Berkshire Business Outlook 2020

Page 1

Berkshire Business Outlook Sunday, March 22, 2020 |


into a career with a premier Human Service Agency!

Apply online at:

Openings throughout Berkshire County; FT/PT/Relief

The Berkshire Eagle |

Excellent benefits, PTO, Holiday time off, opportunity to grow, training, and tuition reimbursement. Make a difference in someone’s life today. AA/EOE


Berkshire County’s Workforce Resource Recruitment, Retention, and Career Readiness



Into the great wide open

Working to better ourselves

The sale of recreational marijuana in the Berkshires has resulted in new job opportunities

Berkshire residents are learning new job skills so employers can recruit and retain them to build a viable 21st century workforce.

Culinary the correct way


Program providing feeder system for area restaurants


Unusual jobs While some Berkshire residents are learning new job skills, others are using what they already know in some unusual professions.

11 When older no longer means ancient A willingness to keep working in an area with a large elderly population is turning older workers into a hot commodity

12 Interning means learning Internships, apprenticeships provide entry to jobs

14 The journey to something better Stymied in retail, Berkshire resident finds career in manufacturing

15 Moving up the employment ladder Training programs available for professional certifications

PITTSFIELD — Having the right job skills are essential to landing a job in any profession, but it's even more important for those seeking employment in the 21st century economy. Due to the rapid increases in technology, jobs skills seemingly change overnight, and employees have to be prepared in order to land or retain jobs in their chosen fields. That's why getting ahead in the Berkshires may be more important now than ever. In this year's Berkshire Business Outlook, The Eagle examines workforce development and job skill training from several different angles.We examine how workers can advance their careers here and why a summer internship can pay off in a full-time job. We profile a high school culinary program that provides qualified candidates with the requisite professional skills to work in Berkshire restaurants. We also look at the Berkshire's fast growing cannabis industry through the eyes of two employees; and examine why older workers are still considered to be a valuable commodity in an area with a significantly elderly population. Finally, we've provided profiles on people who do some the county's more unusual jobs; a tree climbing arborist; a tinkerer who buys and fixes all types of clocks; and the

driver of an ice resurfacing machine at one of the Berkshire's four skating rinks that is located in an unusual location. So how do Berkshires residents get involved in these professions and work on "getting ahead"? One route is through job training programs. Sensing the need for these kind of training programs, state officials three years ago formed the Massachusetts Workforce Skills Cabinet, which has branches in seven areas of the state, including Berkshire County. The Berkshire Workforce Skills Cabinet, overseen by the MassHire Berkshire Workforce Board, formerly the Berkshire County Regional Employment Board, has spent the past three years developing programs and strategies in three local priority employment sectors, health care and social assistance; hospitality and management; and advanced manufacturing. With help from a recent $218,000 state grant, the Berkshire Workforce Skills Cabinet announced in November that it planned to set up a training program to address the county's chronic shortage of certified nursing assistants, or CNAs. The program, which is free of charge to qualified applicants, seeks to train 70 new CNAs in Berkshire County over the next two years. CNA is an entry level position in the nursing field. "It starts a career ladder going on nursing," said Shannon Zayac,

the industry relations manager for the MassHire Berkshire Workforce Board. Heather Boulger, the workforce board's executive director, said the board develops its training programs based on feedback from its partner employers. "Our role as a broader organization is to hear from our partners what their workforce needs are," she said. "Then with our education training partners to try and develop the curriculum to get unemployed and under employed residents the skills they need to get jobs in those industries." Finding qualified local employees to fill current job vacancies is both a national and local issue with unemployment rates so low. "The labor shortage remains one of the big obstacles to a more robust small business economy," said Bill Dunkelberg, the chief economist for the National Federation of Independent Businesses, in a recent report from that organization's small business research center. According to the NFIB, 25 percent of the respondents in a recent survey listed finding qualified workers as their number one problem.

Filling the gaps In Massachusetts, where the unemployment rate has been below 3 percent since June, the employment section of the Associated Industries of Massachusetts Business

We are hiring. Join our team.

Supporting people. Enriching lives. Apply online at Paid trainings, advancement, health insurance, paid time off.

Site Managers for Dev. Disabilities Asst. Site Managers for Dev. Disabilities Residential Staff for Dev. Disabilities Residential Staff for Brain Injuries

Employment Specialist Employment Trainer On-Call Direct Care Staff--Day, Night, Wkds Habilitation Specialists

RN for Day Program Manager of Evaluation & Placement Speech Language Pathologist Community Care Providers

The Berkshire Eagle |

Berkshire Business Outlook is a special publication of The Berkshire Eagle

The Berkshire Eagle

Berkshire Business Outlook | Sunday, March 22, 2020

Table of Contents

All qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment without regard to race, age, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, citizenship, disability or protected veteran status.


