include educational seminars, an ‘Ask the Expert Roundtable,’ Matchmaking with MGM Springfield, the Springfield Regional Chamber’s Speed Networking event, the Retail Marketplace, virtual reality demonstrations, robotics demonstrations, workforce development exhibitions, the day-capping Expo Social, and much, much more.

Visit www.wmbexpo.com for details and a full schedule for an event that truly lives up its name, with a focus on all aspects of business and innovation.

Daily News

BOSTON — Local unemployment rates decreased in 19 labor-market areas, increased in two areas, and remained the same in three areas in the state during the month of September, the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development reported. Compared to September 2016, the rates were up in 18 labor-market areas and remained the same in six labor-market areas.

Six of the 15 areas for which job estimates are published recorded seasonal job gains in September. The gains occurred in the Springfield, Worcester, Brockton-Bridgewater-Easton, New Bedford, Peabody-Salem-Beverly, and Leominster-Gardner areas.

From September 2016 to September 2017, 14 of the 15 areas added jobs, with the largest percentage gains in the New Bedford, Haverhill-Newburyport-Amesbury, Barnstable, Boston-Cambridge-Newton, Lynn-Saugus-Marblehead, and Springfield areas.

In order to compare the statewide rate to local unemployment rates, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates the statewide unadjusted unemployment rate for September was 3.5%.

Last week, the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development reported the statewide seasonally adjusted unemployment rate dropped to 3.9% in the month of September. The statewide seasonally adjusted jobs estimate showed a 9,300-job gain in September and an over-the-year gain of 62,300 jobs.

The unadjusted unemployment rates and job estimates for the labor market areas reflect seasonal fluctuations and therefore may show different levels and trends than the statewide seasonally adjusted estimates. The estimates for labor force, unemployment rates, and jobs for Massachusetts are based on different statistical methodology specified by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Daily News

BOSTON — Local unemployment rates decreased in all labor-market areas in the state during the month of August, the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development reported. Compared to August 2016, the rates were up in 24 labor-market areas.

Three of the 15 areas for which job estimates are published recorded seasonal job gains in August. The gains occurred in the Taunton-Middleborough-Norton, Leominster-Gardener, and Lawrence-Methuen-Salem areas. From August 2016 to August 2017, all 15 areas added jobs, with the largest percentage gains in the New Bedford, Haverhill-Newburyport-Amesbury, Boston-Cambridge-Newton, Leominster-Gardener, and Brockton-Bridgewater-Easton areas.

In order to compare the statewide rate to local unemployment rates, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates the statewide unadjusted unemployment rate for August was 3.7%.

Last week, the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development reported the statewide seasonally adjusted unemployment rate dropped to 4.2% in the month of August. The statewide seasonally adjusted jobs estimate showed a 10,800 job gain in August, and an over-the-year gain of 57,400 jobs.

The unadjusted unemployment rates and job estimates for the labor market areas reflect seasonal fluctuations and therefore may show different levels and trends than the statewide seasonally adjusted estimates. The estimates for labor force, unemployment rates, and jobs for Massachusetts are based on different statistical methodology specified by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Features

Learning Opportunities

expologo2017webIt’s often said that business owners and managers are good at what they do, good at their particular business, but not necessarily good at — well, fill in the blank.

And there are many things to fill in that blank with, from information technology (and how to make the most of it) to employee benefits; from social media to ever-changing employment laws. There are dozens more ways to fill in the blank, as anyone doing business in today’s ultra-challenging environment can attest.

That’s why experts in such matters are so valuable. And that’s also why the 2017 Business & Innovation Expo of Western Mass., set for Nov. 2 at the MassMutual Center in downtown Springfield, will feature a host of experts.

They will have ‘a seat at the table,’ to borrow a popular phrase from business, and those attending the Expo can have one as well.

Indeed, there will be a number of  industry-expert panelists, as well as ‘Ask an Expert’ roundtables that present attendees with an opportunity to have a small-group, 45-minute session with regional industry leaders. (Space is limited to 10 at each ‘Ask an Expert’ table, and pre-registration is required at www.wmbexpo.com.

Overall, the show’s many programs are designed to help attendees become more innovative and work ‘on’ their business, not merely in it.

“Innovation comes in many forms,” said BusinessWest Associate Publisher Kate Campiti. “It might mean new-product development, new and improved technology, or new ways of doing business. But it also means looking at the many aspects of running a business in different ways, with an eye toward greater efficiency and continuous improvement.

“The Expo will put a premium on all these forms of innovation,” she continued, “and the expert tables, as we’re calling them, are just part of that equation.”

Other elements of the Expo, once again presented by Comcast Business, include a number of seminars with panels of, yes, more experts; robotics demonstrations; presentations from area technical high schools focused on how they’re readying students for the jobs of today and tomorrow; and much more.

As for the expert roundtables noted above, these will be tables of 10. The presenter will make a brief presentation and then field what will certainly be a host of questions from those filling the other nine seats.

Commitments are still being secured, but at present, experts have signed on to focus on such topics as social media, healthcare reform, employment law, improving public-speaking skills and being more assertive, issues with family businesses, and funding a business venture.

Other elements of the day-long seminar include:

• A fund raising breakfast for Revitalize CDC’s JoinedForces program. The event will take place from 7:30 to 9 a.m. on the Expo show floor. The master of ceremonies will be state Rep. Aaron Vega. Revitalize CDC has been supporting veterans for more than 25 years. JoinedForces, in partnership with businesses, civic organizations, and other nonprofit agencies, provides veterans and their families with critical repairs and modifications on their homes to help make them safe, healthy, and energy-efficient. Parking in the Civic Center garage will be validated at the conclusion of the breakfast. Additional sponsorship opportunities are available. Call (413) 781-8600 for additional information;

• Several educational seminars, including a number of panel discussions. These include a panel addressing common marketing myths, another featuring area media representatives who will discuss how business owners and managers can make better use of the media resources available to them, a seminar titled “How to Build Skills to Help You Succeed,” and other panels addressing cybersecurity and marijuana in the workplace;

• A lunch program, 11:30 a.m. – 1 p.m., featuring keynote speaker Ron Insana, senior analyst and commentator for CNBC, addressing the impact of “Trumponomics.” For ticket information, call (413) 781-8600 or visit www.wmbexpo.com;

• A Retail Marketplace in the atrium of the MassMutual Center. Retail vendors will include LuLaRoe, Springfield Macarons, Springfield Thunderbirds, SKM Jewelers, Sassy Mama’s Delectable Cupcakes, Lipsense, Rodan & Fields, Fork Art, the Shops at Marketplace, and more. In addition, there will be numerous booth demonstrations, giveaways, and specials. For example, Kitchens by Curio will offer virtual-reality demonstrations of their kitchen and bath remodels, Dani Fine Photography will offer a headshot session plus digital images for only $49, and DiGrigoli Salon will return to the Expo with free haircuts and manicures, just to name a few;

• The day-capping Social Expo, sponsored by Xfinity, from 3:30 to 5 p.m. This popular networking event will feature a ‘best in show’ food-sampling competition. Restaurateurs interested in participating should call (413) 781-8600; and

• More than 150 exhibitor booths featuring businesses in virtually every sector of the economy.

