BCC earns $10K MassDevelopment grant promote study of advanced manufacturing

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PITTSFIELD - A new $10,000 MassDevelopment grant will support Berkshire Community College's initiative to promote the study and career fields of advanced manufacturing.

BCC was one of nine recipients of a matching grant through the latest round of funding for the "AMP it up!" initiative. The college has received funds all three rounds.

"With such a wealth of opportunities in the advanced manufacturing industry here in Massachusetts and an ever-increasing need for skilled workers to fill these high-paying jobs, young people need to know more about the possibilities of manufacturing careers," said President and CEO of MassDevelopment Marty Jones.

BCC Vice President for Community Education and Workforce Development Bill Mulholland said the college has been doing its part to take initiative.

"The biggest challenge — and it's going to be a fun one — is to get the message out that advanced manufacturing is so different than what we know of the past," said Mulholland.

"These are not the dirty, gritty, greasy types of jobs that you could get periodically laid off from, like [students'] parents and grandparents may have experienced years ago," he said. "We're not just telling that story, but showing students that things have changed."

Mulholland said that the modern advanced manufacturing industry now relies less on hard labor, and more on skills like extensive computer programming and information systems knowledge, designing, even accounting and marketing savvy.

Under the previous two grant rounds, BCC has focused its outreach to the the vocational programs at Taconic High School in Pittsfield and McCann Technical School in North Adams. The college has provided informational programs for guidance counselors and has brought students and teachers on local site visits.

This year, the outreach efforts will expand to middle school students, and not only include site visits but also classroom visits and informational programs for adults.

Another big push will be exposing students, teachers, guidance counselors and parents to the developing opportunities students, once going through college and training, will have through the new Berkshire Innovation Center.

Whether students train here or transfer to a college elsewhere, Muholland said it's important for students to be aware of the opportunities for careers in the Berkshires and the state.

"We want to take savvy students and point them in the direction where there's need," Mulholland said.

He noted that the two local vocational high schools are doing well in terms of preparing students for advanced manufacturing careers. In a pilot program last spring, 40 students from Taconic and McCann were evaluated for college and career readiness through the Manufacturing Advancement Center Workforce Innovation Collaborative (MACWIC).

"The pass rate was exceptional," Mulholland say.

He said the "Amp it up!" initiative this year will also be integrated into the widely popular Berkshire Robotics Challenge. The competition, traditionally offered to elementary and middle school students, is expanding to the high school level.

"We want to show students that the same excitement and challenges they experience at the competition happens in advanced manufacturing, and you can get paid for it," Mulholland said.


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