Berkshire Business Outlook


The Berkshire Eagle |

Sunday, March 22, 2020 |

MassHire Berkshire Workforce Board Executive Director Heather Boulger, left, discusses workforce training programs with industry relations manager Shannon Zayac.


Simplify your banking needs by keeping all your eggs in one convenient basket.

Call and speak with our diverse team of Personal & Commercial Bankers, 413.743.0001.

Career Retirement


Business Home Buying ACB NMLS #719147

Confidence Index has increased 2.9 points over the last 12 months. But it continues to trail AIM's overall business confidence assessment due to a persistent shortage of workers that employers believe may become greater as baby boomers begin to retire. In Berkshire County, the unemployment rate is 3.1 percent as of press time, but 1,437 job vacancies, ranging from entry-level to high level professional positions, were listed on the state's jobquest website, as of March 9. Of those vacancies, 52 percent were listed as either entry-level or part-time jobs. To fill those gaps locally, the MassHire Berkshire Workforce Board has met with some 180 local companies the past two years to learn about their recruitment and retention efforts, Boulger said, "About 50 percent of the companies we speak with say there aren't enough physical bodies for the skills they're looking for," she said. The board's training programs in advanced manufacturing job skills have a 68 percent job placement rate, according to Boulger. The CNA training program is just getting underway, but the board's most recent

statistics on its health care training programs show a 70 percent job placement rate. "Employers wouldn't be coming back to the table if they weren't getting results," Boulger said. Interprint Inc. of Pittsfield, which prices precision printing on paper and firm for the decorative services industry, produces precision printing on paper and film for products that are designed to be used in the decorative services industry, also has its own in-house employee training programs. But Melissa O'Brien, Interprint's senior human resources generalist, said the firm works "quite a bit" with the Berkshire Workforce Board and is "happy to have them as our business partner. "We actually approached the Berkshire Workforce Board with trying to figure out how to build awareness that there are good paying jobs in the printing industry," O'Brien said. The $13.8 million Berkshire Innovation Center, which held its grand opening ceremony Feb. 28, is expected to enhance local job training efforts. The two-story, 23,000 square foot structure in the William Stanley Business Park of the Berkshires, has facilities and programs geared towards learning more advanced job skills. "They're pretty much the second tier of our training programs," Boulger said. "Our training programs are more entry level. Their program is looking to have more technology, kind of that lever two tier of manufacturing to help our health care companies and out manufacturers continue to get the workforce that they need." Ben Sosne, the BIC's executive director, said the innovation center's job training initiatives are intended to complement the programs that are currently in existence. "The idea is to try and work with these groups and try and connect," Sosne said. "There's still some disconnect, I think." Tony Dobrowolski can be reached at or 413-496-6224.

The sale of recreational marijuana in the Berkshires has resulted in new job opportunities BY HEATHER BELLOW The Berkshire Eagle

Green light go Massachusetts, along with neighboring Vermont and Maine, are the


Clerks man the counters at Canna Provisions in Lee on the day the town's first recreational marijuana shop opened last year. The cannabis industry is creating a new job sector in the Berkshires. only states in the northeast that have legalized the sale of recreational marijuana. Michigan is the next closest state where the sale of recreational marijuana is legally allowed. The Bay State’s decision in 2018 to give the green light to recreational pot sales is what lit this beacon of opportunity. People like Curley found they could use their skills while developing new ones that include adherence to tight state regulations. Others knew nothing about cannabis. They looked for a job and found a really good one. “It’s nothing that I ever thought that I would end up doing,” said Audrey Procopio, a 29-year-old Pittsfield native who serves as Canna's marketing manager. She had previously worked at Qualprint and Interprint in Pittsfield after graduating from college.

She says she has a lot of creative freedom at Canna, which is about to open new stores in Holyoke and Easthampton. The jobs come in all shapes and sizes, and begin long before a store starts operations, says Michael Cohen, president and co-founder of The Pass, which is based in Sheffield. The Pass received its state license on March 5 to grow, manufacture and sell cannabis both retail and wholesale. But the company, which will likely open this summer, had to start filling positions for the planning phase long before. Now it will begin hiring to prepare for opening. The Pass also needed hiring help — it works with THC Staffing Group, a specialty hiring firm based in Oakland, Calif. Agriculture is at the heart of it all. The company's director of cultivation, for instance, previously worked

Heather Bellow can be reached at or on Twitter @BE_hbellow and 413-329-6871.

