PITTSFIELD -- Workforce training is the No. 1 issue hindering growth in the advanced manufacturing sector in Berkshire County, according to a new study.
"There are some [workforce training] programs out there," said Daniel Hodge of the Donahue Institute for Economic and Public Policy Research. "But when you talk to individual companies, they talk about having the challenge of finding the right set of workers, the right set of job ready skills and technical training."
The University of Massachusetts' Donahue Institute for Economic and Public Policy Research's 33-page report "can be a jumping off point for action," Hodge said.
In other areas of the state, manufacturers provide "direct input" on job training efforts, Hodge said.
As a result, "you know that what you're training people for can result in actual jobs for your graduates," he said.
The report gives data on the history of manufacturing in the Berkshires, the industry sector's current state here, and recommendations to facilitate a manufacturing future for the county.
Pittsfield Economic Revitalization Commission President Jay Anderson, whose organization commissioned the report, said it made clear the knowns and unknowns with regard to manufacturing opportunities in the county.
The study was officially released on Friday before politicians and business people at the Crowne Plaza Hotel.
According to the report, there are 175 manufacturing establishments in the Berkshires across a diverse range of industry sectors. However, the nationwide decline in manufacturing has been more acutely felt in Berkshire County than in the rest of Massachusetts.
Between 1969 and 1999 five percent of manufacturing jobs were eliminated nationwide. But in Massachusetts 40 percent of those jobs were lost, while 60 percent of those positions disappeared in the Berkshires.
In the decade up to 2011, employment provided by manufacturing fell by 29 percent nationally, by 35 percent in Massachusetts and by 45 percent in the Berkshires.
However, during that same 10-year time span, the Gross Domestic Product from manufacturing increased 26 percent nationally and 65 percent in Massachusetts, but declined 21 percent in Berkshire County. GDP is the total value of goods and services produced in an area during one year.
When asked if the decrease in manufacturing in the Berkshires has hit bottom, Hodge said "it's definitely flattening."
"I think the Berkshires after a pretty long period of having some larger company shutdowns and a trend line that's not very favorable is at a position where they can look to both stabilize and expand," Hodge said.
The report took about nine months to complete. It is based on figures from 2011, the latest year that they were available, Hodge said.
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