PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development announced on Monday that the Berkshires' One Stop Career Centers will be consolidated in Pittsfield as part of efforts to increase efficiency.
The North Adams satellite office will close on June 24, but limited services will be provided weekly in Adams and North Adams.
The decision to consolidate the centers was made by the Berkshire County Regional Employment Board Inc., which oversees a number of federal and state programs including the BerkshireWorks career centers in the Berkshires.
"After a careful analysis of costs and benefits, it was determined that the Berkshire region as a whole would benefit from saving money through consolidation," said Albert A. Ingegni III, chairman of the Berkshire Workforce Investment Board, in a statement. "It is clear that by streamlining services we will be able to maintain the assortment and quality of programming our customers have come to expect."
Local officials had hoped to keep a "social services hub" in the downtown operating to help clients having to travel to Pittsfield but BerkshireWorks is the last casualty. The Labor Department says most of its services can be accessed online, reducing the need for travel. Most of the staff is already working out of Pittsfield.
Under the consolidation plan, some of the resources from the satellite center will be moved to Pittsfield. The BCREB and BerkshireWorks administration has worked closely with Mayor Richard Alcombright of North Adams and Town Manager Jonathan Butler of Adams to ensure that some satellite services will still be provided in Northern Berkshire.
"While this streamlining effort is under way, I will work closely with the BCREB and BerkshireWorks to ensure that our Northern Berkshire residents still have access to quality work-force services," said Alcombright in a statement. "It is critical to continue to provide as many services to our residents as possible to help them access training and employment opportunities."
The North Adams Public Library will provide space for workshops and for BerkshireWorks staff up to one day a week to assist clients. A similar space will be provided in at the Berkshire Visitors Bureau in Adams on a weekly basis. Once the final details have been arranged, the community will be well informed of the days, times and locations.
"While this streamlining effort is under way, the Workforce Investment Board will work closely with state and local officials," said George Moriarty, director of the state's Department of Career Services. "We are looking at ways to try to expand upon existing job-seeker services including more online services."
The career centers were better known as the unemployment office. In recent years, the focus has turned to developing employment through training assistance, workshops and outreach.
There is a steady improvement in the employment picture in the Berkshires. The Berkshire County unemployment rate dropped to 7.6 percent in April 2011, which is down from 8.5 percent in March 2011 and down from 8.3 percent a year ago.
In addition to encouraging the public to utilize programs and services at all of the state's career centers, the Department of Career Services said those seeking work are encouraged to visit the state's online jobs database Job Quest, which currently houses information about 28,958 jobs. Many unemployment insurance benefit services are available at www.mass.gov/dua.
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Closing the N.Adams "unemployment" office makes no rational sense. With the economy in the tank and unemployment so high, local people need help right in North Adams. We need to stop making cuts on the backs of ordinary people and instead stop the tax breaks for big corporations like Raytheon and Fidelity.