PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The MassHire Berkshire Workforce Board on Thursday held its annual meeting virtually during which five local professionals were recognized with Workforce Impact Awards and the board highlighted its yearly efforts in meeting the demand for highly skilled workers in Berkshire County.
During fiscal 2021, the board leveraged more than $3.5 million to assist 662 employers, 2,600 job seekers, and 3,400 youth with workforce needs.
"Since March 2020, the Workforce Board assisted over 650 companies with their workforce needs, answering their immediate employment questions, connecting them to grants and economic development opportunities, referring them to the Career Center, and collaborating with them with numerous training grants," Executive Director Heather Boulger said.
"These efforts led to $165,000 for manufacturing training and $286,000 for career readiness programming. We are also happy to be announcing this morning that the Berkshire Workforce Board has received an additional $225,000 in health-care resources to train additional nursing and medical assistants."
The board also worked with the Berkshire Skills Cabinet and implemented training in health care, manufacturing and hospitality as a part of the Berkshire Workforce Blueprint. This gave more than 120 organizations labor-market data from the board that helped generate $1.6 million in new resources.
State Sen. Adam Hinds and Pittsfield Director of Administrative Services Roberta McCulloch-Dews were in attendance at the meeting to applaud the board's work during the COVID-19 pandemic and congratulate the award recipients.
"This was where the action happened before a global pandemic and an economic downturn," Hinds said. "And now your work has been more critical than ever this past year, and it will be for some time."
• Tony Dobrowolski, business editor of The Berkshire Eagle, was given the 2021 Workforce Ambassador award for his advocacy of workforce items and for demonstrating "strong civic value in community journalism with integrity, honesty, and fairness."
• Sherwood Guernsey of First Congregational Church of Williamstown was given the 2021 Youth Ambassador award for establishing and supporting the North County YouthWorks program for the past seven years that has made a "significant" difference in the lives of local youths.
• Sarah Miller, Berkshire Healthcare System's director of education and training, and Susan Choquette, a registered nurse and clinical trainer, were presented the 2021 Employer of the Year award for establishing a blended hybrid nursing assistant program during the pandemic to help get people back to work while keeping residents, staff, and students safe.
• Christopher Kapiloff and John Lafleur of LTI Smart Glass were presented the 2021 Employer of the Year award for being strong supporters of manufacturing initiatives and for providing on-the-job training opportunities to get people back to work.
• Taylor Gibeau, community relations and cash management coordinator for Adams Community Bank, was presented the 2021 Youth Champion award for assistance in planning, establishing, and participating in the first Virtual Career Week for area students and having employers submit videos for the board's career readiness library.
"On behalf of Mayor [Linda] Tyer, I just want to extend a heartfelt thank you to the Berkshire Workforce board members, the staff and partners collectively all are a powerful catalyst in helping our employers with their workforce needs and connecting our workforce with essential resources and opportunities," McCulloch-Dews said.
"And to today's awardees, thank you for your consistent diligence and commitment to workforce development. Your efforts and collaboration have truly made a powerful difference and our community it's better for it."
McCulloch-Dews spoke on the work that the city did to support local businesses with COVID-19 Economic Recovery funding that was implemented in April 2020. With the funding, 90 small businesses in Pittsfield received a total of $682,000 and the program continues to accept applications.
She added that every effort, every admission, and every program makes an impact and helps the city and county continue to keep moving forward in the right direction.
Hinds reported that the county's unemployment rate is down to just over 7 percent as compared to the 80 percent unemployment rate in March. He also highlighted the advantages of remote work, as people can apply for jobs elsewhere while being based in Berkshire County with a "high quality of life and a lower cost of living."
He is chairing a new committee called Reimagining Massachusetts Post-COVID Resiliency that is focused on preparing for the workforce of the future, the economy of the future, and recognizing what vulnerabilities when there is a shock to the system.
Making sure the state budget is supporting connecting activities such as youth works and the workforce board funding its self is important, he added.
"You keep showing when it matters, that you get the job done and your key piece of how we have a vibrant thriving economy here locally," Hinds said to the board.
Also in this meeting, the BWB voted on the Workforce Business Plan for FY2022 and elected a slate of officers.
Eva Sheridan of Boyd Technologies was appointed as president; Michael Taylor, Pittsfield's director of human resources, and Albert Ingegni III of Berkshire Health Care Systems, as vice presidents; Doug McNally of Frosthollow Associates as Youth Council chair; Superintendent James Brosnan of McCann Technical School as treasurer; and Chelsea Tyer of Neenah Paper as secretary.
"Our annual meeting is an opportunity to revisit our yearly accomplishments, recognize our workforce champions, and to set the stage for a productive new fiscal year," board President Eva Sheridan said. "Today's theme is really all about appreciation, collaboration, and opportunity. Everything that we do, we do with input, engagement, and involvement from all of you and we truly appreciate your voice and continued participation."
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Firefighters used several avenues of attack to douse the blaze.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — A midday fire Thursday on South Atlantic Avenue killed a pet and left a family homeless.
Police happened to be at a neighboring house when they were notified of a fire at 16 South Atlantic. The Fire Department was called out at 12:35 p.m. and found "heavy fire conditions" on the first floor in the kitchen area, reported Deputy Chief Daniel Garner.
The fire had extended into the adjoining rooms of the 2 1/2-story, wood frame home. Crews from four engines and a ladder truck attacked the blaze; a primary search was conducted to ensure no one was in the building.
There were no reported injuries but a dog perished in the blaze. Garner estimated that the house suffered about $20,000 to $50,000 in damage, largely from heavy fire and smoke on the first floor and smoke damage throughout.