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Advanced Manufacturing

Advanced manufacturing program seeking third class of students

GREENFIELD — Organizers of an advanced machining program designed to jump-start the area’s manufacturing industry are searching for their next group of students.

The 12-week, 288-hour training program teaches unemployed and underemployed workers computer-aided manufacturing skills. This fall’s session, held in the revamped Franklin County Technical School machine shop, will be the third of four grant-funded training programs.

Local employers have invested hundreds of thousands of dollars into the project because they are desperate to bring in new skilled labor as quickly as possible. Nine of the first 15 graduates found advanced manufacturing jobs at local companies and six of the most recent class have found jobs, with others actively searching, said project manager Michael Baines.

Information sessions will be held this month at Franklin Hampshire Career Centers in Greenfield, Northampton and Orange. There are two this week: Wednesday from 2 to 4 p.m. in Greenfield, and Thursday from 10 a.m. to noon in Northampton.

Then, there will be three sessions next week: Tuesday, June 17, from 10 a.m. to noon in Orange; Thursday, June 19, from 2 to 4 p.m. in Greenfield; and Friday, June 20, from 10 a.m. to noon in Northampton.

Baines said that he is talking to different organizations in the community to find potential applicants. In this round, organizers are particularly targeting people ages 18 to 24 who haven’t gone to college and are still searching for a career path — although anyone can apply and will be considered.

Organizers are also looking to expand the number of Hampshire County applicants. This spring’s graduating class had 11 from Franklin County, two from Hampshire County and one from Worcester County.

Some applicants will be interviewed this summer by prospective employers to help organizers whittle the pool down to just over a dozen students. Baines said that the “speed interviewing” was introduced this spring in order to ensure that any candidates who attend the training have a serious shot at being employed upon completion.

The program also increased employment engagement by holding a career fair this spring and by bringing employers into the machine shop classroom to meet with students.

And the program’s paid internship program was modified slightly: nine students work for two weeks at a local company, which gives them hands-on experience and serves essentially as an extended interview.

Baines said that many of the program’s graduates are eligible for an unemployment training grant, which means that the employer receives grant money to offset training costs. He has suggested to graduates that they pitch this to employers during job interviews.

Since its inception, the training program has been a collaboration between the Franklin Hampshire Regional Employment Board and Career Centers, Greenfield Community College, Franklin County Technical School and local manufacturing companies.

But event organizers need to begin planning for the program’s future because, at this time next year, the final grant-funded class of students will have just graduated.

The program may end up continuing as a credit-free course with a tuition for students. Baines said he hopes that this program, and the Tech School’s high school program, can together churn out about 25 new employees into the region each year.

You can reach Chris Shores at: cshores@recorder.com, 413-772-0261, ext. 264, on Twitter follow: @RecorderShores

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