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Briefcase Departments

Springfield Officials Announce Downtown Street Improvements

SPRINGFIELD — Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno, Chief Development Officer Kevin Kennedy, and Public Works Director Christopher Cignoli announced several major streetscape improvements to downtown Springfield in the anticipation of the grand opening of Union Station and MGM Springfield. The city’s Main Street Refresh Project will target Main Street from Union Station to Central Street. Work will include numerous sidewalk repairs, tree plantings, intersection and crosswalk improvements, and enhancements to the railroad underpasses along Main Street, Dwight Street, and Chestnut Street. The project will also include a new pedestrian wayfinding system currently in the final phases of design. The project is designed to complement MGM Springfield’s significant investment in downtown infrastructure. That work just getting underway includes signal improvements at key intersections, major utility upgrades, new paving, curb and sidewalk work for improved pedestrian access, and more. MGM Springfield will distribute regular communications to the city and residents to give notice of where and when travel disruptions may occur. The project will have a total cost of $6.9 million, including approximately $5.5 million from MGM Springfield and $1.4 million from the city of Springfield. Work is anticipated to begin immediately and scheduled to be completed by late spring 2018.

Massachusetts Adds 2,900 Jobs in May

BOSTON — The state’s total unemployment rate increased to 4.2% in May from the April rate of 3.9%, the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development announced. The preliminary job estimates from the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicate Massachusetts added 2,900 jobs in May. Over-the-month job gains occurred in education and health services; leisure and hospitality; professional, scientific, and business services; information; and construction. The April estimate was revised to a loss of 800 jobs. From May 2016 to May 2017, BLS estimates Massachusetts has added 58,300 jobs. The May state unemployment rate remains lower than the national rate of 4.3% reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The labor force increased by 17,100 from 3,694,200 in April, as 4,900 more residents were employed and 12,200 more residents were unemployed over the month. Over the year, the state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate increased four-tenths of a percentage point from 3.8% in May 2016. There were 17,300 more unemployed people over the year compared to May 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 — increased two-tenths of a percentage point to 66.7% over the month. The labor-force participation rate over the year has increased 1.7% compared to May 2016. The largest private-sector percentage job gains over the year were in information; construction; professional, scientific, and business services; and education and health services.

Horace Smith Fund Awards $216,000 to Area Students

SPRINGFIELD — On Thursday, June 15, the Horace Smith Fund will hold its 118th corporators’ meeting and scholarship awards ceremony at the Carriage House at Storrowton Tavern in West Springfield for recipients, their parents and school counselors, and corporators. Wayne Webster, chair of the board of trustees, announced that there will be 18 scholarship recipients and three fellowship recipients this year. Each scholarship provides a total of $10,000 over four years, and each fellowship provides $12,000 over three years. This year’s scholarship recipients include Thomas Hendrickson, Agawam High School; Aqsa Maham and Willard McKinstry, Chicopee Comprehensive High School; Xavier Farrell, High School of Science & Technology; Jordan Kei-Rahn, Longmeadow High School; Ashley Gurney, Minnechaug Regional High School; Timothy Canning, Palmer High School; Richard Nguyen, Roger L. Putnam Vocational-Technical Academy; Padraig Smith, Saint Mary High School; David Giang, Kiara Mickens, and Brendan Truong, Springfield Central High School; Ilona Znackharchuk, Westfield High School; Lindsay Gearty, West Springfield High School; Ngan Tran, Springfield Central High School, Bay Path University; Parris Porter, SABIS, Hampshire College; Amelia Vega, Holyoke High School, UMass Amherst; and Kevin Pelletier, Chicopee Comprehensive High School, Westfield State University. The three fellowship recipients are graduates of the following high schools and colleges: Melanie Gomes, Chicopee High School, Brandeis University; John-Marc Austin, Austin Family Homeschool, Elms College; and Alexander Smith, Minnechaug Regional High School, UMass Amherst. Students were selected on a variety of criteria, including test scores, class rank, extracurricular activities, and a personal essay.

Cultural District Celebrates Public Art Venture Downtown

SPRINGFIELD — The Springfield Central Cultural District (SCCD) launched its second district-wide public art program, following the success of last summer’s utility-box mural program. Three painted pianos have been installed in the metro center of Springfield, with the mission of activating space, encouraging pedestrian activity, and providing artist income. The pianos are located at Market Place Shops, located behind 1341 Main St., as well as at 1350 Main St. and 1550 Main St. This program of public pianos is linked to the international street-pianos movement, with participating cities including London, Paris, and Sydney.

Daily News

BOSTON — Local unemployment rates increased in 16 labor-market areas, decreased in five areas, and remained the same in three areas in the state during the month of May, the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development reported. Compared to May 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 May. The largest gains occurred in the Boston-Cambridge-Newton, Barnstable, Worcester, Framingham, and Lowell-Billerica-Chelmsford areas.

From May 2016 to May 2017, 13 of the 15 areas added jobs, with the largest percentage gains in the New Bedford, Barnstable, Boston-Cambridge-Newton, Brockton-Bridgewater-Easton, and Haverhill-Newburyport-Amesbury areas.

In order to compare the statewide rate to local unemployment rates, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates the statewide unadjusted unemployment rate for May was 4.1%.

Last week, the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development reported the statewide seasonally adjusted unemployment rate increased to 4.2% in the month of May. The statewide seasonally adjusted jobs estimate showed a 2,900-job gain in May and an over-the-year gain of 58,300 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 — The state’s total unemployment rate increased to 4.2% in May from the April rate of 3.9%, the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development announced.

The preliminary job estimates from the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicate Massachusetts added 2,900 jobs in May. Over-the-month job gains occurred in education and health services; leisure and hospitality; professional, scientific, and business services; information; and construction. The April estimate was revised to a loss of 800 jobs.

From May 2016 to May 2017, BLS estimates Massachusetts has added 58,300 jobs. The May state unemployment rate remains lower than the national rate of 4.3% reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“During 2017, Massachusetts continues to experience large increases in the labor force,” Labor and Workforce Development Secretary Ronald Walker II said. “May’s labor-force participation rate of 66.7%, the highest rate since October 2008, allows for ongoing economic growth. As the pool of people actively searching for work increases, our workforce-development agencies remain focused on ensuring that the next generation of job seekers have access to next-generation job training.”

The labor force increased by 17,100 from 3,694,200 in April, as 4,900 more residents were employed and 12,200 more residents were unemployed over the month.

Over the year, the state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate increased four-tenths of a percentage point from 3.8% in May 2016. There were 17,300 more unemployed people over the year compared to May 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 — increased two-tenths of a percentage point to 66.7% over the month. The labor-force participation rate over the year has increased 1.7% compared to May 2016.

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

Briefcase Departments

Unemployment Down Across Most of Massachusetts in April

BOSTON — Local unemployment rates decreased in 13 labor-market areas, increased in three areas, and remained the same in eight areas in the state during the month of April, the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development reported. Compared to April 2016, the rates were down in nine labor-market areas, increased in 10 areas, and remained the same in five areas. All 15 areas for which job estimates are published recorded seasonal job gains in April. The largest gains occurred in the Boston-Cambridge-Newton, Springfield, Barnstable, Worcester, and Framingham areas. From April 2016 to April 2017, 12 of the 15 areas added jobs, with the largest percentage gains in the New Bedford, Barnstable, Haverhill-Newburyport-Amesbury, Brockton-Bridgewater-Easton, and Boston-Cambridge-Newton areas. In order to compare the statewide rate to local unemployment rates, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates the statewide unadjusted unemployment rate for April was 3.8%. Last week, the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development reported the statewide seasonally adjusted unemployment rate increased to 3.9% in the month of April. The statewide seasonally adjusted jobs estimate showed a 3,900 job gain in April, and an over-the-year gain of 58,600 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.

Single-family Home Sales in Pioneer Valley Up in April

SPRINGFIELD — Single-family home sales were up 2.3% in the Pioneer Valley in April compared to the same time last year, while the median price fell 0.2% to $194,000, according to the Realtor Assoc. of Pioneer Valley. In Franklin County, sales were down 5.7%, while the median price fell 11.3% from a year earlier. In Hampden County, sales were up 6.7%, while the median price was down 1.3%. And in Hampshire County, sales fell 5.1% from March 2016, while the median price was up 7.9%.

Local Land Trust Offers New License Plate

AGAWAM — The Massachusetts Chapter of the Sportsmen’s National Land Trust (SNLT) is collecting pre-orders for a new Massachusetts license plate which it plans to have released later this year. The SNLT is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit based in Agawam, founded in 2003 to help conserve natural resources and wildlife habitat across the state. Proceeds from the plate will be used to acquire, maintain, and improve open land strictly within Massachusetts, which will be available to the public forever. The all-volunteer land trust has created a special plate with a deer-buck image created by local wildlife artist Ed Snyder. A limited number of low-number original issue plates are still available at the land trust website at www.snltmassachusetts.org, but quantities are limited. Further information about the SNLT can be found at the website as well.

AMA Study: Practice Owners No Longer Physician Majority

CHICAGO — Less than half of patient-care physicians had an ownership stake in their medical practice, according to a newly updated study on physician-practice arrangements by the American Medical Assoc. (AMA). This marks the first time physician-practice owners fell below a majority of the nation’s patient-care physicians since the AMA began documenting practice-arrangement trends. The share of patient-care physicians with ownership stakes in a medical practice declined 6% to 47.1% in 2016 from 53.2% in 2012. In contrast, the share of patient-care physicians with employed positions increased about 5% to 47.1% in 2016 from 41.8% in 2012. As a result, there were equal shares of physician employees and physician practice owners in 2016, while 5.9% of patient-care physicians were independent contractors. The preference of younger physicians toward employed positions has had a prominent impact. Nearly two-thirds (65.1%) of physicians under age 40 were employees in 2016, compared to 51.3% in 2012. The share of employees among physicians age 40 and older also increased between 2012 and 2016, but at a more modest pace than younger physicians. “Patients benefit when physicians practice in settings they find professionally and personally rewarding, and the AMA strongly supports a physician’s right to practice in the setting of their choice,” said AMA President Dr. Andrew Gurman. “The AMA is committed to helping physicians navigate their practice options and offers innovative strategies and resources to ensure physicians in all practice sizes and setting can thrive in the changing health environment.”

