Community partnerships bolster local workforce
Springfield, Mass.—As the region begins to face labor shortage issues, local businesses, non-profits, colleges, and universities have teamed up to work together to address the region’s workforce development and training needs.
Where businesses once worked in silos, business owners are recognizing the need to join forces for the overall welfare of the local economy. According to President and Chief Executive Officer of the Regional Employment Board of Hampden County, Inc. David M. Cruise, building relationships with other businesses and local colleges and universities is key to moving the region in the right direction.
“Going at it alone just doesn’t work anymore,” said Cruise. “None of us have the resources to be able to do this alone. We’re all doing good work and always looking for ways to be innovative and creative, but sometimes finding the resources and funding to do it is difficult.”
Cruise said business and industry partnerships have become important in helping to align the Regional Employment Board with the region’s industry needs.
“We need to address our current needs, but also project the needs for the next five years,” said Cruise. “For educational institutions it’s hard to be as agile—implementing new courses involves lots of protocols and processes and it’s sometimes difficult to get things moving.”
Colleges depend on students to train for future careers; employers are actively seeking those skilled graduates. According to Cruise, the partnership between colleges and employers fulfills both their needs and is considered a win-win for everyone involved.
“These are the richest, most intentional partnerships and we’re getting things done,” said Cruise. “You have to have these kinds of partnerships today, but they’re not always easy to create and sustain.”
Cruise said they also look to community-based organizations to serve niche populations since they are often the organizations fulfilling the needs of their communities, but with incredibly limited resources.
Together, STCC and the Regional Employment Board have created manufacturing production technician training programs; advanced manufacturing worker training; an American apprentice program; established an advanced call center and customer service representative certificate; and an adult basic education career pathways program.
Additionally, the partnership between STCC and Holyoke Community College—called Training &
Workforce Options, or TWO—was created several years ago to provide businesses affordable, custom contract training. Trainings are scheduled at the company’s location and on their schedule, making it easy for business owners to get their employees the training they need, when they need it.
“Working collaboratively allows each institution to play a key role in workforce development, while taking a proactive and visible role in industry engagement,” said Robert LePage, STCC’s vice president of foundation and workforce training. “Here at STCC, we’re a technical college; so we tend to be more progressive than other parts of the state when it comes to attacking regional employment needs and workforce development programs.”
LePage praised the Regional Employment Board for being mission aligned to put people to work.
“And we know that STCC works in preparing our students to do just that—get a job and go to work,” said LePage. “Partnering with STCC allows the Regional Employment Board to offer programs and fill the skills gaps.”
Cruise noted that as valuable as these partnerships are, it takes time and energy to cultivate positive working relationships that are beneficial to all parties involved.
“The richest, most intentional partnerships get things done,” said Cruise. “Partnerships today, you have to have them, but they aren’t easy to create and sustain. However, businesses and the industry are the immediate beneficiaries to these partnerships through trained employees. These partnerships are investments in the infrastructure.”
Cruise said they are currently looking at the areas of need for smaller community based organizations which are typically underfunded, to help them grow and do what’s necessary to help them build in capacity.
“We want to help many of these smaller organizations go beyond their mission statements,” said Cruise.
“Many faith-based organizations are doing wonderful work, but in many cases are incredibly small and underfunded, limiting their ability to grow and do what’s needed.”
According to Cruise many companies feel the pressure of keeping up with an ever-changing workforce and maintaining a well-trained and skilled workforce is critical for their success. Together, community partnerships help to fill the gap and provide opportunities for both employers and employees.
Community partnerships like those between the Regional Employment Board and STCC will be celebrated at the STCC Foundation’s Not Just Business As Usual event on Thursday, April 14 at the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. The annual event is a networking opportunity for business leaders in western Massachusetts and also serves as a fundraiser for the STCC Works scholarship program. For additional information about the event, please contact Christina Tuohey, STCC director of annual giving and alumni relations, at (413) 755-4475 or email@example.com.
To purchase a ticket online, visit www.stcc.edu/njbau.