In addition to Comcast Business, sponsors include Johnson & Hill Staffing Services and Wild Apple Design Group (executive sponsors), Inspired Marketing (show partner), MGM Springfield (corporate sponsor), Isenberg School of Management at UMass Amherst (education sponsor), Xfinity (social sponsor), Elms College (information booth sponsor), Smith & Wesson (Workforce Development sponsor), Savage Arms (JoinedForces and Workforce Development parking sponsor), and the Better Business Bureau (contributing sponsor). Additional sponsorship opportunities are available.

Exhibitor spaces are also available; booth prices start at $800. For more information on sponsorships or booth purchase, call (413) 781-8600, ext. 100.

Departments People on the Move
Robert Pura

Robert Pura

Greenfield Community College (GCC) President Robert Pura announced he will retire in June 2018 after 17½ years of service to the college and community. During his opening-day remarks to GCC’s faculty and staff on Aug. 31, Pura reflected on many things that the college community has achieved since he arrived in 2000, including:

• Creating the Testing Center, Wellness Center, Advising Center, Vet Center, and the Department Studios, as well as work with the courts and the jail, creation of the GCC Food Pantry, and development of the Senior Symposia;

• Experiencing extensive building renovations to the north and south wings, a new roof and weatherization of the East Building, and creation of the Greenhouse, the Outdoor Learning Lab, and the new Core building; and

• With the GCC Foundation, raising a total of $14 million, awarding 139 scholarships last spring, building the endowment to $5 million, among other accomplishments.

In addition to 39 years of experience as a teacher and administrator in the Massachusetts community-college system, the past 17 as president of Greenfield Community College, Pura is also a graduate of a community college. As the first in his family to attend college and the child of an immigrant, he said he understands what a community-college education can mean to students. “Opening the doors to higher education to all who aspire to a better life for themselves and their families while at the same time maintaining high academic standards is the noblest mission in higher education.” The GCC board will assemble a search committee, with the goal of choosing a new president within a year.

•••••

Chris Mader

Chris Mader

OMG Roofing Products has promoted Chris Mader to the position of technical services manager. In his new role, Mader will manage the day-to-day activities of the Technical Services department, which oversees building-code and approval issues, product-application issues, as well as technical customer-support activities. In addition, he will manage the technical-support team of Andy Cleveland and Stephen Childs. He reports to Josh Kelly, vice president and general manager. Mader started with OMG Roofing Products in 2011 as a codes and approvals support engineer. Since then, he has worked extensively with OMG’s private-label customers and code and approval officials both in North America and abroad, helping with product evaluation, developing technical product specifications, and maintaining code approvals and keeping abreast of technical changes and advancements in the commercial roofing industry. Prior to joining OMG, he was a manufacturing engineer with Hamilton Sundstrand. Mader is a member of the National Roofing Contractors Assoc., the Single-Ply Roofing Industry, and the Roof Consultants Institute. He holds a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from UMass Dartmouth and a master’s degree in engineering management from Western New England University.

•••••

Ralph Thresher

Ralph Thresher

Ralph Thresher has joined Webber & Grinnell Insurance as a loss-control consultant. He has more than 30 years of experience as a loss-control specialist. Through his expertise, Thresher has helped companies reduce their losses through policy and regulation implementation. In his most recent position with L.E. Mahoney/Wheeler & Taylor Inc., he worked with clients’ management teams to create a safer work environment through the evaluation of their existing safety policies and procedures, performing safety surveys of their work sites, and making recommendations to reduce accidents and improve regulatory compliance.

•••••

Jessica Laporte

Jessica Laporte

Anthony Worden

Anthony Worden

Michael Tucker, president and CEO of Greenfield Co-operative Bank, announced the promotions of Jessica Laporte to administrative officer and Anthony Worden to senior vice president, commercial loans. Laporte has been with the bank since 2013, and in her new role, she is primarily responsible for directing Bank Secrecy Act and fraud-monitoring efforts. She has more than 16 years of banking experience and is currently completing her bachelor’s degree from Southern New Hampshire University. She is based in the bank’s King Street, Northampton office. Worden has been with Greenfield Co-operative Bank since 2009. He will be primarily responsible for the management of the bank’s commercial-lending efforts. He has more than 18 years of commercial-lending and credit-analysis experience. He received his bachelor’s and MBA degrees from UMass Amherst and is a graduate of the Banking School at the Wharton School of Business.

•••••

The Employers Assoc. of the NorthEast (EANE) announced that Christopher Matteson has joined the EANE team as grant developer. He will work with EANE members to train and develop their workforces using funding secured from targeted grant sources. He brings more than 10 years of experience — primarily in the areas of manufacturing, healthcare, and social services — to his role at EANE. Matteson will spearhead the October initiative to generate awareness for Massachusetts-based companies in workforce-training opportunities, and will outline strategies and trends for significant funding resources. Two lunch programs will be held: one in EANE’s Auburn office on Tuesday, Oct. 3, and the other in Agawam on Friday, Oct. 6. Both programs run from noon to 1:30 p.m., and businesses and organizations can register at no charge by contacting Matteson at [email protected] EANE has facilitated numerous grants — close to $2 million in total, with several grants ranging from $200,000 to $250,000 — for members to increase job retention, growth, and wages; to foster more productive and competitive companies; and to increase commitments to private investment in training. Matteson spent more than eight years with the 500-member advocacy group the Rhode Island Manufacturers Assoc. and its nonprofit arm, the Rhode Island Manufacturing Institute, most recently as vice president and chief operating officer. In that position, he maintained member services, developed strong relationships with manufacturers, and created training programs in partnership with universities, community colleges, and local training providers. He developed several manufacturing apprenticeship programs which led to dozens of new hires for manufacturers, and spearheaded a program for Rhode Island called “Dream It, DO IT,” which is a national initiative charged with increasing the positive awareness of manufacturing as a career choice. Matteson also spent several years in social-service positions and mental-health community-action programs dealing with sex offenders, fire setters, and substance abusers, where he implemented behavior-modification and managed-treatment programs. Matteson has a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and sociology from Rhode Island College and will complete his project management professional (PMP) certification in October at Bryant University. He has served on the advisory boards of Davies Career and Technical School, North Kingston High School, and East Providence Career and Technical School. He is a member of the National Assoc. of Workforce Development Professionals. He also serves on the board of directors for St. Mary’s Home for Children, a nonprofit agency offering comprehensive treatment programs for boys and girls traumatized by abuse or experiencing the challenges of psychiatric disorders.