Daily News

BOSTON — Local unemployment rates decreased in 13 labor-market areas, increased in three areas, and remained the same in eight areas in the state during the month of April, the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development reported.

Compared to April 2016, the rates were down in nine labor-market areas, increased in 10 areas, and remained the same in five areas.

All 15 areas for which job estimates are published recorded seasonal job gains in April. The largest gains occurred in the Boston-Cambridge-Newton, Springfield, Barnstable, Worcester, and Framingham areas.

From April 2016 to April 2017, 12 of the 15 areas added jobs, with the largest percentage gains in the New Bedford, Barnstable, Haverhill-Newburyport-Amesbury, Brockton-Bridgewater-Easton, and Boston-Cambridge-Newton areas.

In order to compare the statewide rate to local unemployment rates, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates the statewide unadjusted unemployment rate for April was 3.8%.

Last week, the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development reported the statewide seasonally adjusted unemployment rate increased to 3.9% in the month of April. The statewide seasonally adjusted jobs estimate showed a 3,900 job gain in April, and an over-the-year gain of 58,600 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 3.9% in April from the March rate of 3.6%, the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development announced.

The preliminary job estimates from the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicate Massachusetts added 3,900 jobs in April. Over-the-month job gains occurred in professional, scientific, and business services; education and health services; trade, transportation, and utilities; other services; information; and manufacturing.

From April 2016 to April 2017, BLS estimates Massachusetts added 58,600 jobs. The April state unemployment rate remains lower than the national rate of 4.4% reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“Through the first four months of 2017, Massachusetts has added over 20,000 jobs, with much of those gains coming from key sectors of the economy like professional, business, and scientific services,” Labor and Workforce Development Secretary Ronald Walker II said. “These job gains, coupled with large increases to the labor force and a low unemployment rate, are signs of a strong economy in the Commonwealth. Our workforce agencies remain focused on closing the skills gap and ensuring that those newly entering the job market have the training necessary to access employment opportunities.”

The labor force increased by 33,000 from 3,661,200 in March, as 21,200 more residents were employed and 11,800 more residents were unemployed over the month.

Over the year, the state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate dropped one-tenth of a percentage point from 4.0% in April 2016. There were 300 more unemployed persons over the year compared to April 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 — increased six-tenths of a percentage point to 66.5% over the month. The labor-force participation rate over the year has increased 1.5% compared to April 2016.

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

Daily News

BOSTON — Local unemployment rates decreased in 23 labor-market areas and increased in one area in the Commonwealth during the month of March, the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development reported. Compared to March 2016, the rates were down in all 24 labor-market areas.

All 15 areas for which job estimates are published recorded seasonal job gains in March. The largest gains occurred in the Boston-Cambridge-Newton, Worcester, Barnstable, Framingham, Haverhill-Newburyport-Amesbury, Lawrence-Methuen-Salem, and Lowell-Billerica-Chelmsford areas.

From March 2016 to March 2017, 13 of the 15 areas added jobs, with the largest percentage gains in the New Bedford, Lowell-Billerica-Chelmsford, Boston-Cambridge-Newton, Barnstable, Haverhill-Newburyport-Amesbury, and Pittsfield areas.

In order to compare the statewide rate to local unemployment rates, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates the statewide unadjusted unemployment rate for March was 3.9%.

Last week, the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development reported the statewide seasonally adjusted unemployment rate increased to 3.6% in the month of March. The statewide seasonally adjusted jobs estimate showed a 200-job gain in March, and an over-the-year gain of 49,000 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

SPRINGFIELD —Training & Workforce Options (TWO), the collaboration between Springfield Technical Community CollegeHolyoke Community College, and Commonwealth Corp., invite area businesses to a free information session on April 26 to hear an overview of all of the Workforce Training Fund Programs (WTFP).

Registration is required to attend the session, scheduled for 8:30-11:30 a.m., at Scibelli Hall (Building 2), Café Rooms, at STCC. Seating is limited. To register online, click on this Eventbrite link.

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

The Workforce Training Fund offers several types of grants to support training needs of business across the state. The fund is available for business of all sizes, but its major focus is small- to medium-sized businesses. Government agencies are not eligible to apply.

The Workforce Training Fund helps address productivity and competitiveness by providing resources to Massachusetts businesses to fund training for current and newly hired employees. It’s designed to help businesses make an investment in their future and in their employees’ skills.

Topics covered at the info session will include the features and requirements of each Workforce Training Fund Program, funding availability, and the application process.

The session covers the following Workforce Training Fund grant programs:

  • General Program;
  • Express Program;
  • Direct Access Program (formerly Regional Training Capacity Pilot Program); and
  • Technical Assistance Grant

For more information about the WTFP, please visit www.workforcetrainingfund.org.

MassDevelopment, the state’s economic development and finance agency, will attend the session to share its funding options.

Businesses can apply for grants up to $250,000. After the information session, participants should be able to determine which grants are best suited for their business’s needs and how to start the application process.

For more information, contact Tracye Whitfield, Director of Manufacturing and Corporate Training

Daily News

BOSTON — Local unemployment rates increased in 22 labor-market areas, remained the same in one area, and dropped in one area in the state during the month of February, the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development reported.

Compared to February 2016, the rates were down in 23 areas and remained the same in one area.

Six of the 15 areas for which job estimates are published recorded seasonal job gains in February. Gains occurred in the Boston-Cambridge-Newton, Springfield, Worcester, Peabody-Salem-Beverly, Brockton-Bridgewater-Easton, and New Bedford areas.

From February 2016 to February 2017, 13 of the 15 areas added jobs, with the largest percentage gains in the New Bedford, Barnstable, Boston-Cambridge-Newton, Taunton-Middleborough-Norton, and Lowell-Billerica-Chelmsford 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 4.2%.

Last week, the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development reported the statewide seasonally adjusted unemployment rate increased to 3.4% in the month of February.

The statewide seasonally adjusted jobs estimate showed a 10,100-job gain in February, and an over-the-year gain of 57,700 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 increased in all 24 labor-market areas in the state during the month of January, the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development reported. Compared to January 2016, the rates were down in all areas.

All 15 areas for which job estimates are published recorded seasonal job losses in January, with the largest losses in the Boston-Cambridge-Newton, Springfield, Worcester, Peabody-Salem-Beverly, Barnstable, and Brockton-Bridgewater-Easton areas.

From January 2016 to January 2017, however, 13 of the 15 areas added jobs, with the largest percentage gains in the Barnstable, Boston-Cambridge-Newton, Lowell-Billerica-Chelmsford, New Bedford, and Haverhill-Newburyport-Amesbury areas.

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

The Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development reported the statewide seasonally adjusted unemployment rate increased to 3.2% in the month of January. The statewide seasonally adjusted jobs estimate showed a 13,000-job gain in January, and an over-the-year gain of 65,100 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 increased to 3.2% in January from the revised December rate of 3.1%, the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development announced Thursday.

The preliminary job estimates from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) indicate Massachusetts added 13,000 jobs in January. Over-the-month job gains occurred in trade, transportation, and utilities; financial activities; construction; leisure and hospitality; education and health services; information; and government.

From January 2016 to January 2017, BLS estimates Massachusetts has added 65,100 jobs. The January state unemployment rate remains lower than the national rate of 4.8% reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“Massachusetts continues to experience low levels of unemployment with the largest year-over-year percentage gains in jobs in the construction, education, and health services sectors. We remain focused on fostering an employment environment where businesses can grow and create jobs while having access to workers with the skills and training needed to fill them,” Labor and Workforce Development Secretary Ronald Walker II said.

The labor force increased by 1,600 from 3,561,700 in December, as 9,800 more residents were employed and 8,200 fewer residents were unemployed over the month.

Over the year, the state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate dropped 1.1% from 4.3% in January 2016. There were 40,400 fewer unemployed people over the year compared to January 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 — increased to 64.9% over the month. The labor-force participation rate over the year has decreased 0.1% compared to January 2016.

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

Daily News

BOSTON — Local unemployment rates increased in all 24 labor-market areas in the state during the month of December, the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development reported. Compared to December 2015, the rates were down in all areas.

Five of the 15 areas for which job estimates are published recorded seasonal job gains in December, with the largest gain in Boston-Cambridge-Newton, followed by the Lowell-Billerica-Chelmsford, Peabody-Salem-Beverly, New Bedford, and Framingham areas. Seasonal losses occurred in the remaining areas.

From December 2015 to December 2016, 13 of the 15 areas added jobs, with the largest percentage gains in the Haverhill-Newburyport-Amesbury, Taunton-Middleborough-Norton, Springfield, and Boston-Cambridge-Newton areas.

In order to compare the statewide rate to local unemployment rates, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates the statewide unadjusted unemployment rate for December was 2.8%.
Last week, the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development reported the statewide seasonally adjusted unemployment rate dropped to 2.8% in the month of December. The statewide seasonally adjusted jobs estimate showed a 6,600 job gain in December, and an over-the-year gain of 75,000 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 2.8% in December, marking the sixth consecutive month the rate has declined, the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development reported Thursday. The last time the state’s unemployment rate was at 2.8% was in December 2000.

