PITTSFIELD, Mass. — A state grant of $235,000 is being used by the MassHire Berkshire Workforce Board for free health-care training programs to aid a sector that was hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The funding supported certified nursing assistant refresher courses for Red Cross training, the continuation of a blended online CNA program, North County CNA courses, and a Berkshire Health Systems medical assistant training.
The Berkshire Healthcare Hub grant of $235,000 will support the development and management of the new programs for the next two years.
The hub is a partnership that aims to expand training and workforce development opportunities in the county's largest industry while addressing the needs of local employers. It is a cooperative effort between Berkshire County employers, educators, professionals, social service agencies, and career development agencies.
The project is funded by a Senator Kenneth J. Donnelly Workforce Success Grant from the FY20 Workforce Competitiveness Trust Fund through the state Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development.
"A lot is happening in health care and Berkshire Healthcare Systems, we can't say enough about their partnerships and McCann and Berkshire Community College, stepping up to the plate, pulling things together," Executive Director Heather Boulger said at the board of director's meeting last week.
"Last year was very chaotic, it continues to be very chaotic, and we're just really pleased that we're able to move these partnerships forward."
Shannon Zayac, manager of industrial relations, explained that the refresher courses were needed because of a nearly yearlong backlog of CNA testing because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The training will be geared toward people who are underemployed or unemployed, as the pandemic has affected many people's livelihoods.
Members of the board who are employed by Berkshire Health Systems highlighted the need for health-care workers, especially nursing assistants.
"Last year, you know the staffing shortage really hit us hard, because of the influx of cases, we had a lot of COVID patients and, and it's kind of an opposite problem that we have less, which is a great thing, less acute patients, less ICU patients due to COVID, but the staffing shortage is just killing us," said Brenda Lepicier, director of talent management at BHS.
"It's all areas, nursing assistants are really the hardest right now for us for sure because without nursing assistants, you're pulling other resources to do that work, but it's hitting all areas."
Vice President of Housing Services at Berkshire Health Care Systems Albert Ingegni III seconded her sentiments. He added that health-care workers are burnt out from long shifts and have experienced the trauma of the pandemic first hand.
"I think what happened is there's a lagging effect from last year where people are terribly burned out, I don't like using that phrase, but it's especially on the nursing and direct-care side, and whether its a pharmacy tech or a CNA in particular or a nurse, there's too many hours we've had them work over the last 18 months and any experience is difficult, at the very least it's difficult, so even though our COVID case incidence is going down, you're still taking care of sick people and it just wears you out," he said.
"It's a very difficult situation that frankly isn't sustainable over the long term and unless we do something about it."
Lepicier added that another aspect that hit the health-care sector hard was the return of the service industry and not being able to pull talent from there as well as the pandemic pushing people to retire.
Berkshire Community College President Ellen Kennedy said the college's registered nurse program has doubled in participants but the college is seeing a decrease in the licensed practical nurse population because they are deferring until January.
In other news, 10 North County high school students completed their summer work experiences in August as part of the seventh annual North County Summer Youth Works program.
The 2021 participants are Cambria Church, Maryn Cappiello, Musa Thompson, Emma Meczywor, Mallory Mazzeo, Molly McLear, Faith Domenichini, Austin Alfonso, Abby Bird, and Ryan Czupryna.
They spent six weeks participating in work, learning, and community service programs and developed public service announcements for Greenagers Inc.'s Growing Healthy Garden Program and the Berkshire House of Correction's Aquaponics Lab as their final projects.
The program is funded by First Congregational Church of Williamstown and MountainOne.
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Lenco Donates Rescue Vehicle to Berkshire Rescue Team
By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff
Lenco Vice President Lenny Light, left, BMSAR President Michael Comeau and Lenco design engineer Brian Sears, a BMSAR volunteer.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Lenco Armored Vehicles has donated a $20,000 utility terrain rescue vehicle to the volunteer Berkshire Mountain Search and Rescue team after reading of their fundraising efforts on iBerkshires.com.
Team President Michael Comeau said the Polaris UTV will be a huge game-changer for BMSAR, as it will drastically increase the efficiency and the response time to extricate a person from wooded or mountainous terrain and get them to safety.
"All of the team is saying the same thing: 'This is going to so much increase our capabilities for getting to someone, getting equipment to scenes, getting a patient out of the woods or wherever they're in danger," he said.
"And so the membership was really excited to have this."
The four-wheel-drive vehicle features two rows of seats to fit the team members and has an insert in the back that secures a stretcher with a seat for a medic next to it. It also has a light bar for increased visibility and a hook in the front of the vehicle for towing in cases of heavy terrain.
Team President Michael Comeau said the Polaris UTV will be a huge game-changer for BMSAR, as it will drastically increase the efficiency and the response time to remove a person from wooded or mountainous terrain and get them to safety.
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In total, Pittsfield is receiving almost $41 million in ARPA funds that have to be obligated by the end of 2024 and the funds spent by 2026. The first deposit of about $20 million is already in the city’s account.
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William Cameron, Mark Brazeau, Vicky Smith, Alison McGee, Sara Hathaway, Daniel Elias, and William Tyer covered a number of topics ranging from staff wages and building improvements to Taconic High School's mascot change and the recent superintendent selection process.
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The six-term representative said the people of the Berkshire district deserve a dedicated advocate in the Senate. He cited the devastation that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on its communities and small businesses and how it widened the divide between the wealthy and those struggling to put food on... click for more