•••••

Tighe & Bond, an engineering and environmental consulting firm, announced the recent addition of three senior environmental professionals to its team:

Christopher Koelle is a Connecticut licensed environmental professional (LEP) and project manager with 19 years of experience providing environmental-consulting services for a wide range of large and smaller-scale multi-disciplinary projects. This includes environmental assessment, hazardous building material (HBM) surveys, site development and redevelopment of brownfields, remediation, HBM abatement, and facility demolition. Koelle’s projects have involved assessment and remediation of PCBs, petroleum, solvents, and metals at both federally and state-regulated sites. He is known for developing innovative approaches to site assessment and remediation that have yielded significant savings at a multitude of sites across Connecticut. Koelle earned his bachelor’s degree in environmental science from Lehigh University, and his master’s in environmental science from the University of New Haven. He works out of the firm’s Middletown office, Conn. office;

• Shawn Rising is a Massachusetts licensed site professional (LSP) and project manager with more than 19 years of experience providing environmental-consulting services for a wide range of diverse projects throughout New England. He provides site assessment, remediation, due-diligence services, and environmental permitting. In addition, he has designed and implemented a variety of remedial programs for the treatment of oil and hazardous materials impacts to soil and groundwater under various regulatory programs. Rising has managed numerous waste site cleanup projects throughout the Northeast, with a focus on petroleum site assessment and remediation. In addition, he has substantial experience with facility compliance in the petroleum industry. Rising also has managed several large-scale due-diligence projects, supporting the acquisition of up to 300 properties under single-portfolio transaction. Currently he is providing LSP services for the closure of the former Mt. Tom power plant in Holyoke. Rising earned his bachelor’s degree in biology, with a minor in chemistry, from Westfield State University. He works primarily out of the firm’s Westfield office, routinely providing support to many other Tighe & Bond offices; and

Daniel Williams is a senior environmental-compliance specialist with more than 27 years of experience in industrial health and safety, as well as regulatory compliance. His expertise includes development and support for process-safety management; risk-management programs; environmental, health, and safety (EHS) programs; and various OSHA, EPA, and state environmental-compliance standards. Williams has developed, coordinated, and managed EHS policies, programs, training, and reporting processes for numerous industrial facilities throughout New England. During this time, he has overseen numerous safety improvements and implemented successful accident- and cost-reduction strategies. He brings a wealth of safety and compliance experience to the firm gained from past positions at industrial facilities in Massachusetts. Williams holds a bachelor’s degree in EHS program management from UMass Amherst. He works out of the firm’s Westfield office.

•••••

Michelle Baity

Michelle Baity

BFAIR (Berkshire Family & Individual Resources) announced the appointment of Michelle Baity as director of Human Resources. A key member of the senior leadership team at BFAIR, Michelle brings significant experience and knowledge to the organization. Prior to joining BFAIR, Baity’s human-resource experience includes the past 16 years at Berkshire County ARC, most recently serving as assistant director of Human Resources. During her tenure at Berkshire County ARC, she worked in all capacities within the human-resource field, gaining new responsibilities and skills throughout the years. Prior to her work in human resources, her career was dedicated to the field of human services. Baity holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts. She is a 2004 graduate of the Berkshire Leadership Program. She volunteers for the Berkshire Place as a member of its personnel committee, is the past president of the Reid Middle School PTO, and worked on the city of Pittsfield’s Winter Carnival.

•••••

Elms College added nine new faculty members in accounting, biology, communication sciences and disorders, education, nursing, and social work:

• Sara Smiarowski, an adjunct professor in the Elms MBA program, has been promoted to assistant professor of Accounting. Most recently, she was CFO of Berkshire Brewing Company in South Deerfield, MA. She also held leadership financial roles at Yankee Candle Co. in South Deerfield and Kringle Candle Co. in Bernardston;

• Joining Elms as a lecturer in Biology is Dr. Andrew Rucks. Most recently, Rucks has been a faculty member at American International College in Springfield and a consultant with Westat in Rockville, Md. He previously held faculty positions at Holyoke Community College, Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences in Boston, and Western New England College;

Brittney Carlson and Kathleen Murphy have been hired as assistant professors of Communication Sciences and Disorders. Carlson, who had been an adjunct professor at Elms since January, most recently served as a staff audiologist for VA Connecticut Healthcare System. Since 2004, Murphy has worked in a number of roles for Futures Education, Futures Healthcore in Springfield. She has also served as a speech language pathologist at Stepping Stones Birth to Three Center in Hartford, Conn.; Cooley Dickinson Hospital in Northampton; and Holyoke Public Schools;

• Joining Elms as associate professor of Education is Natalie Dunning, and as lecturer of Education is Shannon Dillard. Dunning had been assistant superintendent for teaching and learning for Freetown-Lakeville Regional Schools in Lakeville since 2013. Prior to that, she was chief academic officer for Springfield Public Schools and K-12 supervisor of science for Providence (R.I.) Public Schools. Dillard has been adjunct faculty in curriculum development at Bay Path University since 2010. Prior to that, she was a clinical faculty member and lecturer at UMass Amherst;

• New faculty in the School of Nursing are Elizabeth Fiscella as associate professor of Nursing, and Deana Nunes as instructor of Nursing. Fiscella most recently served as an associate professor of Nursing at Berkshire Community College and as assistant clinical professor of Nursing at UMass. Nunes, a certified wound care nurse at Mercy Wound Care Center in Springfield since 2010, has been a clinical adjunct at Elms College since 2015; and

William Gilbert has joined the college as assistant professor of Social Work. He has more than 25 years of experience in social work as a clinician, administrator, supervisor, and educator. He has taught at Eastern Connecticut State University in Willimantic; the University of Saint Joseph in West Hartford, Conn.; the University of Connecticut in West Hartford; and Elms College. His social-services experience includes positions at agencies such as Catholic Charities in Norwich, Conn.; Family Support Services; Community Prevention and Addiction Services Inc. in Willimantic, Conn.; and the Village for Families and Children Inc. in Hartford, Conn.