In December, preliminary estimates from the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicate Massachusetts added 6,600 jobs over the month. The November job gain had an upward revision, with the state adding 7,000 jobs compared to the previously published 5,800-job-gain estimate. Over the year, Massachusetts has added 75,000 jobs.

At 2.8%, the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate is down 2.1% over the year from 4.9% in December 2015. There were 73,300 fewer unemployed residents and 112,900 more employed residents over the year compared to December 2015.

“For the past six months, the unemployment has continued to drop, and the labor-force participation rate has held steady over the year, which is very good news for the state,” Labor and Workforce Development Secretary Ronald Walker II said. “We are also pleased to see the state continues to add jobs in key sectors, such as education and health services; professional, scientific, and business services; information; and construction.”

In December, over-the-month job gains occurred in the education and health services; construction; professional, scientific, and business services; information; leisure and hospitality; financial activities; manufacturing; and other services sectors.

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 64.7%. Over the year, the labor-force participation rate has increased 0.2% compared to December 2015.

Over the year, the largest private-sector percentage job gains were in construction; professional, scientific, and business services; education and health services; and leisure and hospitality.

Massachusetts’ unemployment rate has remained lower than the national rate since April 2008. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported the December national rate at 4.7%. Since the statewide rate peaked at 8.8% in September 2009, there are now 335,600 more Massachusetts residents employed and 202,700 fewer residents unemployed, as the labor force increased by 133,000.

Health Care Sections

Life-saving Knowledge

Barbara Pummell says students who take STCC’s EMT Basics course need to be prepared to put in a lot of work outside the classroom.

Barbara Pummell says students who take STCC’s EMT Basics course need to be prepared to put in a lot of work outside the classroom.

If a medical crisis occurs when Joan Osana is nearby, he feels confident that he can take control of the situation until help arrives.

The 25-year-old father of two just completed an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) Basics course at Springfield Technical Community College, and although it involved a tremendous amount of study, he is happy he signed up for it.

“I gained a lot of knowledge in a short period of time that will help me throughout my entire life. I would advise others to take the course,” Osana said, adding that he hopes to become a firefighter, and gaining the basic certification in EMT is a stepping stone towards that goal.

Holyoke resident Daniel Rivera also takes pride in the knowledge and skills he mastered during the EMT course that ended a few weeks ago. “I want to save lives and assist people in any way that I can so I can make a difference in my community,” said the 30-year-old father.

His ultimate goals are to become a paramedic, which would fulfill a dream, then study fire science and become a firefighter.

Rivera told BusinessWest he worked in the masonry field until he saved up enough money to buy a home and take the course. “It was my goal for many years, but in the past I couldn’t take time off from work for it. Now, I can focus on what I am learning.”

The 170-hour class takes place in four-hour sessions, either three days or three nights a week, and is popular, but very difficult as it covers a great deal of medical information taught in the classroom as well as in hands-on, simulated settings.

In the past, it was a non-credit offering from the Department of Continuing Education’s Workforce Development Program and could not be applied toward a college degree. But that is about to change: STCC recently announced EMT Basics will be offered next fall as a seven-credit course that can be applied toward an associate degree in fire protection and safety technology or another field of study, although students may still choose the non-credit option.

Christopher Scott said STCC made the decision so more students can afford the course, which costs $1,400 without financial aid and will now number among classes that could qualify for a federal loan or Pell grant. The interim dean of the School of Health and Patient Simulation added that STCC also wanted to help its community partners, who have said there is a real need for EMTs in the Pioneer Valley.

The course credits will also be transferable next fall to other degree programs, including Greenfield Community College’s paramedic certificate course or associate degree in fire science technology, or the bachelor’s-degree program in emergency medical service at Springfield College.

Although EMT Basics is an entry-level course, Scott said, it’s a building block; the next level is Advanced EMT, followed by EMT Paramedic, which is a two-year course.

Barbara Pummell of Human Services Training Consultants Inc. in West Springfield has taught the course for 30 years and told HCN that students who complete it become eligible to take a practical written exam and become registered, then can apply to the state for licensure, which allows them to work for a municipal or private ambulance service. Licensure also raises their status under Civil Service and gives job candidates a better chance at being hired if they want to become a firefighter.

Challenging Curriculum

Pummell’s students come from many walks of life and have included a flight nurse for an ambulance service, physical therapists, physician’s assistants, nurses, and people in non-medical occupations. Although the majority live locally, others have come from as far away as Saudi Arabia or the Dominican Republic.

However, some students aren’t fully prepared for the amount of study the course demands due to the amount of material it covers.

Medical problems addressed include allergic reactions, respiratory issues, wound care, fractures, cardiac problems, how to immobilize a patient after a serious motor-vehicle accident, pediatric care, care for the elderly, and care for people with special needs, which can include autism, someone on a ventilator, a paralyzed individual, or a person with a feeding tube or tracheostomy tube.

“Students also learn about the legal aspects of the profession and how their actions affect them as well as the patients they deal with,” Pummell said.

Lessons are taught about how to deal with someone with a communicable disease such as meningitis, the flu, or pneumonia, and what they need to wear as protection — at minimum, gloves and a mask. “Students are taught to ask questions before they touch a patient,” the instructor noted.

However, the first thing they learn is cardiopulmonary resuscitation, or CPR, and each student must pass a practical exam and short written test and become certified by American Heart Assoc. before they can continue their coursework.

The next topic taught deals with the use of oxygen and other delivery devices, as well as how to splint arms and legs.

“As students became proficient in these skills, we advance to overall scenarios,” Pummell explained, adding that they learn to prioritize needs.

For example, if a woman falls down a flight of stairs and is having difficulty breathing, that must be addressed before injuries are taken into consideration.

Participants also learn how to respond to childbirth, which is taught not only in the classroom, but with a childbirth mannequin that can simulate different situations such as a breech birth or when an umbilical cord comes out before the baby, which can be very dangerous.

The course also takes life-threatening situations into account, such as when an ambulance is called to a scene where bullets are flying. Pummell said the ambulance must be parked a short distance away from the high-risk area until police arrive and deem it safe for the EMT team to enter.

“It’s heartrending when you can’t help someone who is ill or injured, but it’s critical to stay away until it’s safe,” she said, adding that she knows an EMT in Springfield who has experienced bullets flying by his head. “EMTs go in as a team of two, and if anything happens to their partner, their focus switches to that person.”

Scene safety also comes into play during a motor-vehicle accident. Firefighters have to be called if someone needs to be extricated from their vehicle, and a police presence is also critical for safety.

Another part of the curriculum deals with hazardous materials; EMTs can’t take care of a person until they are decontaminated, which is usually done by firefighters.

Pediatrics also comprises a large area of study, as caring for an adult or older adolescent is markedly different than helping an infant or toddler.

“Children’s bodies aren’t well-formed until they are 18. Their bones aren’t hard, and their muscles are not fully developed, so they are more susceptible to injury,” Pummell told BusinessWest, noting that small differences can be critical. For example, a child’s tongue takes up more room in their mouth than an adult’s tongue, which means they are more likely to choke if they lose consciousness as it can slide to the back of the throat and block the airway.

The course is rigorous, and students must be prepared to work hard inside and outside of the classroom, as in addition to time spent at STCC they must accumulate 128 hours of online work that includes exercises and quizzes designed to reinforce what they learn in textbooks and during the hands-on portion of the class.

Students also learn what medications they are allowed to administer. “If they are working for an ambulance service, they can assist a patient with an inhaler, use an EpiPen if the person shows signs or symptoms of a life-threatening allergic reaction, or administer Narcan,” Pummell said, explaining that the latter is a nasal spray used when a opiate overdose is known or suspected.

Other procedures are taught in more advanced courses, but the basic class teaches them how to discern whether they need to call a paramedic who can intercept the ambulance or meet them at the scene.

Eye to the Future

Scott said the course is ideal for people interested in the medical field as it gives them real insights into what will be involved.

“EMT Basics provides students with an entry-level opportunity that allows them to explore the healthcare field experience as well as patient care, and gives them the ability to advance either in a degree program or on the career ladder,” he said.

Rivera said the knowledge he gained has tremendous value. “It provides you with a lot of information that sticks with you. I really enjoyed the hands-on learning and feel confident that I can administer CPR and do a patient assessment.”

Which will fulfill his desire — and the wishes of other students seeking careers that will make a difference in their own lives, as well as the lives of others.

Daily News

BOSTON — Ten Massachusetts employers were awarded a total of $162,948 to help train employees in workplace safety and injury prevention, the state Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development announced.

“These grants continue to provide employees important training and education to help keep themselves and their co-workers safe on the job,” Gov. Charlie Baker said.

Added Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito, “every year, thousands of workers in the Commonwealth receive training to make themselves and their work environments safer.”

The Department of Industrial Accidents administers and manages the Workplace Safety Training and Education Grant program to promote safe, healthy workplace conditions through training, education, and other preventative programs for businesses and employees covered by the Massachusetts workers’ compensation law.

This is the final round of grants in fiscal year 2016, which will train 460 employees. During the fiscal year, the Baker-Polito administration awarded a total of $696,000 to 44 companies to train nearly 5,000 workers.

Two Western Mass. organizations were among the grant recipients. Energía, LLC in Holyoke — an energy-services company that provides upgrades for residential, multi-family and commercial properties to reduce utility costs and energy use — received $14,274. Proposed training includes EPR renovation, OSHA 10, OSHA 30, confined space, office ergonomics, and CPR/first aid.

Medtronic, a medical-supply plant in Chicopee, received $8,795.40. The company’s training will include powered industrial trucks, CPR/FA/AED, job safety, and hazard recognition.

“This safety training increases a worker’s knowledge of their surroundings and job, bringing more opportunities for their growth and success,” Labor and Workforce Development Secretary Ronald Walker said.

The maximum grant amount per employer is $25,000. Businesses are awarded training grants through a competitive application process. The Department of Industrial Accidents will open another round of applications soon.

