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Slew of new job training programs are scheduled to start in Southbridge

Roger Carey, a 48-year-old Dudley resident who was laid off, yesterday practices his Microsoft Word skills. Recently announced stimulus funding will pay for programs that will help people like Carey find a new job. Ryan Grannan-Doll. (click for larger version)
February 28, 2007
A slew of new job training programs are scheduled to start in Southbridge, thanks to a large influx of federal stimulus money.

Secretary of the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development Suzanne M. Bump yesterday announced $4.3 million to fund adult job training, summer work for teens and support for the unemployed.

The money will be used to start job programs including at the Workforce Development Career Center on Optical Drive in Southbridge. A general equivalency diploma (GED) program will be available, along with a summer jobs program that will target youths, according to Southbridge Workforce Career Center Operations Manager Kathy Joy. Because the stimulus money project is moving so quickly, Joy said, the details of the program are still sketchy and no start dates for the program have been decided yet.

Although the money will filter through the Southbridge office, residents from surrounding Central Massachusetts communities are welcome to use the services, according to a press release from Bump's office. The programs will also be available to the Workforce Career Center in Worcester.

The money is supposed to help people like 48-year-old Dudley resident Roger Carey, who was brushing up on his Microsoft Word skills yesterday at the Southbridge Workforce office. The divorced father of three was laid off from his metal fabrication job in February and remains unemployed. The stimulus money will be used for job training programs — such as the one he is applying to take this summer to become an HVAC technician.

"If I get into this, I would feel pretty good about it," Carey said. "I want to get back to work as soon as possible."

To improve his chances, Carey said he has been taking several Microsoft Word training sessions at the Southbridge office to accomplish his goal and just become a better candidate for any job. Despite what he called a "positive outlook" on his prospects for obtaining a job, Carey fears starting a new career in HVAC will amount to pay cut from his prior job. But with a new education, his prospects improve, he said.

"You are always going to be able to move up," he said. "That gives you a positive outlook."

If all goes well for Carey, his financial life will become easier, as the stimulus money is intended to do throughout the country. His 20-year-old daughter is in college and his 17-year-old son is in technical school.

"It has been hard," he said.

The money for Southbridge should serve as a springboard for many uneducated Southbridge residents, according to Joy. Southbridge has one of the highest high school dropout rates in the state, she said.

"I think there is a high need in Southbridge area [for the GED program]," she said. "We need to address that. We need to make them understand there is still hope for them."

A GED is further necessary to land an entry-level job, according to the Director of the Workforce Central Career Centers Donald H. Anderson.

Bump, in her announcement, urged unemployed people to remain optimistic despite many jobs sectors shedding employees lately.

"There are employers that are hiring right now," she said, including many companies in the health care field.

The money comes at a much needed time when employers across the state are rapidly shedding jobs, which has boosted unemployment rates. Southbridge's unemployment rate for March is 10.8 percent, a decrease from February's 11.2 percent rate, according to the federal Bureau of Labor And Statistics (BLS). Charlton went from an 8.5 percent rate in January to a 9.0 percent figure in February and March. Statewide, the figures are not pretty, from February to March, 20,000 jobs were lost. From March 2008 to March 2009, 105,700 jobs were eliminated.

Carey, however, is not letting his unfortunate lot in life bring him down. As he looks ahead to the future, he sees only brighter days.

"It is definitely 100 percent better," he said.

For more information about using the Workforce Career Center in Southbridge, call (508) 765-6430 or visit the office at 5 Opal Drive. Office hours are Monday-Thursday 8:45 a.m. to 5 p.m. and from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Fridays.

Ryan Grannan-Doll can be reached by phone at (508)-909-4050, or by e-mail at rgrand@stonebridgepress.com

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