Daily News

BOSTON — The state’s total unemployment rate dropped to 4.2% in  August, the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development announced.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) preliminary job estimates indicate that Massachusetts added 10,800 jobs in August. Over the month, the private sector added 9,900 jobs as gains occurred in professional, scientific, and business services; other services; information; construction; and manufacturing. The July estimate was revised to a gain of 2,500 jobs.

From August 2016 to August 2017, BLS estimates Massachusetts has added 57,400 jobs.

The August unemployment rate was two-tenths of a percentage point lower than the national rate of 4.4% reported by the bureau.

“Massachusetts has gained 57,400 jobs in the last year, with much of that growth concentrated in key economic sectors like health, education, professional, business, and scientific services,” said Labor and Workforce Development Secretary Rosalin Acosta. “While these job gains, alongside a low unemployment rate, are signs of a strong economy in the Commonwealth, skills gaps and labor-market pressures persist. That is why our workforce-development agencies and partners continue to focus on matching available workers with the training and resources they need to connect to high-demand jobs.”

The labor force decreased by 17,200 from 3,697,700 in July, as 10,700 fewer residents were employed and 6,500 fewer residents were unemployed over the month.

Over the year, the state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate increased eight-tenths of a percentage point from 3.4% in August 2016. There were 31,300 more unemployed residents over the year compared to August 2016.

The state’s labor-force participation rate — the total number of residents 16 or older who worked or were unemployed and actively sought work in the last four weeks — decreased three-tenths of a percentage point to 66.1% over the month. The labor-force participation rate over the year has increased 1.3% compared to August 2016.

The largest private sector percentage job gains over the year were in other services; professional, scientific, and business services; education and health services; and financial activities.

Daily News

AGAWAM — The Employers Assoc. of the NorthEast (EANE) announced that Christopher Matteson has joined the EANE team as grant developer. He will work with EANE members to train and develop their workforces using funding secured from targeted grant sources. He brings more than 10 years of experience — primarily in the areas of manufacturing, healthcare, and social services — to his role at EANE.

Matteson will spearhead the October initiative to generate awareness for Massachusetts-based companies in workforce-training opportunities, and will outline strategies and trends for significant funding resources. Two lunch programs will be held: one in EANE’s Auburn office on Tuesday, Oct. 3, and the other in Agawam on Friday, Oct. 6. Both programs run from noon to 1:30 p.m., and businesses and organizations can register at no charge by contacting Matteson at [email protected].

EANE has facilitated numerous grants — close to $2 million in total, with several grants ranging from $200,000 to $250,000 — for members to increase job retention, growth, and wages; to foster more productive and competitive companies; and to increase commitments to private investment in training.

Matteson spent more than eight years with the 500-member advocacy group the Rhode Island Manufacturers Assoc. and its nonprofit arm, the Rhode Island Manufacturing Institute, most recently as vice president and chief operating officer. In that position, he maintained member services, developed strong relationships with manufacturers, and created training programs in partnership with universities, community colleges, and local training providers. He developed several manufacturing apprenticeship programs which led to dozens of new hires for manufacturers, and spearheaded a program for Rhode Island called “Dream It, DO IT,” which is a national initiative charged with increasing the positive awareness of manufacturing as a career choice.

Matteson also spent several years in social-service positions and mental-health community-action programs dealing with sex offenders, fire setters, and substance abusers, where he implemented behavior-modification and managed-treatment programs.

Matteson has a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and sociology from Rhode Island College and will complete his project management professional (PMP) certification in October at Bryant University. He has served on the advisory boards of Davies Career and Technical School, North Kingston High School, and East Providence Career and Technical School. He is a member of the National Assoc. of Workforce Development Professionals. He also serves on the board of directors for St. Mary’s Home for Children, a nonprofit agency offering comprehensive treatment programs for boys and girls traumatized by abuse or experiencing the challenges of psychiatric disorders.

Daily News

BOSTON — The state’s total unemployment rate remained at 4.3% in July, the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development announced. The preliminary job estimates from the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicate Massachusetts lost 200 jobs in July. Over the month, the private sector added 1,500 jobs as gains occurred in construction, financial activities, education and health services, and manufacturing. The June estimate was revised to a gain of 10,900 jobs.

From July 2016 to July 2017, BLS estimates Massachusetts has added 45,200 jobs. The July state unemployment rate is the same as the national rate of 4.3% reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The last time this occurred was April 2008, when the unemployment rate was 5.0%.

“Although the unemployment rate remains low, we continue to see persistent gaps between the skill sets of available workers and the qualifications needed for in-demand jobs. Our workforce-development agencies remain committed to closing that skills gap and helping the chronically unemployed receive the training they need to access a successful career in Massachusetts,” Labor and Workforce Development Secretary Rosalin Acosta said.

The labor force decreased by 11,300 from 3,708,800 in June, as 11,500 fewer residents were employed and 300 more residents were unemployed over the month.

Over the year, the state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate increased seven-tenths of a percentage point from 3.6% in July 2016. There were 33,000 more unemployed people over the year compared to July 2016.

The state’s labor-force participation rate — the total number of residents 16 or older who worked or were unemployed and actively sought work in the last four weeks — decreased three-tenths of a percentage point to 66.4% over the month. The labor-force participation rate over the year has increased 1.5% compared to July 2016.

The largest private sector percentage job gains over the year were in education and health services; construction; financial activities; and professional, scientific, and business services.

Opinion

Opinion

 By Katie Holahan

“Blueprint for the Next Century,” a long-term economic plan for Massachusetts prepared by Associated Industries of Massachusetts (AIM), identifies the shortage of qualified workers as the central impediment to the future of the Bay State economy. Worker shortage cross almost every industry, from manufacturers in the Pioneer Valley to software companies in Boston’s Innovation District to research and engineering firms on the North Shore.