Daily News

BOSTON — Local unemployment rates decreased in 18 labor-market areas, increased in four, and remained the same in two areas in the state during the month of November, the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development reported. Compared to November 2015, the rates were down in all areas.

Six of the 15 areas for which job estimates are published recorded seasonal job gains in November, with the largest gains in the Boston-Cambridge-Newton and Brockton-Bridgewater-Easton areas.

The Springfield, Worcester, Lawrence-Methuen-Salem, and Pittsfield areas had no change in job levels over the month, while seasonal losses occurred in the Barnstable, Haverhill-Newburyport-Amesbury, Framingham, New Bedford, and Lynn-Saugus-Marblehead areas.

From November 2015 to November 2016, 14 of the 15 areas added jobs, with the largest percentage gains in the Haverhill-Newburyport-Amesbury, Taunton-Middleborough-Norton, Worcester, and Barnstable areas.

In order to compare the statewide rate to local unemployment rates, the Bureau of Labor

Last week, the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development reported the statewide seasonally adjusted unemployment rate dropped to 2.9% in the month of November.  Across the nation, Massachusetts experienced the largest over-the-year drop in the unemployment rate of any state, down 2.0% from November 2015, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The statewide seasonally adjusted jobs estimate showed a 5,800-job gain in November, and an over-the-year gain of 70,100 jobs.

Daily News

BOSTON — The state’s total unemployment rate dropped to 2.9% in November, marking the fifth consecutive month the rate declined, the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development reported Thursday.
The last time the state’s unemployment rate was at 2.9% was in January 2001. The unemployment rate in October was 3.3%.
In November, preliminary estimates from the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicate Massachusetts added 5,800 jobs over the month.  BLS slightly revised the October job estimates, reporting the state loss 5,400 jobs as opposed to the previously reported 5,500 job loss estimate. Year-to-date, December 2015 to November 2016, Massachusetts has added 67,200 jobs.
Massachusetts’ unemployment rate has remained lower than the national rate since April 2008. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported the national rate at 4.6% in November.
At 2.9%, the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate is down 2.0% over the year from 4.9% in November 2015. There were 68,100 fewer unemployed residents and 108,400 more employed residents over the year compared to November 2015.
“We are very pleased to see the unemployment rate consistently go down month after month,” said Labor and Workforce Development Secretary Ronald L. Walker, II. “Not only is the unemployment rate declining, but we have continued job growth in key sectors that drive the Massachusetts economy.”
In November, over-the-month job gains occurred in the financial activities; professional, scientific and business services; construction; information; ‘other services’; education and health services; and local government sectors.
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 64.7%, down 0.2 of a percentage point over the month.  Over the year, the labor force participation rate has increased 0.1 of a percentage point compared to November 2015.

Daily News

HOLYOKE — Holyoke Community College (HCC) is using a $190,000 grant from the state’s Workforce Competitive Trust Fund to train unemployed and underemployed people for new jobs in the culinary and hospitality industry.

The program is free to participants, who must commit to attend classes every day for nine weeks, Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. The course teaches them fundamental culinary skills and exposes them to a wide variety of careers in hospitality, including hotel operations.

“It’s a hands-on opportunity to try out a lot of things and find out what their interests and aptitudes are,” said Kermit Dunkelberg, HCC’s assistant vice president of Adult Basic Education and Workforce Development. “Another key part of the program is that, when it ends, they have to let us help them find a job.”

The Massachusetts Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development announced the grant earlier this year. Commonwealth Corp., a quasi-public state agency that fosters partnerships between industry, education, and workforce organizations, administers the Workforce Competitive Trust Fund.

Students graduate from the program with four key credentials: ServSafe and OSHA-10 certifications, which show they have been trained in safe food handling and workplace safety; TIPS certification, which allows them to serve alcohol; and a National Career Readiness certification, which demonstrates they possess fundamental workplace skills.

The first cohort of students started in October and will celebrate their graduation today, Dec. 15, as they prepare and serve a noontime meal for family and friends at Food 101 Bar & Bistro in South Hadley. The restaurant is owned by chef Alan Anischik, who serves as the main instructor for the program.

Most of the classes meet at Dean Technical High School in Holyoke. Last week, in preparation for the graduation celebration, the class met at Food 101.

In addition to cooking techniques, the program offers lessons in customer-service etiquette, workplace communication, conflict resolution, product purchasing and receiving, and food and wine pairing.

During the course, students had the opportunity to attend a job seminar with representatives from MGM Resorts to learn about future employment opportunities at the casino now under construction in Springfield. They also participated in speed interviews with local employers from the restaurant and hotel industry.

The next program cohort begins March 23. Anyone interested should contact Milissa Daniels at (413) 552-2042.

Daily News

HOLYOKE — Holyoke Community College (HCC) is about to embark on a two-year, $43.5 million renovation project that will transform the look, feel, and organization of the campus.

The HCC Campus Center is scheduled to close Feb. 3, 2017, and construction will begin soon after. When it reopens in 2019, college officials say, the building will be a place that truly lives up to its name.

Originally known as G Building, the sloping, three-story concrete structure sits in the middle of the campus between an intermittent stream choked with invasive plants and the HCC Courtyard. Since it opened in 1980, the Campus Center has been plagued by water leaks. Projects that would have waterproofed the building have been delayed since at least 2008.

“The main impetus for this is to get the building watertight,” said interim HCC President Bill Fogarty. “Then we also wanted to do things that will improve the operation of the building and make it a real campus center.”

The state Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance is in charge of the project. Walsh Brothers Construction of Boston has been hired as the general contractor. The state has already allocated $8 million for the current fiscal year to begin the project, with the remainder of the funding to follow, Fogarty said.

The key features of the project include squaring off the building’s sloping façade and giving the entire building given a new exterior shell that will make it both weathertight and energy-efficient.

The squaring off and the addition of large windows on its eastern side will give the building a look that complements the adjacent Kittredge Center for Business and Workforce Development, which opened in 2003. About 9,000 square feet of space will be added to the current 58,727.

A glass atrium will be added to the west side of the building, covering a set of double stairs that descend from the lower courtyard into an area known as the ‘pit’ that now serves as the main entrance to the food court and cafeteria. On the east side of the building, the open balcony on the second floor will be enclosed, adding extra interior space to the student dining area.

The first floor of the Campus Center, on the side facing Homestead Avenue, will become the new ‘front door’ to the campus, accessed by a bridge to be built over a restored Tannery Brook. HCC Admissions, Assessment Services (college placement testing), and the ACT Center (Advising, Career and Transfer Affairs) — now in the Frost Building — will relocate to a new Welcome Center. Admissions will have a dedicated parking lot, and a separate, college-funded project will reconfigure traffic flow, creating a new bus drop in the front of the campus.

The Campus Store (formerly the College Bookstore) will move from the first floor to the second floor, on the same level as the food court and cafeteria. The second floor will include programs and departments focused on student engagement, including Student Activities, Student Clubs, and Multicultural Academic Services (MAS), which are being relocated from other parts of the campus.

“The whole idea of bringing the Campus Store up to the second floor, so that it’s on the same level as dining services and Student Activities, really makes sense in terms of foot traffic,” said Fogarty. “They all complement each other. It will give it a real feel of a campus center.”

Academic classrooms at the north end of the second floor will be opened up to make more room for student-engagement areas. The layout, both on the first and second floor, will be more open and airy, with glass walls and doors separating offices and community spaces.

“It’s going to look different, much more open and inviting, not so much offices and chunked-up spaces like we have now,” said Michelle Snizek, director of Retention and Student Success. “The idea is to create engaging and alluring spaces — we’re calling them pods — where students can come and charge up their cell phones and do their work.”

The third floor will remain the Media Arts Center. In preparation for the renovation, the Electronic Media Program is already operating in its temporary home on the first floor of the Donahue Building.

The HCC Campus Store will temporarily relocate to the Donahue Building, with a focus on retail merchandise and school supplies. Textbook sales are now being handled by HCC’s online partner, MSB Direct.

The HCC cafeteria will remain open in its present location for the first two weeks of the spring semester. The Subway franchise now in the food court is being moved to the second floor of the Frost Building. Food service will be handled by increased offerings at the POD concession area on the first floor of Donahue, and the Forum Café on the second floor of the Fine & Performing Arts Building, and by the addition of high-end vending machines in the Kittredge Center and Bartley Center. When not in use for special events, the Picknelly Dining Room in the Frost Building will be open for students who want to sit and eat.

After the Culinary Arts program moves off campus into the new hospitality and culinary-arts center in downtown Holyoke, HCC Dining Services will be serving a larger menu of freshly cooked food for purchase in the dining room. In the renovated Campus Center, the food court and cafeteria will return to their present locations with a new look and configuration.

Daily News

BOSTON — Local unemployment rates decreased in 22 labor market areas, increased in one, and remained the same in another area in the state during the month of October, the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development reported. Compared to October 2015, the rates were down in all areas.

Ten of the 14 areas for which job estimates are published recorded seasonal job gains in October, with the largest gains in the Boston-Cambridge-Newton, Springfield, Worcester, and Brockton-Bridgewater-Easton areas. The Lynn-Saugus-Marblehead and Haverhill-Newburyport-Amesbury areas had no change in job levels over the month, while seasonal losses occurred in the Barnstable, Pittsfield, and Taunton-Middleborough-Norton areas.

From October 2015 to October 2016, 13 of the 15 areas added jobs, with the largest percentage gains in the Haverhill-Newburyport-Amesbury, Taunton-Middleborough-Norton, Leominster-Gardner, and Worcester areas.

In order to compare the statewide rate to local unemployment rates, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates the statewide unadjusted unemployment rate for October was 2.7%.

