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Jobs Commission Begins Regional Hearings

By Paul Tuthill

http://stream.publicbroadcasting.net/production/mp3/wamc/local-wamc-990032.mp3

Holyoke, MA – A special commission established by the Massachusetts Legislature to find out what the state can do to foster job creation has begun a listening tour. The first of the regional hearings was held earlier this week in western Massachusetts. . WAMC's Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill reports.

Members of the legislatures Jobs Creation Commission, meeting in Holyoke Thursday, were told the unemployed need more financial support as they seek new skills and training, and the state needs to put more resources into its employment services system.
Chantele Armata was let go from Callaway Golf in Chicopee Massachusetts when the company moved more of its golf ball manufacturing to Mexico. She completed a training program , but that and an 18 year solid employment history have not helped her land a new job..
Armata told the commission she could get the experience she needs to get a new job by working for a short time, without pay, for a not for profit agency
An official with the Massachusetts office of Labor and Workforce Development said the state is exploring the legalities of a program to allow people to collect unemployment during un-paid internships. Such a program has been run in the state of Georgia for a couple of years.
Another job seeker, Frank Liberti, said lay offs as a result of budget cuts at the state's one-stop career centers have hampered his nearly year long search for employment.
The average time it takes for someone who is unemployed in Massachusetts to find a new job is 35 weeks..the highest ever. Bill Ward, the head of the Regional Employment Board in Hampden County says employers are looking for a very defined set of skills..
And Ward says a lot of the labor force in older cities like Holyoke and Springfield, lack basic skills to get a job.
State Repesentative Joseph Wagner, who is the House co-chair of the Jobs Creation Commission said a growing skills gap is a worry for the future of the state's economy.
The commission,which includes legislators, officials from several executive branch agencies, economists and business representatives, has scheduled a series of hearings through April. David Gadaire, executive director of CareerPoint in Holyolke believes there are things the state can do to help jumpstart job creation.
Massachusetts Community Colleges were recently awarded 20 million dollars in federal funding as part of a national effort to design job training programs.