Greenfield Community College to bolster green workforce with HVAC training program 

Greenfield Community College’s East Building.

Greenfield Community College’s East Building. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

By MARY BYRNE

Staff Writer

Published: 10-01-2023 1:40 PM

GREENFIELD — As early as next fall, Greenfield Community College will have launched its new heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) training program aimed at improving equity in the green workforce.

The development of the program was made possible thanks to the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, a state agency that first awarded the college a $50,000 planning grant in October 2022. This fall, the college was awarded a subsequent $1.1 million to develop and implement the training program, which includes paid, on-the-job training with local employers.

The state funding comes as part of an $18 million grant program designed to drive equitable clean energy workforce development.

“Clean energy jobs are good for the environment and good for family incomes,” GCC President Michelle Schutt said in a statement. “This is a win-win situation for GCC and our region.”

Trainees will be taught technical skills and career readiness, as well as receive professional certifications, comprehensive student support and a two-month paid internship (funded by the grant).

GCC and its partners at MassHire Franklin Hampshire Career Center will specifically focus recruitment efforts on historically underrepresented people, “to create new opportunities for them and their families,” said Kristin Cole, GCC’s vice president of workforce development.

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“It’s going to be different than just putting [the program listing] up on the website,” she explained.

The program will result in career-ready people for an industry that will need to increase the number of professionals by 17% between now and 2030, according to the recently released Massachusetts clean energy workforce needs assessment.

Cole said eight community partners are “fully on board,” though the college continues to look for more interested partners.

“Before we submitted the [grant] application, I checked with these places,” she said. “After my first six calls, not only was the answer ‘Absolutely,’ the other answer from most of them was, ‘You don’t need to budget that in the grant; we’ll pay for the internship.’ We’ve had an outpouring of support from employers. They need these positions filled; they need people trained in these jobs.”

In addition to covering the cost of training and tuition for all students, the grant will help pay for any materials the students need, from work boots to a Chromebook.

“It gives us some funding to provide any additional wrap-around support someone might need,” she added.

Among the employers to partner with GCC is Sue Serner, CEO of Amherst-based Surner Heating Co.

“This program will be a critical resource to prepare students for an excellent career path in the HVAC industry,” Surner said in a statement. “We are excited to not only support GCC’s efforts to design a valuable training program with industry-recognized credentials as outcomes, but also to partner with GCC to provide paid internships to the participants coming out of this extensive training program. This grant will allow GCC to add 45 newly qualified individuals to our regional HVAC workforce pipeline, and with the work ahead of us to move residents across the state off of fossil fuels and into cleaner energy, this couldn’t come at a better time.”

Reporter Mary Byrne can be reached at mbyrne@recorder.com or 413-930-4429. Twitter: @MaryEByrne.