Senator Eric P. Lesser (D-Longmeadow) announced that the House and Senate have included $1.535 million for a precision manufacturing training program in the 2016 state budget, signed by Governor Baker. The significant increase originated from an amendment to the Senate budget filed by Senator Lesser.
“Western Massachusetts has been left out of the red-hot economy in the eastern part of the state,” Lesser said. “But there is a path to reinvest in the middle class—and that’s to marry up our traditional history as a manufacturing center with the intellectual firepower of our schools and training centers. This funding supports a successful pilot program focused on training individuals in the high growth precision manufacturing sector.”
Over the next 10 years, more than 44,000 jobs in the manufacturing sector will go unfilled in Massachusetts, due to a lack of qualified workers, despite the fact that the average salary in this industry can approach $75,000.
The budget increases line item funding to $1.535 million, a total increase of $675,000 from last year. Senator Lesser filed an amendment in the most recent Senate budget to increase the initial funding amount by $500,000, which was successful.
In the Pioneer Valley, the precision manufacturing pilot program has resulted in an exciting partnership between the Regional Employment Board of Hampden County, Inc. and the Western Massachusetts Chapter of the National Tooling and Machining Association. Together these organizations are working with local community colleges, vocational schools and advanced manufacturing companies to train unemployed and under-employed individuals, career changers and youth across the region. Last year this program received 146 applications and was only able to accept 37 participants into the program, which is underway now, but needs funding to continue.
In May of this year Senator Lesser gave his maiden speech to the Senate on his amendment, calling the Pioneer Valley “a manufacturing hub for 10 generations,” but said our region must work to keep pace with rapid shifts in advanced manufacturing practices and international markets.
Lesser, who is Senate Chair of the Joint Legislative Manufacturing Caucus, recently hosted a delegation of Senate members at EASTEC, a convention of over 500 manufacturing companies in the Northeast, at the Big E grounds in West Springfield. He also recently published an op-ed on the widening manufacturing skills gap in Massachusetts, especially in the Pioneer Valley.