Last week, the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development reported the statewide seasonally adjusted unemployment rate dropped to 3.3% in the month of October. Across the nation, Massachusetts experienced the largest over-the-year drop in the unemployment rate of any state, down 1.5% from October 2015, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The statewide seasonally adjusted jobs estimate showed a 5,500 job loss in October, and an over-the-year gain of 71,400 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.

Daily News

BOSTON — The state’s total unemployment rate dropped to 3.3% in October, marking the fourth consecutive month the rate went down, the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development reported Thursday.

The last time the state’s unemployment rate hit 3.3% was in April 2001. The unemployment rate in September was 3.6%.

In October, preliminary estimates from the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicate Massachusetts lost 5,500 jobs over the month. However, the September job gains were higher than originally reported, with the state gaining 8,100 jobs compared to the previously published 5,100 job gain estimate. Year to date, December 2015 to October 2016, Massachusetts has added 61,300 jobs.

At 3.3%, the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate is down 1.5% over the year from 4.8% in October 2015. There are 55,400 fewer unemployed residents and 100,700 more employed residents over the year compared to October 2015.

“We are pleased to see the state’s unemployment rate continues to drop month after month,” Labor and Workforce Development Secretary Ronald Walker II said. “But we are mindful of the residents who have not been able to find a job in the past year. We are doing all we can to re-engage those individuals in this thriving job market.”

In October, over-the-month job gains occurred in the professional, scientific, and business services; manufacturing; and other services sectors. Over the year, the largest private-sector percentage job gains were in construction; professional, scientific, and business services; education and health services; and leisure and hospitality.

Daily News

WORCESTER — Thirty-seven Massachusetts employers were awarded a total of $533,149 to help train nearly 4,400 employees in workplace safety and the prevention of injury, illness and death, the state Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development announced today.

“Worker and workplace safety is an important priority for companies and employees across the Commonwealth,” said Gov. Charlie Baker. “We are pleased to award this funding to ensure companies are able to provide training to educate their workers and keep them safe on the job.”

The Department of Industrial Accidents administers and manages the Workplace Safety Training and Education Grant program to promote safe, healthy workplace conditions through training, education, and other preventive programs for businesses and employees covered by the state workers’ compensation law. In fiscal year 2016, the Baker-Polito administration will award a total $700,000 for the safety grant program.

“We are pleased that thousands of workers in the Commonwealth receive training each year in order to make themselves and their work environments safer day to day,” Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito said.

Labor and Workforce Development Secretary Ronald L. Walker made the announcement with the management and employees of Sweet Kitchen Bar, a restaurant, dessert bar, and caterer in Worcester, and one of the grant recipients.

The maximum grant amount per employer is $25,000. Businesses are awarded training grants through a competitive application process. The Department of Industrial Accidents is opening another round of applications soon.

In Western Mass. organizations that received grants include:

• Center for Human Development Inc., Springfield, $9,630. CHD, a nonprofit organization, delivers a broad array of critical social and mental health services. Training will include CPR/first aid;

• Environmental Integrity Company, LLC, Holyoke, $6,527. Environmental Integrity is a full-service electronic recycling and data-destruction company providing green electronic solutions to small, medium, and enterprise customers. Its proposed training includes driver safety, warehouse safety, job-safety analysis, and industrial truck/forklift; and

• Maybury Associates Inc., East Longmeadow, $8,830.20. Maybury is a full-service provider of material-handling products and services. Training will include OSHA 10 & 30.

Health Care Sections

Articulating Progress

A new partnership between Westfield State University and Springfield Technical Community College will allow nursing graduates from STCC to earn a four-year degree from WSU on the Springfield campus. At a time when it’s increasingly important for nurses to have four-year degrees, the goal, as one STCC dean said, is to “remove any barriers to success.”

From left to right, Jessica Tinkham, Marcia Scanlon, and Shelley Holden

From left to right, Jessica Tinkham, Marcia Scanlon, and Shelley Holden show off the new simulation lab in the Science and Innovation Center at Westfield State University that opened this fall.

Emily Swindelles will graduate from Springfield Technical Community College next May with an associate’s degree in Nursing.

The path to matriculation hasn’t been easy for the mother of three children — ages 5, 3, and 2 — who has worked part-time and commuted from her home in Ellington, Conn., but she has had a lot of support from her family and fellow students, who have become like an extended family.

Swindelles’s dream is to work in a hospital maternity ward and eventually become a nurse midwife, so the 30-year-old was happy to hear that officials from STCC and Westfield State University signed an articulation agreement on Oct. 4 that will allow STCC nursing school graduates to earn a four-year degree from Westfield on the Springfield campus.

The new partnership is the first hybrid RN-to-BSN (bachelor of science in nursing) completion program between two public institutions of higher education in Western Mass. ‘Hybrid’ refers to the fact that it includes online classes as well as courses on the STCC campus that will be taught by instructors from Westfield State.

“I was really excited when I heard about the new program. It’s convenient, flexible, and cost-effective,” Swindelles said, adding that she is used to the commute, familiar with STCC, and likes the fact that, although the majority of coursework will be done online, classes on campus will provide students with the support and interaction that she feels enhances learning.

“I would have taken a year off just to make sure that I was financially capable of going back to school, but with the flexibility of this program, I think I’ll be able to manage school, work, and family,” she added.

Jennifer Hoppie is another STCC nursing student who is enthusiastic about the new program. The 39-year-old mother of two children, ages 11 and 9, moved to the U.S. from St. Lucia in 1999, and her goal is to work in the pediatric department of a hospital and earn a bachelor’s degree because it will increase her job options.

Prior to the matriculation agreement, Hoppie planned to work for a year after passing the board exam required to become a registered nurse, then enter a bachelor’s-degree program. But she says if she can continue her education at STCC after she graduates, she will choose that option because it will allow her to stay close to home in case she is needed at her children’s school.

“The price of the new program is also good; there are people like me who can’t afford expensive tuition,” Hoppie said, adding that she took out a loan to earn the degree she will receive in May.

Lisa Fugiel and Christopher Scott

Lisa Fugiel and Christopher Scott say Westfield State University’s hybrid RN-to-BSN completion program will help remove barriers to education faced by many non-traditional students at STCC.

Indeed, the new RN-to-BSN completion program is touted as the most affordable pathway of its kind; Westfield will accept 90 credits from students toward the 120 needed for a four-year degree, and the cost for the additional 30 course credits will be $10,500.

Christopher Scott noted that STCC has collaborations with other schools of nursing that allow graduates to pursue a bachelor’s degree, and it’s important for students to be aware of all of their options.

“Our goal is to remove any barriers to success,” said the interim dean of the School of Health and Patient Simulation, adding that the majority of STCC students are non-traditional, and many face financial or personal challenges that make getting an education difficult.

“We want them to be able to continue their education and flourish after they succeed here,” he told BusinessWest.

Officials from both schools say the new program is also significant because it is in line with state and national goals to increase the number of nurses with bachelor’s degrees in the workforce.

“There’s been a national call to action from the Institute of Medicine to bring our BSN workforce up to 80% by the year 2020,” said Jessica Holden, a nursing instructor at Westfield State and program director of the RN-to-BSN program.

Holden said the goal in Massachusetts is to increase the number of BSN nurses from 55% in 2010 to 66% in 2020, and to reach the national goal of 80% by 2025. The goals were set by the Massachusetts Nursing and Allied Health Workforce Development Plan and implemented by the Massachusetts Action Coalition.


A list of Acute Care Hospitals in Western Mass. HERE


“There is a growing shortage of nurses, and we see our associate degree in nursing as an entryway into a bachelor’s program,” said Lisa Fugiel, director of Nursing for STCC’s School of Health and Patient Simulation. Although graduates can work as an RN after they earn an associate’s degree and pass their boards, she explained, nurses with a BSN are typically given more responsibility and supervisory roles. They also earn higher salaries, and many healthcare institutions are seeking nurses with advanced degrees to meet certain requirements.

Increasing Opportunities

Most colleges limit the number of credits a student can transfer, and the fact that Westfield’s hybrid nursing program will accept 90 is expected to make a real difference to STCC students.

“They might have to take 50 credits at another college to achieve a baccalaureate degree,” Scott noted, explaining that STCC and Westfield State have made the pathway easier by creating a ‘curriculum map’ that outlines prerequisite courses they need to enter the BSN program.

“It allows for seamless education,” said Marcia Scanlon, chair of the Department of Nursing at Westfield State.

Shelley Tinkham agreed, and said it’s important, because if students take the wrong electives, they will have to take additional classes to meet Westfield State’s entrance requirements. “The map was carefully developed as a partnership model,” said WSU’s dean of Graduate and Continuing Education.

Westfield State officials told BusinessWest they began developing their own RN-to-BSN program, which launched this fall, about four years ago. The STCC-Westfield nursing-degree partnership was developed simultaneously, and everyone involved believes it will increase the number of students who pursue a bachelor’s degree.

“Massachusetts issued a call to action to be creative and innovative in creating a seamless pathway so nurses can progress, and the new hybrid program meets that call,” said Holden. “It’s a new model for Westfield State that is very affordable.”

She noted that the push at the state and national levels to increase the number of nurses with bachelor’s degrees was initiated because nursing has become more complex due to the changing face of medicine, which includes advances in technology and a growing number of patients with multiple health issues.

Critical Relationships

Sims Medical Center at STCC is the largest simulation facility of its kind in the Northeast and has received national recognition.

“We recreate the environment of every type of care in a hospital, from the trauma room to acute care, child delivery, and pediatrics,” Scott said. “We have our own operating room and critical-care unit, as well as a home-care environment.”

Students in the college’s 20 healthcare programs work with human patient simulators that breathe, sweat, have pulses, and react to care and procedures that range from arthoscopic surgery to removing a gall bladder.