The 4,000 member employers of AIM believe there are three key steps to addressing the problem:

• Identify opportunities to restructure state workforce-training programs to anticipate both near- and long-term workforce growth;

• Diversify the types of relevant training and education available to students statewide; and

• Allow the public education system the flexibility and adaptability to respond to the needs of the local and regional workforce, so graduates enjoy greater economic opportunity.

Two bills recently released from the state Legislature’s Joint Committee on Labor and Workforce Development will help Massachusetts achieve the first goal.

The bills, Senate 2109 and House 3804, filed by the late Sen. Ken Donnelly and Rep. Kenneth Gordon, respectively, would allow a transfer of up to $1.1 million, or 5%, of funds from the Workforce Training Fund to the Workforce Competitiveness Trust Fund to be used for sector-based job training for non-incumbent workers. The Workforce Training Fund generates revenues via employer assessments, and is normally used to improve the skills of workers who are already on the job.

AIM advocated successfully for a pay-for-performance funding structure in the proposed grant program. Half of the grant funds in the program will be tied to job placement and retention outcomes. The money won’t be released until workers are trained and in their new, full-time jobs for two months. Such discipline and measurement will allow the state to connect the available workforce with employers so that all regions and industries have similar opportunities for success.

Training both incumbent workers and new workers will create the type of flexibility needed to respond to a changing economy while meeting clear job-growth objectives.  As the Commonwealth works to modernize and streamline its workforce-development system, AIM will continue to advocate for such requirements in any similar pieces of workforce legislation.

The creation of a job and a person’s ability to do that job weave together every important aspect of social and economic stability: the desire for a better life, the ability to support a family, the confidence to start a business, and the need to support efficient government management of services like education, healthcare, and public safety.

Katie Holahan is vice president of Associated Industries of Massachusetts. This article first appeared on the AIM blog.

Back to School Sections

If at First You Don’t Succeed ….

By Kathleen Mellen

gradgroupcapsThose managing the University Without Walls program at UMass Amherst are big believers in the phrase ‘giving credit where it’s due.’ Indeed, UWW awards college credits for experience garnered in the workplace, enabling non-traditional students to gain the degrees needed to advance their careers.

By his own account, Matthew Malo wasn’t much of a high-school student. But when he graduated in 1992 from Hampshire Regional High School, he set off for college anyway.

Big mistake.

Malo, 43, who is now a sergeant in the police department at UMass Amherst, said he matriculated at the Stockbridge School at UMass back then, thinking he would study landscaping. But, once there, he floundered.

“It wasn’t what I thought it would be. It was a lot of designing and art, and I’m not an artist or a designer,” said the Southampton resident in a recent interview at the UMass police station. “I wanted to be the guy who was out there doing it — not in a classroom.”

He left the program after just one semester.

The next year, at the urging of his parents, he tried college again — this time enrolling at Holyoke Community College. That didn’t go any better.

“It was like high school, one year later,” he said. “A lot of my friends were there, and if I had a class I didn’t like, and a bunch of my friends were hanging out in the cafeteria, guess where I was?”

Strike two. But, as the saying goes, third time’s the charm.

Matthew Malo

Matthew Malo says he’s “kicking butt” in UWW after two unsuccessful attempts at a more traditional college experience.

In 2006, Malo’s father suggested his son look into UMass Amherst’s University Without Walls, a bachelor’s-degree-completion program for non-traditional students, many of whom, like Malo, have abandoned earlier efforts at college. By that time, Malo had been working for some time as a UMass police officer, had gone through the Western Massachusetts Regional Municipal Police Academy, and had even successfully completed a few courses in criminal justice at Greenfield Community College.

“I finally found something I liked,” Malo said.

So, he decided to give it the old college try — one more time. Today, Malo is a student at UWW, where’s he’s studying criminal justice — and, as he puts it, “kicking butt.” He expects to graduate in spring 2019.

UWW, established in 1971, is one of the oldest adult bachelor’s-degree-completion programs in the country. Its specialized services include flexibility in scheduling, options to accelerate the degree process, and the opportunity to receive college credit for work or life experience, including service in the military.

“We believe learning doesn’t have to take place in the classroom, so we take into account the experience they have — the training and learning they’ve had through a variety of experiences,” said UWW’s director, Ingrid Bracey. “We meet students where they are, and the students are amazed at the amount of learning they actually have. The best part of being at UWW is seeing that light go on.”

Degrees of Progress

In winter 2016, Malo met with an advisor at UWW, who explained that the program would allow him to design a major based on his personal interests, and could offer up to 75 transfer credits from previous college courses, no matter how long ago they were taken.

He also discovered that, upon the completion of an in-depth, written portfolio that explored his experiential learning, he would be eligible to receive up to 30 college credits for the work, and living, he’d already done.

Perhaps most important, he said, was that course delivery through UWW is available fully online. (Traditional classes are also available, as are classes that blend online and classroom learning.) That, he said, has been crucial to his success in the program.

“My biggest concern about going back to college was scheduling,” said Malo, who has two school-aged children and works part-time for a small-town police department, in addition to his full-time duties as a UMass cop. “When the adviser said I could do all my classwork online, on my own time, I thought, ‘they really get it. They understand what’s going on with people like me.’”

He’s not alone: online classes are a rising trend across the country. According to a 2014 report from the Babson Survey Research Group, 33% of college students in the U.S. are enrolled in at least one online course, and the rate of online course enrollment continues to far exceed the overall rate of college enrollment.

Judith Odindo’s path to UWW could not have been more different from Malo’s.

A native of Kenya, Odindo, 38, had come to the U.S. in 2001 to study as an international student at Montclair State University in New Jersey. She already had some college under her belt in Kenya, and was looking forward to her year of study abroad.

But then her mother, who was paying her tuition, fell ill back home, and Odindo’s financial support evaporated. So, after a single semester, she was forced to drop out. And because her family was struggling to make ends meet, she knew it would be a burden to them if she returned home.

That left Odindo stranded in a foreign country, on a student’s visa, but with no way to continue her schooling. She was heartbroken.

Nevertheless, she decided to stick it out in the U.S., which required changing her visa status to allow her to work — not an easy process, she said. Through a series of circumstances, and a move from New Jersey to Springfield, Odindo was able to find work with the Mass. Department of Developmental Services, but it was always her intention to return to college — someday, somehow.

Eventually, she began to take classes as a part-time student at Springfield Technical Community College, but, because of her schedule as a supervisor in a residential home in Springfield, it was a slow process, with no discernable end in sight.

