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McGovern pledges to protect job center

Recorder/Paul Franz
Congressman James McGovern visits the Franklin Hampshire Career Center at One Arch Place in Greenfield Wednesday afternoon talking to a group of people taking a class on LinkedIn from instructor Sharon Feeney at right.  Center is Edie Smith, Operations Manager for the career center.

Recorder/Paul Franz Congressman James McGovern visits the Franklin Hampshire Career Center at One Arch Place in Greenfield Wednesday afternoon talking to a group of people taking a class on LinkedIn from instructor Sharon Feeney at right. Center is Edie Smith, Operations Manager for the career center.

GREENFIELD — U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern praised the work of a regional employment board that provides training and career readiness advice for unemployed and underemployed jobseekers — and pledged to protect its funding during future debates in Washington.

McGovern — the eight-term Democratic congressman who now serves Greenfield and 13 other Franklin County towns in the refigured 2nd Congressional District — toured the Franklin Hampshire Career Center for an hour to learn about the services the Franklin Hampshire Regional Employment Board provides to nearly 7,000 job seekers each year.

“The collaboration you’ve achieved here (with other organizations throughout the community) is not evident in every other part of the state,” said McGovern. “You have something unique here, something really important.”

Patricia Crosby, the employment board’s executive director, met with McGovern earlier this year and invited him to tour the Greenfield facility.

The employment board has satellite offices in Northampton and Orange, and connects with public and private organizations throughout its coverage area to provide training and services for potential employees.

“I wanted him to see the variety of activity that goes on, but I also wanted him to see that it doesn’t happen alone,” said Crosby, after a half-hour roundtable discussion with a handful of community partners — including Greenfield Community College President Robert Pura and North Quabbin Community Coalition Executive Director Rebecca Bialecki.

She expressed to McGovern a hypothetical fear that if federal and state governments continue to consolidate services, there could be a day where there are only three regional employment boards in Boston, Worcester and Pittsfield — which she said would make it difficult for people to get access to training and work development.

“I certainly do not want to have (that) scenario happen,” responded McGovern. “For these to work, the services have to be accessible to people.”

With the rolling out of federal spending cuts, he acknowledged that, “we’re in for a little bit of a bumpy ride” over the next few months, but that things like regional employment services are worth fighting for.

“This, to me, is what we should all be cheering about,” he said. “You shouldn’t have to worry about us nickel-and-diming you in Washington, or even at the state level.”

McGovern spent the first 45 minutes of his visit meeting with individual employees of the employment board and career center to hear about the programs they work on. He looked in for a few minutes on a class teaching five students how to find potential career networking connections using the site LinkedIn.

He then participated in the round table discussion with some of the employment board’s community partners.

One recent collaboration — involving the employment board, GCC, Franklin County Technical School and area manufacturers like Valley Steel Stamp — was the creation of a “Middle Skills Academy,” which will teach jobseekers advanced manufacturing skills in order to fill vacancies in that field.

Crosby, Pura, VSS President Steven Capshaw and two representatives from the Tech School — Superintendent Jim Laverty and Curriculum Director John Carey — told McGovern about the developing project to build up Franklin County’s manufacturing labor force.

The congressman said he would be interested in having future discussions about potential federal aid for the project.

Bialecki spoke about how important the employment board’s services are to an often ignored North Quabbin Region.

And Russell Bradbury-Carlin, of the Center for New Americans, and Steven Kravetz, of the Center for Extended Care at Amherst, each described how the employment board has helped their organizations in the past.

You can reach Chris Shores at:
cshores@recorder.com
or 413-772-0621, ext. 264

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