“Students can take their blood pressure and do every medical technique on them possible,” Scott said, explaining that the goal is to expose students to situations that can occur before they enter the workplace.

And, since nurses don’t work alone, STCC students work alongside their peers, who are studying a multitude of healthcare disciplines, including respiratory therapy, radiology, and surgical technology.

In fact, STCC’s center is so high-tech that the college has worked with hospitals, medical centers, and higher-education institutions to help them build and operate their own simulation centers and avoid perils and pitfalls in the process.

Emily Swindelles

Emily Swindelles says Westfield State University’s hybrid RN-to-BSN completion program will make it easier for her to continue her education.

Westfield State is among them, and Scott said officials sought the school’s help in developing a simulation center for the university’s $48 million Science and Innovation Center that opened this fall.

Westfield officials went to STCC, toured the campus, and met with faculty, administrators, and architects before designing their own space. They say the relationships that were formed played a role in the establishment of the matriculation agreement.

“Creating a transfer program is difficult, and historically, Massachusetts institutions have not done well with it. But the new program shows we can cooperate; it’s an excellent example of what can be accomplished, as it’s designed to be very flexible,” Tinkham said, noting that Westfield needed to pass a policy and ask its governing board to accept 90 transfer credits for the hybrid program because they normally accept only 67 from a community college.

“Dean Scott was very patient with us,” she continued, adding that Westfield State officials recognized that STCC has many non-traditional students and first-generation graduates who need a supportive environment and may not be familiar with WSU.

The nursing programs at STCC and Westfield State are both accredited. The baccalaureate degree in nursing at Westfield State is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education. STCC’s associate in science degree in nursing is accredited by Accrediting Commission for Education in Nursing Inc.

Ongoing Partnership

Westfield State University wants students entering STCC’s associate degree in nursing program to know they can earn a bachelor’s degree on the Springfield campus and plan to make them aware of the curriculum map at the beginning of each new school year.

“They will feel our presence on their campus from day one,” Holden said, adding that Westfield representatives will pass out brochures and be available to nursing students from the time they begin the nursing program at STCC.

She was hired at Westfield State a year ago, Tinkham has worked at the university for two years, and Scanlon has been there for five, but was named department chair a year ago; they all feel partnerships such as the new one with STCC are critical to the future of nursing.

“We’re already looking at other collaborations,” Tinkham said. “This is just the beginning.”

It’s a good beginning, one that not only addresses the workforce-development shortage, but will benefit the community as many STCC students become involved in charitable causes.

“Helping them to continue their education will allow them to give back even more,” Fugiel said, “and we are really excited to be able to offer them an affordable opportunity to do so.”

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — On Friday, Oct. 28, from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., Western New England University (WNEU), in partnership with Global Corporate College and Massachusetts Community Colleges, will host a delegation of 20 senior business representatives from the equivalent of Fortune 500 companies owned by the Chinese government.

The delegation is in the U.S. for a short-term professional-development program aiming to highlight best practices, showcase new innovation, and share insights on industry trends. The participants are primarily from technical industries, with delegates from companies representing coal, petroleum, heavy equipment, and auto manufacturing.

Chinese-owned CRRC USA Rail Corp., a subsidiary of the world’s largest manufacturer of railroad cars and locomotives, arranged the visit to WNEU’s College of Engineering.

“We plan to discuss our current partnership with CRRC in terms of workforce development, internships, and professional development of future CRRC employees, among other topics,” explained S. Hossein Cheraghi, dean of Western New England University College of Engineering. The Chinese executives, along with representatives from Massachusetts Community Colleges, will tour the engineering labs, meet with faculty, and discuss the university’s partnership with CRRC USA Rail Corp.

The business delegates’ visit to WNEU is the last of their trip before returning to China.

Daily News

BOSTON — Local unemployment rates dropped in 22 labor-market areas and increased in two areas in the state during the month of September, the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development reported. Compared to September 2015, the rates were down in all areas.

Eight of the 15 areas for which job estimates are published recorded seasonal job gains in September, with gains in the Springfield, Worcester, Brockton-Bridgewater-Easton, Taunton-Middleborough-Norton, Leominster-Gardner, Lowell-Billerica-Chelmsford, Framingham, and New Bedford areas. The Peabody-Salem-Beverly area had no change in its jobs level over the month, while seasonal losses occurred the remaining six areas.

From September 2015 to September 2016, 14 of the 15 areas added jobs, with the largest percentage gains in the Haverhill-Newburyport-Amesbury, Taunton-Middleborough-Norton, Worcester, Pittsfield, and Brockton 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 3.3%.

Last week, the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development reported the statewide seasonally adjusted unemployment rate dropped to 3.6% for the month of September. The unemployment rate is down 1.2% over the year. The statewide seasonally adjusted jobs estimate showed a 5,100-job gain in September and an over-the-year gain of 78,300 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 — The state’s total unemployment rate dropped to 3.6% in September from 3.9% in August, marking the lowest rate since June 2001. Preliminary estimates show the state gained 5,100 jobs over the month, the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development reported.

At 3.6%, the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate is down 1.2% over the year from 4.8% in September 2015, according to data collected by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. There were 88,600 more employed residents over the year compared to September 2015, and 43,000 fewer unemployed residents. Massachusetts’ unemployment rate remains lower than the national rate of 5.0% reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“The rate has fallen dramatically in the last two months, three-tenths of a point this month, and two-tenths of a point the month before. While these are preliminary estimates, this is very good news for the Commonwealth,” Secretary of Labor and Workforce Development Ronald Walker II said. “Over the year, jobs are up 63,800.”

The state added fewer jobs over the month in August than the Bureau of Labor Statistics originally estimated, gaining 3,600 jobs compared to the previously published 5,900-job-gain estimate. Year to date, December 2015 to September 2016, Massachusetts has added 63,800 jobs.

The sectors with the largest over-the-month job gains were in education and health services, leisure and hospitality, and manufacturing. Over the year, the largest private-sector percentage job gains were in construction; leisure and hospitality; education and health services; and professional, scientific, and business services.

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 65.0%. Over the year, the labor-force participation rate has increased 0.3% compared to September 2015.

Opinion

Opinion

By John B. Cook and Ramon S. Torrecilha

At a time when the Institute of Medicine is pushing to increase the number of nurses with bachelor’s degrees by 80% nationwide by 2020, Springfield Technical Community College and Westfield State University are taking the lead with a recently announced partnership.

In Western Mass., nursing professionals with the Mass. Action Coalition (MAAC) are implementing the Massachusetts Nursing Workforce Development Plan. Their goal is to increase the percentage of nurses with bachelor degrees in Massachusetts to match the national goal of 80% by 2025.

In early October, after months of planning, our two sister public institutions made official the STCC-Westfield State University RN-to-BSN completion program. This accessible and affordable program will help fill the Massachusetts workforce with highly skilled nursing professionals.

Registered nurses who have obtained an associate’s degree from STCC’s accredited nursing program will then transition to the accredited Westfield State BSN (bachelor of science in nursing) program. Students will be guided by a streamlined, transfer-friendly ‘curriculum map.’ This ensures a student will maximize his or her time in transferable courses.

Aside from the benefit of helping to create a more highly educated workforce, the STCC and Westfield State partnership illustrates a shared commitment to nurturing this segment of the workforce. Not only will the program help to create more highly educated nurses in Massachusetts, it means countless benefits to the thousands of patients and families the future nurses will serve throughout their careers.

According to MAAC, the more than 143,000 nurses licensed in Massachusetts represent the largest segment of healthcare workers.

Graduates of the new STCC-Westfield State completion program will help MAAC as it works to increase the percentage of nurses with bachelor’s degrees. Enrollment in the STCC-Westfield State program begins in spring 2017.

The new program represents the type of program that both institutions seek to establish to fulfill their comparable high-access, low-cost missions. The partnership allows STCC and Westfield State to further put into action their mutual commitment to convenient pathways to accessible, affordable degrees. With a price tag of only $10,500, the RN-to-BSN program is the most cost effective in the area.

Massachusetts state colleges and universities are not necessarily lauded for their transfer-friendly articulation agreements, according to state Department of Higher Education Commissioner Carlos Santiago, who spoke at the Oct. 4 signing event to announce this new public-to-public partnership.

During the ceremony, Santiago also said nursing programs, in particular, are difficult to mesh, given the amount and caliber of requirements for nursing degrees. STCC and Westfield State’s partnership, however, breaks the mold and can serve as a model for other institutions to follow to ensure seamless transitions for nursing students seeking a bachelor of science in nursing degree.

The new partnership stands as the first hybrid RN-to-BSN, public-to-public completion program in Western Mass. Westfield State faculty will teach mostly online courses, but will be on site for select courses. Although taught by Westfield State faculty, the courses will be held on STCC’s campus, offering convenience and a familiar setting to the registered nurses with associate’s degrees from STCC who are eligible.

The program will allow students to transfer up to 90 course credits from STCC to Westfield State. Students will need to complete the last 30 credits for their bachelor’s degree, for a total of 120 credits.

Having both entered our presidencies within the past year, we see this program as the first of many innovative partnerships, as we collaborate to bring accessible and affordable education opportunities to the Western Mass. region.

 

John B. Cook is president of Springfield Technical Community College; he began his new role in August. Ramon S. Torrecilha is president of Westfield State University; he was appointed president in December 2015 and was officially invested earlier this month.

Daily News

WESTFIELD — Kate Phelon, executive director of the Greater Westfield Chamber of Commerce, was appointed by Gov. Charlie Baker to the Mass. Advanced Manufacturing Collaborative (AMC) in September. This appointment is one of three by the governor; the other two are representatives of advanced-manufacturing companies. Phelon will be part of a commission looking at the future of manufacturing in Massachusetts.

