BIC program aims to groom students for local high-tech jobs

This fall, the Berkshire Innovation Center is launching a six-week initiative for high school juniors and seniors and recent high school graduates who are interested in pursuing careers in either technology or advanced manufacturing.

A year after moving into its Berkshire Innovation Center space, Electro Magnetic Applications has spruced up the place with a state-of-the-art aerospace testing chamber, which the firm will use to test spacecraft equipment in a simulated extraterrestrial environment.

While the chamber won't be operational until March, its installation is one small step for EMA that will hopefully prove to be one giant leap for the BIC. Located in the William Stanley Business Park, the 20,000-square-foot BIC stands in a portion of General Electric Co.'s former footprint — a fitting home base for an endeavor to economically revitalize a post-industrial region via proactive efforts toward high-tech development.

After years of determination and hard work on behalf of local and state leaders, the BIC opened earlier this year, and no one could have known that 2020 would turn out to be such a perilous year for forward thinking. Despite the economic anxiety stemming from the coronavirus crisis fallout, the crucial step for EMA's takeoff in Pittsfield should be celebrated as an affirmation of the innovation center's mission and viability.

When EMA became the innovation center's first confirmed tenant, it was a victory for the city's economic development push but also a renewal of a larger challenge to revitalize the greater Berkshires by attracting the tech sector. EMA's new space chamber is a bright beacon on the road to meeting that challenge, its impressive sheen hopefully reflecting an innovative future for the Berkshire economy. And while the chamber won't be operational until next year, EMA has already netted a project that will put their new Pittsfield facility to work, as the firm has been tapped by Aerion to support the design of the new AS2 supersonic jet.

The hope is that EMA's success in the BIC would put the Berkshires on the map as an incubator for high-tech innovation, luring to the area more high-quality jobs like the ones at EMA and General Dynamics. The pandemic's crushing toll on the local hospitality and tourism industries highlights the benefits of a more diversified regional economy. Beckoned tech firms could bring employment opportunities that prove more robust against the kind of destabilization we're seeing now.

As the U.S grapples with the worst economic disaster since the Great Depression, Berkshire County's need for sustainable economic revitalization has been thrown into stark relief. With all eyes on recovery prospects, it's heartening to see that the Berkshire Innovation Center's mission appears durable. Hopefully other cutting-edge firms follow the lead to bet on the Berkshires.