NORTH ADAMS — The jobless rate in North Berkshire is traditionally higher compared to the rest of the county.

But a group of organizations in that area is banding together in hopes of changing that.

The Northern Berkshire Community Coalition and North Adams Chamber of Commerce have created a pilot program titled Employ North Berkshire in conjunction with a variety of social service agencies, educational institutions and community organizations.

Dubbed a "pathway to work," Employ North Berkshire is designed to find, train and support a workforce that businesses in that area need, according to nbCC's executive director Adam Hinds.

The concept of the program is to bring together job-seekers, businesses, and social service agencies, Hinds said.

"The result has been some really interesting approaches relating to how to coach people from their home to sustained employment, and making sure there's a relationship with a person who helps them maintain that pathway," Hinds said. "It's trying to chip away at some of the barriers and obstacles [to employment]."

The coalition is currently gathering additional data through a business community survey that was developed by nbCC and two upcoming focus group meetings with unemployed and underemployed workers, said nbCC project coordinator Annie Rodgers.

"We're tying to gather a whole bunch of information," Rodgers said.

Once the data is collected it will be reviewed by partner organizations like Berkshire Community College Workforce Development, Goodwill Industries of the Berkshires and MCLA Adult Basic Education.


"They will come together look at that data and create a training (program) around that," Rodgers said. "Businesses that sign on to participate in that project have to agree to hire one or more people to work in their business."

The pilot program consists of community and business outreach efforts to secure participants; a training program developed to cater to each businesses' needs with an emphasis on work skills; and support and assessment.

As part of support and assessment, nbCC will hire a "success coach" who will act as a mentor and remain in constant contact with the employees throughout training and well past the start of employment.

The idea for Employ North Berkshire came out of community forums that the nbCC held in September and October.

"We're really at the beginning stage right now," Rodgers said.

Besides BCC, MCLA and Goodwill, other program partners include the BerkshireWorks Career Center; the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission; and the First Congregational Church of Williamstown among others, along with a range of local residents.

Contact Tony Dobrowolski at 413-496-6224.

If you go ...

What: Focus group meetings for Employ North Berkshire

When: 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. March 16; 6 to 7 p.m. March 17

Where: UNO Community Center, 157 River St., North Adams.

Registration: Both meetings are open to the public, but registration is capped at 10 people per session. To participate, RSVP by Monday with Annie Rodgers at 413-663-7588.

Information: Those who own or manage a local business and would be interested in providing input on their needs and experiences regarding new employees can contact Ricco Fruscio at 413-441-4588, or at