The Berkshire Eagle |

LEE — Twenty years ago, Pittsfield native Sean Curley headed to the Boston area for college. Now he’s back in the Berkshires, where “it’s a little quieter,” drawn west by a legal marijuana boom that some say feels like the first new cash crop in the U.S. since tobacco and cotton. In October, Lee-based Canna Provisions hired Curley, 39, to be its director of marketing. Previously, he worked in Boston for a cannabis lifestyle magazine. He also co-founded Eat Sacrilicious, a small company that throws cannabis dinner parties. “I thought, ‘Wow, I can actually get a job outside the Boston area that actually pays enough for a similar lifestyle,” said the Pittsfield High and Bentley University graduate. The budding cannabis industry could be a way to reclaim some young people who have left the Berkshires for jobs elsewhere. Curley is just one of hundreds in the county filling a range of jobs in this somewhat uncharted legal pot market. In Massachusetts, the industry employed 13,255 in 2019, according to Leafly, the cannabis information clearinghouse. Nationwide, the industry employed 243,700. Industry leaders say there's a place for everyone, from the entrylevel budtender, to the security guard, to the scientist or COO with successful startups in the rear view mirror. Like his bosses and colleagues, Curley is cutting a path forward in a world that is still trying to understand itself. The excitement of this shared learning curve from the top to the bottom of the corporate ladder, is one reason that local entrepreneurs say they are swimming in resumes from job applicants “It’s not like a real estate office,” said Canna CEO and co-founder Erik Williams. “No one has a breadth of experience in this industry.”

for a company associated with DuPont, and for an operation the grew medical marijuana in Maine. Now, he’ll also be hiring growers. “What’s so exciting from an employment standpoint, is that we’ll have people who will just be folding packaging, to senior level, mid-level and manufacturing,” said Cohen, a Columbia University Business School graduate who moved from New York to the Berkshires a decade ago, after founding a digital marketing firm in the mid-1990s. Jobs at The Pass range from $14 per hour, to salaries of $100,000, Cohen said. The Pass is also hiring Berkshire natives. One is from Dalton, and she will graduate this spring with a degree in marketing, Cohen said. “If I could bottle the look on her face and her response when she was offered the job,” he said. More established companies, like Theory Wellness, have hired through internal referrals. Online postings can make for a rush, says CEO and co-founder Brandon Pollock. “There [can be] hundreds of applicants for a single position,” he said, noting that Theory’s employee numbers at its Great Barrington dispensary and store have jumped to more than 50 after hiring 20 upon opening in January 2019. Leaders like Pollock all say that enthusiasm for the industry is key. So do outdoor cannabis farmers like Ted Dobson, who subcontracts for Theory at his 90,000-square-foot Sheffield farm. Dobson and Theory have four full-time staff at the farm, and expect that will grow to eight to 10 during several harvest seasons per year. Dobson says romanticizing cultivation isn’t enough: you have to love to work with your hands and be around plants. But a little romance never hurts. “America was founded on cash crops,” he said. “How often does an opportunity come along like this where a new cash crop hits the scene and creates new jobs?”

Berkshire Business Outlook | Sunday, March 22, 2020

Into the great wide open


Berkshire Business Outlook Sunday, March 22, 2020 |

Culinary the correct way Program P rogram p providing roviding ffeeder eeder ssystem ystem ffor or aarea rea rrestaurants estaurants SCOTT STAFFORD — THE BERKSHIRE EAGLE

Culinary instructors Patrick Cariddi, second from left, and Melissa King, third from left, supervise the kitchen during lunch service at McCann Technical School in North Adams. BY SCOTT STAFFORD

