The Patrick administration today announced more funding to help strengthen the advanced manufacturing industry in Massachusetts.
Massachusetts will distribute $1.5 million to be shared by five regional workforce development agencies across the state to help recruit and train 280 unemployed or underemployed people for careers in precision manufacturing. A vocational high school in western Massachusetts will get $400,000 to equip its machine shop with state of the art equipment.
Greg Bialecki, the state secretary of Housing and Economic Development said the workforce training funds are going to programs with a proven track record that the state had previously supported as pilot programs.
This round of grants will be good for 18 months. Bialecki said under this approach the cost to the state to train a single machinist works out to about $15,000.
"When you think about it that is just a fantastic investment because you are talking about changing some ones earnings profile for the rest of their lives."
Smith Vocational and Agricultural School in Northampton is getting a state grant to purchase all new machine shop equipment for students to train on. Bialecki said the program at Smith has good instructors and is well regarded by local manufacturers.
" They just literaly don't have the number and types of machines necessary to train young people for what they will see in the workplace, so this will help them do that."
The funding announcement was made Monday at the Advanced Manufacturing Collaborative’s Pioneer Valley Summit that was held at UMass Amherst.
The Franklin-Hampshire Regional Employment Board will receive nearly $276,000 to continue for two more years an entry- level precision machinists training program run in partnership with Greenfield Community College and two vocational-technical schools.
The agency’s executive director Patricia Crosby said 30 people, ranging in age from 22 to their late 50s, graduated from the program in its first year.
"They go to school 12-13 weeks, four to five nights a week, there is homework, and they come out very well trained to go to work for precision manufacturing companies."
State Senator Stan Rosenberg of Amherst, who is expected to become the next Senate president, said the Massachusetts economy is driven by innovation and the development of new technologies and approaches is creating more opportunities in manufacturing.
"Our colleges and universities are working more and more closely with the private sector to ensure the cirriculum is integrated into the work environment."
There are 7,000 manufacturing companies in Massachusetts with 250,000 employees, a number state officials say has held steady for the last five years.
The owners of local manufacturing companies have complained for years that a shortage of skilled workers is holding back growth in the sector.
Ed Leyden, president of Ben Franklin Design and Manufacturing in Agawam, fears the shortage will get worse as industries like aerospace are on the verge of a major retooling.
" There is a bit of a perfect storm coming and we have to be prepared."
The Advanced Manufacturing Collaborative projects Massachusetts will need 100,000 more workers in the next decade.