Then, one day, she came across a flyer about UWW. She sent an e-mail inquiry to the program and described her predicament. The response was quick, and hopeful.

Judith Odindo

Judith Odindo says UWW fit her life and work responsibilities in a way other programs did not, allowing her to earn an elusive degree.

“They told me I would be a perfect fit for the program,” Odindo said in an interview at the UMass Center in Tower Square in Springfield. She learned she could transfer her credits from Montclair and STCC, and would likely receive additional credits for her work and life experience. “I said, ‘wow. It fits my life and my work schedule. This could be a way for me to finish my degree.’”

So she signed on, and two years later, in May, she received a bachelor’s degree, with a focus in business studies. Fortunately, her mother has since recovered, and now lives in Springfield as well.

“From a tough time, great things happened,” Odindo said.

Courses of Action

UWW is an academic major at UMass, with 12 full-time faculty and nine full-time administrative staff members, all with expertise in teaching and advising adult students. Students take core UWW departmental courses and then build their degree concentrations by taking courses throughout the university.

More than 4,000 adults have received bachelor’s degrees from the program since it’s inception more than 45 years ago, including NBA legend Julius Erving (Dr. J) and Monster.com founder Jeff Taylor. It enrolls about 1,000 to 1,200 students per semester and enjoys a 65% to 75% graduation rate, significantly higher than the rate of 35% to 40% seen in most degree-completion programs, Bracey said. And a significant number go on to receive higher degrees.

“The number-one thing they want is for you to succeed,” Odindo said.

Elizabeth Brinkerhoff knows from experience just how life-altering a degree from UWW can be. Brinkerhoff, 66, who lives in Shutesbury, is a 1981 graduate of the program, and also worked for many years as a faculty member and advisor in the program, retiring two years ago. She credits her time as a student there with providing the boost she needed to build a career.

Brinkerhoff says she followed four years as “half-assed high-school student” with a “lackadaisical stint” at GCC. “I was floundering,” she said. “I really had no idea what I wanted to do.”

So she dropped out, joined the workforce, moved around a bit, and finally landed back in Western Mass., where she found a job working with alternative-education programs for grades K-12. Then, in 1978, a friend encouraged her to look into the UWW.

Brinkerhoff’s employer at the time supported the idea and allowed her to adjust her work schedule to accommodate classes. (Unlike today’s students, who overwhelmingly choose to take online classes, students in Brinkerhoff’s day had to report to brick-and-mortar classrooms.) She enrolled in spring 1978, and went on to receive a master’s degree from Suffolk University in Boston and, later, a doctorate from the UMass School of Education.

She had planned to become a high-school guidance counselor, but once she started classes at UWW, it didn’t take long for her to adjust her career goals.

“I realized there were a whole lot of people, like me, who were coming back to school, so I stayed in higher education, and with adult learners,” she said.

It’s a trend that has continued: with the demand for college-educated employees steadily increasing, the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development has projected that 60% of workers in Massachusetts, and 40% nationally, will need to have an associate’s degree or higher to be competitive in the job market. And that’s sending older Americans back to college.

Today, three-quarters of U.S. undergraduate students are now considered ‘non-traditional,’ according to the National Center for Education Statistics, which has estimated that enrollment of 25- to 34-year-olds in undergraduate degree programs will increase 28% by 2019, while enrollment of students over 35 will go up 22%. That means that adult-learning, post-secondary models, like UWW, are likely to play an increasingly important role in preparing students for today’s workforce.

Indeed, thanks to her UWW education, Odindo says, she’s now eligible to apply for certain advancements in her workplace, and also plans to attend law school. And the UWW experience certainly set Brinkerhoff on her way to a long and successful career.

“The faculty and the students at University Without Walls are part of a learning culture — that thing that happens when people’s minds are at work. It taught me how to learn and how to think, and it helped define my career,” she said. “Then, knowing the program as well as I did, I could help students understand just what was possible there.”

Grade Expectations

As for Malo, he says he hopes his bachelor’s degree will make him “a little more marketable” for advancement on the police force, but that’s not why he’s attending UWW.

“It’s always bugged me that I never finished — there’s always been that weight on my shoulders,” he said. Plus, he added, he’s doing it for his children — Jonathan, 14, and Savanna, 10. “I want my kids to see me finish my degree. They’ll know if I can do it, they can do it, too.”

Thanks to UWW, a lot more people have been able to ‘do it.’

Departments Incorporations

The following business incorporations were recorded in Hampden, Hampshire, and Franklin counties and are the latest available. They are listed by community.

CHICOPEE

Maharajshree Inc., 67 Monroe St., Chicopee, MA 01020. Sheetal Patel, Same. Variety store with convenience items and alcohol.

HARDWICK

Lost Towns Brewing Company, 1643 Petersham Road, Hardwick, MA 01037. Curtis Stillman, same. Brewing malt beverages.

HOLYOKE

Metras Tax Services Inc, 12 Corser St., Suite 411, Holyoke, MA 01040. Lena Gauthier, 19 Berwick Road, Longmeadow, MA 01106. Tax preparation.

NORTH ADAMS

LT Requisitions Inc., 1544 Curran Highway, North Adams, MA 01247. Luis Teixeira, 500 Old Windsor Road, Dalton MA 01226. Distribution and manufacturing.

ORANGE

Launchspace Inc., 131 West Main St., Suite 342, Orange, MA 01364. Alec Macleod, 78 Chestnut Hill Road, Orange, MA 01364. To create and operate a makerspace (a set of member-based shops), to incubate and support new businesses engaged in making tangible things, to support workforce development by providing specifically targeted instruction.

PITTSFIELD

Lenco Export Inc., 10 Betnr Industrial Dr., Pittsfield, MA 01201. Leonard M. Light, 5 Andrea Dr., Pittsfield, MA 01201. Commodities broker and commission agent.

SPRINGFIELD

Luxury Real Estate Inc., 30 Glenham St., Springfield, MA 01104. Charlie S. Melo-Perez . Same. Real estate.

M & J Enterprises Inc., 14 Riverview Terrace, Springfield, MA 01108. Gerald T. Adams, Same. Sales and service of over the air antennas.

WESTFIELD

Maximum Transport Inc, 38 Greenwood St., Westfield, MA 01085. Viktor Burunov, Same. Trucking.