The Berkshire Eagle |

The Berkshire Eagle


NORTH ADAMS —When Zach Brassard needed to find a prep cook who could handle the pressure working at Williamstown's Berkshire Palate Restaurant, he called the culinary arts program at McCann Technical School. McCann connected Brassard with 18-year-old culinary arts student Jared Blondin. He started as a prep cook, quickly took his place as a line cook and soon became a valued member of the eatery's kitchen crew. By virtue of obtaining that position, Blondin was placed in McCann's co-op program, which means he can earn school credit for the culinary arts course while he works. “We needed to find a line cook who knew what they were doing,” said Brassard, Berkshire Palate's

head chef. “Right from the start he was one of our better line cooks." McCann has plenty of students like Blondin who are learning the ins and out of commercial cooking and food services in the school's culinary arts program, said program co-chair and instructor Patrick Cariddi. It's the only culinary arts program in the Berkshires, and one of only 10 in the state, that is accredited by the American Culinary Federation, the largest professional chefs’ organization in North America. This bodes well for the local economy because spring is when county restaurants begin looking for dependable, skilled food service workers for the summer tourist season. Line cooks are especially in demand. “Ít’s a very challenging time to find restaurant help,” Cariddi said. “The phone rings off the hook, but there are only so many students to

go around.” Established in 1961, McCann's culinary arts programs currently has 36 students. The students who choose to spend all four years in culinary arts learn basic skills first. Freshmen are taught knife safety, sanitation requirements, food safety, equipment operations and fire safety. They can be certified in Serve Safe, the food service safety training required by the state. Program participants alternate culinary instruction with academic subjects every other week. Those that stay with the program move on to more advanced tasks, learning kitchen cleanliness techniques and prep cooking, along with baking, how to make soups and sauces and how to sautee food by using the program's char broiler. Third and fourth year students begin sharing the skills they've al-

ready learned and help mentor the younger students, Cariddi said. Students pick up real world experience by working with adult staff to prepare and serve lunch in the school cafeteria where 250 meals are prepared every day. On Tuesday and Thursday, students prepare between 30 and 50 meals per day by serving lunch off menus in The Tea Room, McCann's public cafe. Some students wait tables in The Tea Room while others work with instructors in the kitchen preparing meals like in a commercial restaurant. Culinary arts students also help cater food when McCann holds special events. The students experience the same frustrations and triumphs as their real world professional counterparts. The only way for students to learn how to function, even flourish, in these tasks is by working under

restaurants — Public Eat + Drink in North Adams and District in Pittsfield. He has also worked at Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival in Becket and Canyon Ranch in Lenox. “I have always loved cooking – it has always been my passion,” Garner said. “And ever since I was a



little kid I knew I wanted to go to school at CIA.” McCann's culinary arts program provided the foundation for his success, Garner said. “They do a really good job laying the groundwork to get you to the point where you can take the next

step,” Garner said. “On busy nights, it can be easy to get caught up in things and lose your cool. They do a good job teaching you how to not do that.” Scott Stafford can be reached at or 413-629-4517.


BHS offers individuals the opportunity to work in an environment where they will be challenged, supported, and respected. As the region’s leading provider of comprehensive healthcare services, our employees are affiliated with an award winning teaching hospital, dedicated colleagues, and world class technology. The BHS family is proud to deliver the kind of advanced healthcare most commonly found in large metropolitan centers.

Full, part time, and non-scheduled opportunities are currently available at the Pittsfield, North Adams, and Fairview campuses in a variety of areas, including: Registered Nurses, IncludLicensed Practical Nurses Pharmacy Technicians Medical Technologists Nursing Assistant Dietitians Physical Therapists ing Labor and Delivery Community Health Nurses Certified Medical Assistants X-Ray Technicians and more! Berkshire Health Systems supports diversity in our workforce. Visit and click on Employment to apply today!

The Berkshire Eagle |



A student in McCann Technical School’s culinary arts program takes lunch orders from customers in The Tea Room, the school’s public cafe.

Berkshire Business Outlook | Sunday, March 22, 2020

intense pressure, sad program cochair/instructor Melissa King. “When they’re busy, they are working hands-on and afterwards, they feel like they’ve accomplished something,” she said. “It’s not easy, because the job changes three times a day, depending on how things are going. But when they’re done here, they can wind up in any kitchen job and be successful.” “I want to increase my skills, and I’ve learned a lot since freshman year,” said Bryson Rose, 17, a junior at McCann. “I use my skills at home to cook the family meals whenever I can. It’s definitely a possible career path for me.” Sophomore Sarinna Zaleski also loves the program. “I love cooking and baking,” said Zaleski, who is considering the restaurant business as a possible profession. “There’s nothing about it I don’t like — it comes easy to me.” C.J. Garner, who graduated from McCann's Culinary Arts program in 2011, graduated two years later from the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park., N.Y. , one of the country's top post-secondary culinary schools. Today, Garner manages two of Berkshire County's busier


Berkshire Business Outlook Sunday, March 22, 2020 |

Unusual jobs By Tony Dobrowolski The Berkshire Eagle

While some Berkshire residents are learning new job skills, others are taking what they already know and using them in some unusual professions. The following are profiles of three such workers: a tree climbing arborist; a tinkerer who fixes clocks; and a man who resurfaces the ice on a skating rink that is located three floors off the ground.