“I am very honored and excited about this appointment and appreciate the state’s leadership in recognizing the role a chamber of commerce representative can have in not only formulating agenda’s for particular industries, but the outreach we have with our membership,” Phelon said.

The purpose of the AMC will be to develop and implement the Commonwealth’s manufacturing agenda with the goal to foster and strengthen the necessary conditions to promote growth and innovation of manufacturing within Massachusetts. The AMC will focus on four areas: workforce development and education; technical assistance, innovation, and access to capital; enhancement of competitiveness, easing cost of doing business, and regulatory review of SMEs; and promoting manufacturing, which will include attracting a talented workforce, and expansion of in-state marketing of the supply chain.

In addition, the AMC works in conjunction with President Obama’s Advanced Manufacturing Partnership, as well as with seven additional states through the National Governors Assoc. Center of Best Practices Policy Academy on Advanced Manufacturing and Innovation.

Phelon attended her first full meeting of the collaborative in mid-September and learned first-hand what the subcommittees have been working on.

“Right now, the subcommittees are working on a five-year strategic-planning process to develop a strategy to keep manufacturing growing, exciting, inclusive, and innovative,” she said. “I was amazed at the work that has been done by these subcommittees and am very excited to work with stakeholders in the public and private sectors.”

As she gets more involved and acclimated to the work this collaborative is conducting, Phelon will share information as it becomes available and will be in contact with local manufacturers as necessary.

Daily News

BOSTON — Massachusetts was one of only six states awarded $2.5 million this week by the federal government to help people with disabilities find employment.

The grant will target youth and young adults, ages 14 to 24, in Hampden County and the Greater Lowell area by expanding access to credential-based education and training. The U.S. Department of Labor yesterday announced $14.9 million in grants to six states as part of the Disability Employment Initiative.

“We know that, unfortunately, people with disabilities face much higher rates of unemployment, and we have been developing plans to tackle that problem for over a year now. One of the first executive orders I signed was to create a task force to look at ways to help people with barriers to employment find and keep jobs,” Gov. Charlie Baker said. “This award from the federal government will help us continue that important work, and create more opportunities for young people with disabilities to find fulfilling careers.”

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, people with disabilities make up only 19.8% of the nation’s workforce. In Massachusetts, it is estimated that 15% of people with disabilities are unemployed. The grant is expected to serve more than 350 youth and young adults with disabilities.

“We look forward to partnering with employers to create jobs, training, and education opportunities for people with disabilities,” Lt. Governor Karyn Polito said. “The Commonwealth is fortunate to be one of six states to receive this grant, and will use these funds to increase the access to our growing economy for disabled workers in Massachusetts.”

In Massachusetts the funds will also be used to create partnerships with local employers to increase hiring opportunities for young people with disabilities, and expand short-term subsidized work programs. The grant will provide job-retention and placement services to young people who have difficulty finding work due to their disability.

“This is the first initiative where we will completely focus on youth and young adults with disabilities in order to help them find and keep employment,” Labor and Workforce Development Secretary Ronald Walker II said. “We are thrilled to be one of only a few states to receive this grant, and it will enable us to continue the work started by the task force for people facing higher employment.”

The other states to receive grants were Connecticut, California, Idaho, Minnesota, and Maryland.

While Massachusetts’ unemployment rate is lower than the national average, at 3.9% in August, certain populations face chronically higher rates of unemployment, including African-Americans, Hispanics/Latinos, people with disabilities, Native Americans, and recently returned veterans.

Daily News

BOSTON — The state’s total unemployment rate dropped to 3.9% in August from 4.1% in July, and preliminary estimates show the state gained 5,900 jobs over the month, the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development reported.

The last time the state’s unemployment rate hit 3.9% was in August 2001. At 3.9%, the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate is down 0.9% over the year from 4.8% in August 2015. There were 30,300 fewer unemployed residents and 73,000 more employed residents over the year compared to August 2015. Massachusetts’ unemployment rate remains lower than the national rate of 4.9% reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The state added fewer jobs over the month in July than the Bureau of Labor Statistics originally estimated, gaining 5,800 jobs compared to the previously published 7,300-job-gain estimate. Year to date, December 2015 to August 2016, Massachusetts has added 61,000 jobs.

In August, the largest over-the-month job gains occurred in the leisure and hospitality, education and health services, and other services sectors.

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 65.0%. Over the year, the labor-force participation rate has increased 0.2% compared to August 2015.

Over the year, the largest private sector percentage job gains were in construction; leisure and hospitality; professional, scientific, and business services; and education and health services.

Daily News

BOSTON — The Baker-Polito administration awarded more than $2.4 million in workforce-training fund grants to 25 companies to train current or newly hired workers. This round of grant funding will help train 2,162 workers, and is expected to create 263 new jobs.

“We have made workforce development a priority for Massachusetts residents to get the skills they need to prosper and for companies to have a talented pool of workers to expand,” said Gov. Charlie Baker. “The training and career-building skills provided by these investments will help bolster economic prosperity and success throughout the Commonwealth.”

The Workforce Training Fund assists Massachusetts businesses in becoming more competitive by investing in the skills of their workers. The Workforce Training Fund is also a key resource to thousands of Massachusetts workers who wish to advance their skills to achieve promotional opportunities and higher wages. It also acts as a catalyst for job creation.

“The Workforce Training Fund is a vital tool for many companies to upgrade employees’ skills and increase productivity,” Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito said. “The training helps both the workers and the companies compete in a global environment.”

The Workforce Training Fund provides grants of up to $250,000 to companies in Massachusetts, to pay for workforce training over a two-year period. Grants are awarded to projects that will upgrade workers’ skills, increase productivity, and enhance the competitiveness of Massachusetts businesses. Grants are matched dollar-for-dollar by the award recipients.

The Workforce Training Fund is a program of the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development and administered by Commonwealth Corp., a quasi-public state agency that fosters partnerships between industry, education, and workforce organizations to strengthen skills for youth and adults in order to help them thrive in the state’s economy.

Locally, Freedom Credit Union in Springfield was awarded $126,175 to train 133 workers. Meanwhile, the Massachusetts Manufacturing Extension Partnership was awarded $151,016 to train 93 workers, with nine additional jobs expected by 2018. This grant was awarded to a consortium of businesses, including Universal Plastics Corp. of Holyoke, Advanced Welding of Springfield, Duval Precision Grinding of Chicopee, Metronic of Chicopee, and Millitech Inc. of Northampton.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — State Rep. Joseph Wagner, chair of the Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies, will keynote the Springfield Regional Chamber’s Pastries, Politics and Policy event on Tuesday, Sept. 27. He will discuss the nearly $1 billion in economic-development investments recently signed into law.

In his role as chair, Wagner was instrumental in authoring the final bill that was signed by Gov. Charlie Baker. Among the investments included in the legislation are $500 million over five years in public infrastructure grants to support economic development and job creation, $45 million to support the revitalization of Springfield and other gateway cities, $45 million to support workforce development, training, and the creation of employment pipelines, and $15 million to support regionally significant commercial or industrial development.

The event begins with registration and continental breakfast at 7:30 a.m., with the program following from 8 to 9 a.m. at the TD Bank Conference Center, 1441 Main St., Springfield. The cost is $15 for chamber members, $25 for general admission, which includes continental breakfast. Reservations may be made online at www.springfieldregionalchamber.com or by e-mailing Kara Cavanaugh at [email protected].

Daily News

BOSTON — Local unemployment rates dropped in 21 labor-market areas, remained the same in two, and increased in one area in the state during the month of July, the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development reported. Compared to July 2015, the rates were down in all areas.

Two of the 15 areas for which job estimates are published recorded seasonal job gains in July, with gains in the Barnstable and Pittsfield areas. Seasonal losses occurred in the remaining 13 areas.

From July 2015 to July 2016, all 15 areas added jobs, with the largest percentage gains in the Haverhill-Newburyport-Amesbury, Taunton-Middleborough-Norton, Peabody-Salem-Beverly, and Worcester areas.

In order to compare the statewide rate to local unemployment rates, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates the statewide unadjusted unemployment rate for July was 4.0%. Last week, the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development reported the statewide seasonally adjusted unemployment rate dropped to 4.1% for the month of July. The unemployment rate is down 0.7% over the year.

The statewide, seasonally adjusted jobs estimate showed a 7,300-job gain in July and an over-the-year gain of 65,500 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 4.1% in July from 4.2% in June, and preliminary estimates show the state gained 7,300 jobs over the month, the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development reported.

The state also added more jobs in June than the Bureau of Labor and Statistics originally estimated for the month, gaining 17,600 jobs compared to the previously published 16,400-job-gain estimate. Year to date, December 2015 to July 2016, Massachusetts has added 56,600 jobs.

In July, the largest over-the-month job gains occurred in the professional, scientific, and business services; leisure and hospitality; and financial activities sectors.

At 4.1%, the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate is down 0.7% over the year from 4.8% in July 2015. There were 26,700 fewer unemployed residents and 60,000 more employed residents over the year compared to July 2015.

Massachusetts’ unemployment rate remains lower than the national rate of 4.9% reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

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 65.0%, up 0.1% from the previous month. Over the year, the labor-force participation rate has increased 0.1% compared to July 2015.

Over the year, the largest private-sector percentage job gains were in the construction; professional, scientific, and business services; education and health services; and leisure and hospitality sectors.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — The board of directors of the Professional Women‘s Chamber (PWC), a division of the Springfield Regional Chamber, has elected its officers to lead the division: Laurie Cassidy as president; Tracy Sicbaldi as acting vice president; Caron LaCour as Treasurer; Jeannie Filomeno as assistant treasurer; and Liz Rappaport as secretary. Janet Casey serves as past president.