WILBRAHAM

Kidney Care and Transplant Services Of New England, P.C., 2 Sylvan Dr., Wilbraham, MA 01095. George S. Lipkowitz, 24 Saro Dr., Amherst, MA 01002. Medical service.

Briefcase Departments

Massachusetts Adds 10,000 Jobs in June

BOSTON — The state’s total unemployment rate increased to 4.3% in June from the May rate of 4.2%, the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development announced Thursday. The preliminary job estimates from the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicate Massachusetts added 10,000 jobs in June. Over-the-month job gains occurred in education and health services; trade, transportation, and utilities; leisure and hospitality; other services; manufacturing; information; and financial activities. The May estimate was revised to a gain of 2,000 jobs. From June 2016 to June 2017, BLS estimates Massachusetts has added 65,900 jobs. The June state unemployment rate remains lower than the national rate of 4.4% reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The labor force decreased by 2,600 from 3,711,100 in May, as 7,600 fewer residents were employed and 5,100 more residents were unemployed over the month. Over the year, the state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate increased six-tenths of a percentage point from 3.7% in June 2016. There were 27,400 more unemployed persons over the year compared to June 2016. The state’s labor-force participation rate — the total number of residents 16 or older who worked or were unemployed and actively sought work in the last four weeks — remained at 66.7% over the month. The labor-force participation rate over the year has increased 1.8% compared to June 2016. The largest private-sector percentage job gains over the year were in education and health services; professional, scientific, and business services; financial activities; and other services. “During the first six months of 2017, Massachusetts has experienced the largest increase in the labor force on record, and the 66.7% labor-force participation rate is now 3.9 points higher than the U.S. rate,” said Labor and Workforce Development Secretary Rosalin Acosta. “These marked labor-force gains should help ease labor-market pressures and are signs of a growing economy in the Commonwealth.”

United Way, Peter Pan Launch Annual Stuff the Bus Program

SPRINGFIELD — United Way of Pioneer Valley and Peter Pan Bus Lines launched the annual Stuff the Bus campaign on July 28. The campaign will collect new school supplies through Aug. 16. The supplies will be distributed in new backpacks to children who are homeless in Chicopee, Holyoke, Springfield, Westfield, West Springfield, and South Hadley. “All children in our community deserve to enter school feeling confident, proud, and equipped to learn. Yet, in our community, hundreds of children are without homes,” said United Way President Jim Ayers. “United Way and our supporters want to ensure that these most vulnerable children return to school with what they need: their own unique backpack, new supplies, and a symbolic message from our community that we care deeply about them and recognize their potential.” Individuals are encouraged to donate the following age-appropriate supplies: number-2 pencils, erasers, binders, paper, crayons, highlighters, pencil boxes, pens, glue sticks, rulers, two-pocket folders, and one-subject notebooks. Through August 16, 2017, donations can be brought to the United Way of Pioneer Valley, 1441 Main St., Suite 147, Springfield (weekdays, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.), Western Mass News, 1300 Liberty St., Springfield (weekdays, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.), Balise Kia, 603 Riverdale St., West Springfield (every day, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.), or Six Flags New England (Wednesday, Aug. 16 only). Aug. 16 is National Roller Coaster Day. Donors who provide six to 19 items will receive a $20.17 coupon toward main-gate admission at Six Flags New England. Those who provide 20 or more items will receive a free ticket. This event concludes the Stuff the Bus campaign.

Single-family Home Sales Down Slightly in June

SPRINGFIELD — Single-family home sales were down 2.6% in the Pioneer Valley in June compared to the same time last year, while the median price rose 4.8% to $218,000, according to the Realtor Assoc. of Pioneer Valley. In Franklin County, sales were down 1.3%, while the median price rose 16.3% from a year earlier. In Hampden County, sales were up 3.2%, while the median price was up 5.5%. And in Hampshire County, sales fell 15% from June 2016, while the median price was up 6%.

Daily News

GREENFIELD — Want to work as a certified nursing assistant or home health aide? You can learn about Greenfield Community College’s programs in these fields at an information session on Tuesday, Aug. 1 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at Franklin Community Coop/McCusker’s Market, 3 State St., Shelburne Falls.

GCC’s CNA/HHA programs can be completed for credit or on a non-credit basis. GCC graduates work in long-term-care facilities, home-health agencies, hospitals and rehabilitation programs, adult day programs, assisted-living centers, hospice, and other community health settings.

Scholarships are available, including partial scholarships for students in 10 Western Franklin County towns: Ashfield, Buckland, Charlemont, Colrain, Conway, Hawley, Heath, Monroe, Rowe, and Shelburne.

This West County information session will include information about how to apply for scholarships. Scholarship applications for the fall semester are due Friday, Aug. 11. To apply for a scholarship, visit www.gcc.mass.edu/non-credit/scholarships.

Anyone planning to attend should RSVP online or by calling (413) 775-1672. Those who would like to learn about the CNA/HHA programs but can’t attend the information session should call (413) 775-1672.

“We are holding an information session in Shelburne Falls because we want to make sure that people know about the generous scholarships available to people from these 10 western Franklin County towns,” said Mark Rabinsky, GCC’s director of Workforce Development & Community Education.

The demand for well-trained healthcare paraprofessionals is growing as the Baby Boom generation is aging. Many healthcare providers employ paraprofessionals and offer secure employment options with good benefits, flexible hours, and career-advancement opportunities. CNA/HHAs have the additional satisfaction of making a positive difference in the lives of the individuals for whom they provide care.

“This is a great opportunity for those interested in working in the healthcare field to access training to become a certified nursing assistant or home health aide,” said Catherine Seaver, GCC’s chief Academic and Student Affairs officer. “There is high demand for people ready to work in these roles, and GCC is pleased to offer these credit and non-credit opportunities. Students should also be aware of the financial assistance that is available to help pay tuition and fees. The program provides students with the necessary training to immediately enter the workforce, and it supports our nation’s growing demand for well-trained workers to care of our elderly. It’s a true win-win situation for the community.”

Daily News

BOSTON — Local unemployment rates increased in 18 labor-market areas and decreased in six areas in the state during the month of June, the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development reported. Compared to June 2016, the rates were up in 24 labor-market areas.

Thirteen of the 15 areas for which job estimates are published recorded seasonal job gains in June. The largest gains occurred in the Boston-Cambridge-Newton, Barnstable, Framingham, Pittsfield, and Haverhill-Newburyport-Amesbury areas.

