A new skills training center is being built in western Massachusetts to help put low income residents of Springfield to work and to help preserve an attraction that annually draws tens of thousands of people from throughout the region.
The $3 million job training facility that is being constructed in Springfield’s Forest Park is an unusual partnership that includes the city’s parks department, local trade unions, the regional employment board, and a private nonprofit that puts on the huge Bright Nights holiday light festival.
At a ceremonial groundbreaking Monday, Massachusetts Congressman Richard Neal announced the project had received a $1.3 million grant from the Economic Development Administration. He said this new facility can help fulfill a regional demand for thousands of skilled workers.
" Skills set, job training, and globalization can best be confronted by acquainting young people with the opportunities that are going to come in the modern economy," said Neal.
The center will offer training in carpentry, electrical, welding and painting.
Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno said the city has committed $1.7 million to the project.
As program participants receive instruction in the building trades, the city’s parks system will be used as an outdoor classroom for repairs to buildings, according to Springfield parks director Patrick Sullivan.
" We have 80 structures throughout the parks," said Sullivan. "We are very excited to work with these trades and allow them to use our buildings for training, and then we have the result of the work getting done."
Part of the hands-on training will include work on the equipment used in the annual Bright Nights holiday lighting display in Forest Park. Judy Matt, president of Spirit of Springfield, the nonprofit that produces Bright Nights, said the famous displays will be stored in the new building that will replace a rundown former horse barn.
"It will help ensure the future of Bright Nights, because these displays are now 21 years old," said Matt.
The plan is to enroll in the program in its first year 33 unemployed or underemployed young adults from the city of Springfield, according to David Cruise, director of the Regional Employment Board of Hampden County. He said they will be prepared for full- time employment in the fields of manufacturing, construction, and building maintenance.
Some of the training will occur at Springfield’s Putnam Vocational Technical High School.