Our Opinion: Explore a BCC-BerkshireWorks link


When job vacancies emerge, whether in the public or private sector, an opportunity is presented to explore approaches that may be an improvement on the former methodology. The BerkshireWorks career center is now without an executive director, and before one is appointed, there is an opportunity to consider new and better ways of running a center that is so important to local workers. A possibility would be operating BerkshireWorks out of Berkshire Community College.

This is an idea that state Representative William "Smitty" Pignatelli, a Lenox Democrat, would like to see explored. BerkshireWorks is charged with workforce development and retraining and, said the legislator in a telephone interview, "Nobody is doing that better than BCC."

Indeed, a comparison between the services provided by BerkshireWorks and by BCC's Economic Development Department finds considerable overlap in terms of the services provided to prospective employees and employers. Middlesex Community College in Bedford, Massachusetts, is already engaged in this kind of partnership so a similar effort locally would not constitute "reinventing the wheel," in the words of Mr. Pignatelli.

BerkshireWorks is a quasi-public agency under the auspices of the state Labor and Workforce Development that is managed by Berkshire Training and Employment, with the mayor of Pittsfield, Daniel Bianchi, the appointing authority of the executive director's position. It is a complex relationship, but it is clear that BerkshireWorks is not specifically a city organization -- hence its name. Berkshire Community College, which is located in Pittsfield with a branch in Great Barrington, is a Berkshire school with the same wide reach as BerkshireWorks.

This concept is in keeping with Mr. Pignatelli's long-term goal of persuading Berkshire communities and institutions to abandon their "fiefdoms" and think along regional lines. Mr. Pignatelli has shared his plan with William Mulholland, the director of economic development at BCC, and Heather Boulger, the executive director of the Berkshire County Regional Employment Board, which monitors BerkshireWorks, and found receptiveness to the idea. An opportunity is present to rethink how BerkshireWorks can be best run for Berkshire residents, an opportunity that will disappear once a new executive director is appointed. That shouldn't happen until a BerkshireWorks, Berkshire Community College is considered.


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