From June 2016 to June 2017, 14 of the 15 areas added jobs, with the largest percentage gains in the New Bedford, Haverhill-Newburyport-Amesbury, Boston-Cambridge-Newton, and Barnstable areas.

In order to compare the statewide rate to local unemployment rates, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates the statewide unadjusted unemployment rate for June was 4.4%.

Last week, the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development reported the statewide seasonally adjusted unemployment rate increased one-tenth of a percentage point to 4.3% in the month of June. The statewide seasonally adjusted jobs estimate showed a 10,000 job gain in June and an over-the-year gain of 65,900 jobs.

The unadjusted unemployment rates and job estimates for the labor market areas reflect seasonal fluctuations and therefore may show different levels and trends than the statewide seasonally adjusted estimates. The estimates for labor force, unemployment rates, and jobs for Massachusetts are based on different statistical methodology specified by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Daily News

BOSTON — The state’s total unemployment rate increased to 4.3% in June from the May rate of 4.2%, the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development announced Thursday.

The preliminary job estimates from the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicate Massachusetts added 10,000 jobs in June. Over-the-month job gains occurred in education and health services; trade, transportation, and utilities; leisure and hospitality; other services; manufacturing; information; and financial activities. The May estimate was revised to a gain of 2,000 jobs.

From June 2016 to June 2017, BLS estimates Massachusetts has added 65,900 jobs. The June state unemployment rate remains lower than the national rate of 4.4% reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The labor force decreased by 2,600 from 3,711,100 in May, as 7,600 fewer residents were employed and 5,100 more residents were unemployed over the month.

Over the year, the state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate increased six-tenths of a percentage point from 3.7% in June 2016. There were 27,400 more unemployed persons over the year compared to June 2016.

The state’s labor-force participation rate — the total number of residents 16 or older who worked or were unemployed and actively sought work in the last four weeks — remained at 66.7% over the month. The labor-force participation rate over the year has increased 1.8% compared to June 2016.

The largest private-sector percentage job gains over the year were in education and health services; professional, scientific, and business services; financial activities; and other services.

“During the first six months of 2017, Massachusetts has experienced the largest increase in the labor force on record, and the 66.7% labor-force participation rate is now 3.9 points higher than the U.S. rate,” said Labor and Workforce Development Secretary Rosalin Acosta. “These marked labor-force gains should help ease labor-market pressures and are signs of a growing economy in the Commonwealth.”

Daily News

WESTFIELD — Westfield Bank announced that Richard Hanchett has been promoted to senior vice president/Commercial Loan officer. Meanwhile, six other Westfield Bank employees have been promoted to vice president, including Bryan Cowan, Cathy Jocelyn, William Judd, Sarah Medeiros, Kelly Pignatare, and Rick Zabielski.

A 34-year veteran of the local banking industry, Hanchett joined Westfield Bank in 2007 as vice president/Commercial Loan officer. As team leader of the bank’s Commercial Loan Division since 2015, he manages a group of seven lenders in addition to maintaining a large loan portfolio. Prior to joining Westfield Bank, he spent 24 years at the former Westbank, rising through its Commercial Credit Department to senior credit analyst before becoming a Commercial Loan officer in 1986.

Civically engaged, Hanchett currently serves on the Springfield Chamber of Commerce legislative steering committee and education & workforce development subcommittee, and is on the board of the Work Opportunity Center in Agawam. He is a graduate of Western New England University.

Cowan, who has been promoted to vice president/Finance, started his career at Westfield Bank in 2001, advancing to accounting associate, then staff accountant by 2005. He was named assistant vice president in 2014 as he developed his skills in financial reporting, forecasting, interest-rate risk, liquidity management, and data analytics. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Westfield State University and an MBA and master’s degree in finance from Northeastern University.

Jocelyn, now vice president/Marketing manager, joined the bank eight years ago as Online Banking coordinator; shortly after, she moved to the Marketing Department as Marketing coordinator, was promoted to Marketing manager, then assistant vice president/Marketing manager, in which position she holds responsibilities for bank advertising, branding, sponsorships, and charitable giving, among other duties. She has extensive experience in the banking industry, and holds an associate’s degree from Bay Path University.

Judd, who has been promoted to vice president/Credit Administration, started with the bank as a teller in 1997, moving to the Commercial Loan Group in 2001, becoming Credit Department manager in 2007. In 2012 he was promoted to assistant vice president/Credit Administration; in that role, he has been instrumental in the development of the bank’s commercial-credit underwriting process and in training new credit analysts. He holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Westfield State University and an MBA from Northeastern University.

Medeiros, now vice president/Commercial Credit, began her banking career in 2011 as a commercial credit analyst at Chicopee Savings Bank, quickly advancing to Credit Department manager, then assistant vice president in 2013. She has been instrumental in the development of a credit-administration structure to support Westfield Bank’s $1.1 billion commercial portfolio. A former CPA with PricewaterhouseCoopers, LLP and director in Risk Management for Forest City Enterprises, she holds a bachelor’s degree in Accounting with a minor in Finance from Providence College.

Pignatare, who has been promoted to vice president/regional manager, joined the bank in 2007 following five years of experience in the local banking industry as an online banking and cash-management specialist, branch-administration manager, and business-development officer. At Westfield Bank, she quickly advanced to assistant vice president, Small Business Sales manager, then regional manager and assistant VP, Sales Administration and market analyst. She attended Holyoke Community College.

Zabielski, now vice president/Underwriting and Processing manager, has been with the bank since 1996, holding a number of positions before his most recent role as assistant vice president/Underwriting and Processing manager for Retail Lending; he has experience as a consumer loan underwriter, mortgage originator, and manager of the bank’s loan center. In his new role, he is also responsible for underwriting and processing of residential lending, home-equity, and consumer loans.

“I am delighted to announce these well-earned promotions,” said James Hagan, president and CEO of Westfield Bank. “Rick Hanchett is a natural leader and a talented banker who will continue to strengthen our relationships with local businesses. Many of our customers count on Rick for clear, effective advice when making their most important decisions, and he’s earned that trust. And when I look at our new VPs, I’m impressed by their hard work and dedication to always putting our customers first. These qualities have resulted in successes for the people they serve, and for Westfield Bank — guiding us successfully through our recent merger with Chicopee Savings Bank, and helping us rise to the top echelons of our region’s banking industry. They’re role models and simply great bankers.”