Comfortable with climbing

The Berkshire Eagle |

Arborist Chirs Carnevale climbs straight up the trees that he trims


STOCKBRIDGE — Wearing spurs and a harness, a small chainsaw strapped to his belt, Chris Carnevale uses rigging to inch his way up an old sugar maple tree in Stockbridge, lopping off dead branches as he climbs. The branches fall to the ground below him, which on this bright, cold winter morning is covered with snow. One large branch falls heavily onto nearby Quiet Knoll Road. It shatters loudly when it hits the pavement, scattering pieces of wood in all directions. Carnevale is an arborist, but one that performs his job in a unique way. Instead of trimming trees while sitting in a bucket attached to a truck, as many members of his profession do, Carnevale gets to the branches by shimmying straight up the tree trunk. "I've never been as comfortable in a bucket as I am climbing," Carnevale said shortly before beginning his day's task. Carnevale, who is 40, began trimming trees 14 years ago and has spent the last four years working on his own. He got involved in the business in his mid 20s after answering a classified ad placed by a tree company in Sheffield that has since gone out of business. "I just wanted to find something that I could do for work for a long


Arborist Chris Carnevale cuts off the branch of a sugar maple tree in Stockbridge. Some people in his line of work trim trees while standing in a bucket suspended by a truck, but Carnevale prefers climbing straight up the trunk to perform this task. time," said Carnevale, who up to that point had traveled and worked in youth hostels following high school. "It was either stone work or tree work ... I just wanted something that was somewhat frenetic to get all those endorphins going. I like the adrenaline." He trimmed trees from a bucket during his first job, which lasted two years. "It was super mechanized," Carnevale said. "They had a crane, buckets and what not ... It was good. I learned all the fundamentals." Carnevale then spent eight years working for Native American Arborists in Stockbridge, where he said company owner Ben Handy taught him how to climb. "It was all old school tree work," Carnevale said. "He's taught a lot of guys in this area ... it was climbing every day." Handy also showed him how to set up his rigging, the series of ropes that Carnevale uses to both hoist himself up the tree and sometimes lower down to cut branches. He sets the lines up from the ground.

Be prepared "You have to put a lot of thought into this stuff," Carnevale said. "I like the physics of it, the problem solving. If you're rigging out a piece or lowering certain pieces you have to know where to put the block, which is a pulley system that you put up in the tree. "And when you're lowering giant pieces you have to know what's going to work, where the rigging is going to be, where to set up stuff. And you're working with another guy on the ground who's doing the lowering." Carnevale said he's never fallen while doing this work — "I've never had anything happen to me," he said. But the harness that's wrapped around his waist and the metal spurs attached to his feet help him maintain his balance while up in the tree lopping off limbs. "You don't want to be off-center or anything when you're making a cut," he said. "A lot of that is posi-

tioning and balance. You've got to get that down. "When I first started I thought it wouldn't be too difficult because I was in pretty good shape. I thought it was just climbing the tree and cutting off branches. But once you get up there and have a saw with you it's a different thing. It took some time to get comfortable." The best way to learn how to do what Carnevale does is work with someone else who knows how to do it. "I wouldn't suggest looking at YouTube videos," he said. "You have to be around someone who knows what they're doing and can do it correctly ... You need to work with somebody I would say for four or five years." How long does Carnevale plan to continue shimmying up trees? "Man, I don't know," he said. "Hopefully, awhile. At some point your body is going to break down. But I still feel good, so I'm still doing it."

Aldo Battaini likes to fix things, and he’s found the perfect item to work on: clocks. PITTSFIELD — An old German-made clock sits on a shelf beside another one that comes from The Netherlands. A banjo-shaped clock hangs on a nearby wall. There’s a clock with a picture of clipper ships on the bottom, and one that plays music when the hour strikes. “Tons and tons of stuff,” said Aldo Battaini, as he turns to a visitor and smiles. “I’ve got the disease.” What Battaini likes to do is collect clocks, which he does by attending tag sales and auctions, then fixing them He became interested in the repair side of the business at age 12, which is when he began apprenticing with his uncle, a clock repairer named Rosario Forte. Uncle Rosario, an

auto mechanic by trade, fixed clocks out of his house on Dewey Avenue. “When I was a kid it looked interesting,” Battaini said. “I just like fixing things.” Rosario Forte, who was originally taught how to fix clocks by his brother, Attilio, eventually turned his side job into a business, opening West Side Clock Shop on North Street in 1980. Aldo and his wife, Nancy, took over the business in 2001. Nancy runs the sales side of the business. Aldo concentrates on buying and fixing clocks The business, which is located in two small storefronts, is jam packed with all types of time pieces. Aldo believes “a couple of hundred” of those clocks are for sale. “If you ask me how many I have out in the back and down in the basement, I can’t count that high,” Battaini said, referring to the clocks he’s currently fixing. “I keep buying.” “He’s always on the hunt, auctions, everywhere,” Nancy said.

