Greater Westfield Chamber of Commerce

Workforce training program wins STCC, HCC $50,000 grant named for ex-Gov. Deval Patrick

The TWO Program, it stands for Training and Workforce Options, run cooperatively by Holyoke Community College and Springfield Technical Community College, has received inaugural Deval Patrick Award for Community Colleges from the Boston Foundation.

The award comes with a $50,000 unrestricted grant from the Boston Foundation, said foundation president Paul Grogan.

Founded almost three years ago, Training and Workforce Options has partnered with 200 area employers including Dowd Insurance, Marcotte Ford, Shriners Hospital for Children and the cities of Springfield and Chicopee, said Robert LaPage, vice president of foundation and workforce training at Springfield Technical Community College.

The program offers training in a variety of areas, from the technical to customer service.

"It's a great day," Grogan said in an interview.

It is rare for the Boston Foundation to operate outside of the city. But for this program they looked at every community college in the state and were especial impressed with what TWO is doing.

"One reason is the fact that by the institutions own admission they had not been working together before this program," Grogan said  "They had been reactive instead of proactive when it came to workforce preparation. "We were impressed with the comments of employers they have worked with."

The award is part of the foundation's statewide effort to get more people trained for the current economy.

"We have a big problem here in Massachusetts, which Gov. Patrick talked about a great deal when he was in office," Grogan said. "Which is the problem of jobs going begging while people were desperate for work."

Holyoke Community College President William Messner said:

"This award validates the work we have been doing with our friends at STCC for the last three years. Through TWO we are not only educating and training future workers but we are helping employers better position themselves in their respective industries so they will grow and prosper, thus expanding the regional economy and adding even more jobs for our graduates."

Springfield Technical Community College President Ira H. Rubenzahl said TWO means that the two colleges cooperate and don't compete with each other. It also gives area businesspeople a wider variety of training programs and a single point of contact to access them.

For example, Holyoke Community College has a culinary arts program, Springfield Technical Community College does not. Springfield has manufacturing technology, Holyoke doesn't.

"This award means the recognition that we are leaders in the state for connecting individuals with jobs and helping companies fulfill their employment requirements."

The colleges will use TWO to facilitate training for potential casino workers, Rubenzahl said. The colleges have already designed courses of study and are working now on ways to fund the training.

It will likely be through some combination of money from the state Gaming Commission and from casino operators across Massachusetts themselves.

"We don't want people who are looking for jobs to pay to be trained," Rubenzahl said. "Not everyone who gets trained will get a job. Most will. But  there is no guarantee."

Rubenzahl said the colleges will split the award and Springfield Technical Community College will use its money to support ongoing operations.

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