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Advanced Manufacturing

VSS wins statewide workplace training award

Recorder/Paul Franz
VSS owner Steve Capshaw uses CNC, computer numerical control, machines in his Greenfield shop to machine metal parts for his customers.

Recorder/Paul Franz VSS owner Steve Capshaw uses CNC, computer numerical control, machines in his Greenfield shop to machine metal parts for his customers.

GREENFIELD — With its president and CEO winning more than $700,000 to equip and help train a new workforce for the region’s manufacturers in the 21st century, Valley Steel Stamp Co. has now won recognition from a statewide organization.

VSS Inc., as the precision machine shop with 50 employees is called, was selected Workforce Champion Employer of the Year by the Workforce Solution Group for its “leadership in securing resources that enabled the community to revamp the Machine Technology lab at Franklin County Technical School, make the lab available in the evening hours for unemployed and dislocated workers, and build an adult training curriculum” together with Greenfield Community College, Franklin Hampshire Regional Employment Board and Franklin Hampshire Career Center.

President and CEO Steven Capshaw lobbied the state Legislature for a $250,000 grant, raised $213,000 from more than 10 area manufacturers and helped win a $239,351 state training grant to establish a Middle Skills Academy to train unemployed and under-employed workers in advanced manufacturing skills. He said Wednesday that purchase of 14 new machines for the Tech School to replace 1970s-era equipment is only the beginning.

The real winners, Capshaw insisted, are “the kids who are potential long-term employees, who can help us grow — this company and other area manufacturers. That would be my reward in the end. But we’re not done, because the curriculum at the Tech School needs a tremendous amount of work.”

Capshaw is part of an advisory panel working with the school, which he applauds for garnering an additional $100,000 from a state fund for the new equipment, along with the regional employment board and GCC, to advance the school’s curriculum up on par with the computer-operated equipment that’s needed in advanced precision shops.

“I’m a believer that greatness can come to Franklin County again in advanced manufacturing, that there can be a burgeoning middle class again, but it’s based on giving people skills that are required by advanced companies like my own. We are just tortured as a company that with all this equipment, there is still no potential line of employees coming out of the Tech School. All of the companies and foundations that gave have tremendous concerns ... We cited a year ago problems with equipment that was ancient, but the other half, arguably the more important half, is the quality of instruction at the school. We’re working with them on that, but now that the equipment’s there, it’s a glaring issue.”

The statewide advocacy coalition of business, labor, community and workforce development groups that advocate for skills training and job opportunities, includes Northeastern University’s Center for Labor Market Studies, Massachusetts AFL-CIO, Massachusetts Business Roundtable, Crittenton Women’s Union, Massachusetts Communities Action Network, Massachusetts Workforce Board Association, Massachusetts Workforce Professionals Association and SkillWorks: Partners for a Productive Workforce.

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