Cassidy is the executive director of the West Springfield Council on Aging/Senior Center and has served in that position since 2010. Prior, she served with the Greater Springfield Senior Services as its area agency on aging director and its regional ombudsman director. She has extensive volunteer experience, currently serving as a member of the Sisters of Providence Health System Board of Trustees, Mary’s Meadow Board of Trustees, West Springfield commission on Disabilities, and West Springfield Garden Club. She is also the secretary and treasurer of the West Springfield Emergency Planning Committee and Medical Reserve Corps and associate member of the West Springfield Veterans Council. She has been a member of the PWC since 2011.

Sicbaldi is an accountant with Overland Solutions Inc. and has more than 30 years of banking experience and six years as a municipal treasurer. She joined the PWC in 2006 and has served as its treasurer, vice president, and president.

LaCour is a Certified Public Accountant working with Burkhart Pizzanelli P.C. She focuses on taxation of individuals, businesses and nonprofit corporations. This is LaCour’s first term on the PWC board and is active on its scholarship, woman of the year and program committees. She is also actively involved with Rays of Hope and the Red Thread Network.

Filomeno is the human resource manager at Marcotte Ford Sales, Inc., her family business where she has worked since graduating college. She has served on the PWC board for three terms, served as the co-chair of its mentoring program and is a member of its scholarship committee.

Rappaport is a third-generation property manager at Century Investment Company.  Prior to joining the family business, she served in a marketing and brand management role at WF Young.  In addition to the PWC, Rappaport is actively involved with the Jimmy Fund taking a leadership role in several fund-raising activities each year.

Casey, principal and founder of Marketing Doctor, served as the PWC president for the past two years.

Board members Jacquelyn Bangs, senior account manager for EMC; Marikate Murren, director, training and workforce development for MGM Springfield; and Gillian Palmer, business development and group sales coordinator for the Eastern States Exposition, will round out the executive committee.

The PWC supports the female professional through networking opportunities, provides scholarships for nontraditional students returning to the workforce and mentors students through a partnership with Springfield Technical Community College.

Daily News

BOSTON — Local unemployment rates increased in 21 labor-market areas in the state during the month of June and dropped in two areas, while one remained the same, the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development reported Tuesday. Compared to June 2015, the local unemployment rates were lower in all areas.

Thirteen of the 15 areas added jobs over the month, with the largest gains in the Boston-Cambridge-Quincy, Barnstable, Framingham, Pittsfield, and Haverhill-Newburyport-Amesbury areas. Some of the job gains in the information sector reflect the end of a temporary labor dispute in May.

From June 2015 to June 2016, 14 labor markets in the state added jobs, with the largest percentage gains in the Haverhill-Newburyport-Amesbury area, along with Taunton-Middleborough-Norton, Pittsfield, and Boston-Cambridge-Quincy.

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 4.3%. The state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate remained at 4.2% in June, the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development reported last week. The unemployment rate is down 0.7% over the year.

The state showed an estimated 16,400 seasonally adjusted job gains in June, boosted partially by the resolution of a temporary labor dispute. The over-the-year job gains are estimated at 67,300.

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 seasonally adjusted unemployment rate remained at 4.2% in June for the third consecutive month, the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development reported Thursday.

The preliminary job estimates from the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicate Massachusetts added 16,400 jobs in June. Some of the job gains reflect the resolution of a temporary labor dispute in the information sector.

Over-the-month job gains occurred in the education and health services; information; professional, scientific, and business services; financial activities; construction; and manufacturing sectors.

Year to date, from December 2015 to June 2016, Massachusetts added 48,100 jobs, and over the year, from June 2015 to June 2016, the state added 67,300 jobs.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics also revised over-the-month job losses initially released for May, reporting job losses totaled 5,200 as opposed to the 6,400 originally estimated.

At 4.2%, the unemployment rate is down 0.7% over the year, with the state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate dropping from 4.9% in June 2015. There were 25,000 fewer unemployed people and 49,600 more employed people over the year compared to June 2015. The Commonwealth’s unemployment rate remains lower than the national rate of 4.9% reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“The good news here is all private sectors show over-the-year job gains with the exception of manufacturing, and private-sector job gains are up 2.2% over the year,” Labor and Workforce Development Secretary Ronald Walker II said.

The state’s labor-orce 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 slightly to 64.9%. The labor-force participation rate over the year has decreased 0.1% compared to June 2015.

Over the year, the private sectors with the largest percentage job gains were construction; education and health services; professional, scientific, and business services; information; and financial activities.

Daily News

BOSTON — For the second consecutive year, the Baker-Polito administration reduced the assessment rate employers pay to the state on workers’ compensation insurance policies.

For fiscal year 2017, employers will pay an assessment of 5.6% on their total insurance premium, a 3% decrease from the previous rate of 5.75%. The new rate went into effect July 1.

The Department of Industrial Accidents (DIA), an agency within the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development, administers the workers’ compensation insurance system and annually establishes assessment rates. During fiscal year 2016, the Baker-Polito administration reduced the rate from 5.8% to 5.75%.

“We are very pleased that we can lower this assessment rate to businesses once again this year,” Labor and Workforce Development Secretary Ronald Walker II said. “After reviewing the current assessment rate and the fund balance, we determined it was possible to reduce the rate again.”

Added DIA Director Linda Turner, “the reduction in the DIA assessment rate for the second year in a row is a clear statement of this administration’s efforts to reduce costs for businesses in the Commonwealth.”

The state workers’ compensation system is in place to make sure workers are protected by insurance if they are injured on the job or develop a work-related illness. Under this system, all employers in Massachusetts are required by state law to carry workers’ compensation insurance covering their employees. The insurance pays for any reasonable and necessary medical treatment for a job-related injury or illness, pays compensation for lost wages after the first five calendar days of full or partial disability, and in some cases provides retraining for employees who qualify.

DIA is funded through assessments on workers’ compensation policies and self-insurance programs for employers operating in Massachusetts. In addition, DIA collects statutory fines and fees. It also acts as a court system responsible for resolving disputed workers’ compensation claims, overseeing and adjudicating approximately 12,000 disputed cases each year.

Opinion

Editorial

It’s one of those headlines that would probably get lost amid others on the business pages of the newspaper, or even this publication — about mergers, acquisitions, new CEOs, the market’s seemingly endless ups and downs, and even the price of gasoline.

But it shouldn’t.

‘Baker-Polito Administration Awards $8.5 Million in Workforce Training Grants’ doesn’t seem like big news, and to most, it probably isn’t. But in many ways, it’s huge news for this state and the individual companies that make up its diverse, technology-driven, and talent-dependent economy.

In other words, this is money well-spent. Make that very well-spent.

To explain, let’s look beyond the headline.

That $8.5 million, awarded a few weeks ago, will go to dozens of companies of all sizes. Locally, the list includes everything from small technology companies, like Westfield-based EpiCenter, to giant retailers, like Big Y Foods, to mid-sized service providers, like East Longmeadow-based Tiger Press.

These companies may be different in many respects, but they share a few distinct qualities: they’re smart, because they realize the inherent value of training employees in an age when technology continues to advance and new and better methods for doing business emerge, and they look upon training as an investment, not an expense item to be avoided or put off until when the skies are bluer. And they’re resourceful, because they applied for grants made available through the state’s Workforce Training Fund to help make that wise and usually sizable investment in training more palatable and stretch further.

A program of the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development, the training program provides grants up to $250,000 to companies of any size to pay for workforce training over a two-year period. Grants are awarded to projects that will upgrade workers’ skills, increase productivity, and enhance the competitiveness of Bay State businesses. Grants are matched dollar for dollar by the award recipients.

The grants are used to not only train existing employees, but bring on additional workers and thus fuel additional growth for the participating companies.

At Sound Seal Inc. in Agawam, for example, $168,000 will be awarded to train 59 workers, with an expectation that six jobs will be added by 2018. At Valley Steel Stamp in Greenfield, $123,120 was awarded to train 27 workers, with that same number expected to be added by 2018. At Tapestry Health in Florence, $58,585 was awarded to train 90 workers. Monson Savings Bank was awarded $58,675 to train 167 workers, with two additional jobs expected by 2018. The list goes on.

Beyond the numbers, what’s important to note is what they mean — that hundreds of additional workers will be better-equipped to handle the increasingly challenging jobs of today’s technology-fueled economy, and more businesses, including manufacturers, will be better able to compete with companies around the globe.

As we’ve said on many occasions, the biggest challenge facing area businesses isn’t interest rates or consumer confidence or the price of oil — it’s the skills gap that is pervading each and every sector of the economy, and the ensuing, and ongoing, need for talented workers.

As mentioned at the top, ‘Baker-Polito Administration Awards $8.5 Million in Workforce Training Grants’ is not a grabber when it comes to business-story headlines. But it should be.

It should grab the attention of everyone who does business in the Commonwealth — and wants to do it better.

This is truly money well-spent.

Daily News

BOSTON — Local unemployment rates dropped in 17 labor market areas in Massachusetts, remained the same in five areas, and increased in two during the month of May, the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development reported. Compared to May 2015, the rates were down in all areas.

The largest gains last month were in the Boston-Cambridge-Newton, Barnstable, Worcester, Haverhill-Newburyport-Amesbury, Lowell-Billerica-Chelmsford, and Framingham areas. From May 2015 to May 2016, the largest percentage gains were in the Barnstable, Pittsfield, Haverhill-Newburyport-Amesbury, Worcester, and Lowell-Billerica-Chelmsford areas.

In order to compare the statewide rate to local unemployment rates, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates the statewide unadjusted unemployment rate for May is 3.8%.

Last week, the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development reported the statewide seasonally adjusted unemployment rate remained at 4.2% for the month of May. The unemployment rate is down 0.7% over the year. The statewide seasonally adjusted jobs estimate showed a 6,400-job loss in May, which was impacted by a temporary labor dispute, and an over-the-year gain of 53,400 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.

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