|MassHire Helps Expand Career Readiness, Plans In-Person Annual Meeting|
|By Brittany Polito, iBerkshires Staff|
01:44PM / Saturday, March 18, 2023
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The MassHire Berkshire Workforce Board has assisted more than 1,000 students with career-connecting activities across multiple sectors during the past year.
"So far, we've had 14 career awareness activities take place serving about 902 students and we've had five career exploration activities take place serving around 482 students," Youth Director Heather Shogry-Williams reported at the quarterly meeting last week.
"We have a lot of great career awareness and exploration activities set to take place within the next couple of months so those numbers will definitely increase."
This included work readiness workshops and career fairs, speaker events, and exploration courses.
The organization's School to Career database shows that 270 young adults have been placed in internships and structured work experiences this year, 77 percent of the goal.
These were in a range of critical sectors including building trades, hospitality, health care, education and childcare, human services, and manufacturing.
A majority of the placements — 120 — were in education and childcare.
MassHire received a generous amount of funding through the BERK12 initiative from the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to support rural school districts. This has allowed it to invest in rural districts, providing stipends to teachers and staff that serve on college and career teams and reimbursing employers up to $2,000 in paid wages to 42 interns.
An additional $15,000 in supplemental funds were received from DESE for a virtual financial literacy course targeted at high school students. The course currently serves 15 high school students and one teacher.
Shogry-Williams pointed out that the county's innovation college and career pathways are expanding this year. oosac Valley High School, Mount Everett High School, Monument Mountain High School, Lenox High School, and Pittsfield High School received planning grants and an invitation to apply for part B of the designation.
Innovation pathways provide an industry overview and exploration for students focused on critical sectors.
The organization is working with Berkshire Health Systems to develop a practice assistant course for students in health care pathways at Lenox, Monument, and Hoosac Valley high schools. MassHire's college and career teams have assisted other schools in expanding career readiness systems and activities.
"Our college and career teams are just rocking it this year," Shogry-Williams said.
"They are doing amazing work, expanding upon their school districts' college and career planning systems. I am very happy to say that we have a college and career team in every single district. That's been my dream for a very long time and it's happening."
The board's annual meeting will return in person on June 8, Executive Director Heather Bougler reported.
"Finally in person, we will not have the option for hybrid," she said. "It will be an in-person meeting at the Hotel on North in June so we're really excited. We will have our annual awards and the guest speakers."
Berkshire Black Economic County President and Executive Director A.J Enchill gave an overview of the council's services and recent activities.
The Berkshire Black Economic Council was first formed in 2019 and was incorporated in 2021. Recently, it received a 501(c)(3) nonprofit designation from the Internal Revenue Service.
The council provides technical assistance to Black entrepreneurs and Black-owned businesses in Berkshire County with about 98 on its directory at the moment.
Enchill is serving as co-chair of Gov. Maura Healey's "jobs and a flourishing economy for all" policy committee, which is tasked with building a dynamic economy that reduces costs for people and businesses while lifting up workers.
Alongside Downtown Pittsfield Inc and MassDevelopment, the BBEC will be offering grants to small businesses that are new to the downtown Pittsfield area.
"Due to COVID, we've lost a lot of businesses in our downtown," Enchill explained.
"So in order to reactivate our downtown, we're now offering these grants to fit out the interior space of these vacant storefronts to make them turnkey so then, that new business owner can get the setup that they would need to thrive."
There is also flexible capital that can be used to leverage negotiations with a landlord.
"The other key criteria inquiry that we have is how will your business complement the existing businesses on North Street?" Enchill said, adding that they want to fill vacancies and support entrepreneurs but also connect them to resources.