“Before the internet he and his uncle traveled on the weekends. They were always buying parts here and there.” When fixing a clock, Battaini begins by assessing the condition of the movement, or motor, the device that makes a clock run. “You kind of diagnose it,” he said. “You look for worn parts, to see if the springs are OK, all the little stuff. I don’t follow a routine, I just do it.” After finding the problem, Battaini said he removes the motor from the clock, then cleans it by placing the movement in an ultrasonic cleaner. A solution that is placed in the cleaner removes the dirt. “You don’t want to work with a dirty movement,” Battaini said.

Different styles Fixing antique clocks can be challenging because the companies that manufactured them all used different movements, Battaini said. “Every single clock is different,”

he said. “It’s the overall layout of the gear. You couldn’t take the gear from one manufacturer and put it in another clock manufacturers because it couldn’t work. There was no standard as far as that was concerned. Nothing was interchangeable from one manufacturer to the next. Now it’s a black box. You pop it out, pop it back in and it’s done.” Knowing the history of the manufacturers who built these clocks helps to fix them. “Sometimes the history will give you repair tips as well,” Battaini said. “Sometimes it’s the way they cut the gears. Other manufacturers cut spokes in the wheels.” Clocks that have balance wheels or balance platforms in place of a pendulum, like a ship’s bell clock, are the ones that Battaini finds hardest to repair. Those clocks were mostly used on trains and ships, where motion can disrupt a pendulum’s timing. “You can’t have a pendulum on a boat,” Battaini said. “They needed the [correct] time to coordinate longitude and latitude.”

Berkshire Business Outlook | Sunday, March 22, 2020

“I’ve got the disease”

“You’ve got to be a detective. If every movement is different with antique clocks, you have to know how to figure it out.” — Aldo Battaini, owner, West Side Clock Shop

The Berkshire Eagle |


Aldo Battaini examines a lantern clock that he’s selected for cleaning at his business, the West Side Clock Shop in Pittsfield.

Battaini attributes his clock repair training to “my uncle’s school of hard knocks,’’ but said the best way to learn the craft is to work with someone else. “You have to apprentice,” he said. “You have to do it for years like [my uncle] did ... You’ve got to be a detective. If every movement is different with antique clocks, you have to know how to figure it out.” There’s also the National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors, a worldwide nonprofit organization based in Columbia, Pa., where “like-minded people go to talk about clocks” Battaini said. His uncle Rosario used to belong to the group, and Aldo is a former head of the organization’s Berkshire County chapter. “I don’t go to it any more because she can never get me,” he said, referring to his wife. “There’s an awful lot of clock nerds,” Nancy said.


Berkshire Business Outlook Sunday, March 22, 2020 | The Berkshire Eagle | 10

Cleaning the ice three floors up Dan Kearns resurfaces the ice on a skating rink that is situated in an unusual location. PITTSFIELD — Dan Kearns performs an unusual task in a venue located in an equally unusual place. Kearns is the rink manager at the Boys & Girls Club of the Berkshires. One of his jobs is driving a large tractor-like vehicle, known commonly as a Zamboni after the man who originally invented it, to resurface the ice sheet at the club’s skating rink. Performing this task at Berkshire County’s three other skating rinks in North Adams, Sheffield and Williamstown isn’t any different. But at those rinks, the ice surface is located at ground level. At the Boys & Girls Club, the rink is located on the third floor of a building that is located smack in the middle of downtown Pittsfield. The rink was built that high because the club added an extra floor when it decided to expand straight upwards following a significant fund drive in the early 1960s. Not only is it a quirky place to put a hockey rink, but the location also makes it difficult to maintain a sheet of ice. “We’re definitely in a different situation being on the third floor above the basketball courts,” said Kearns, who is completing his third year as rink manager. “We have the heat from the building rising up against our refrigeration unit which isn’t favorable for good ice, that’s for sure. We have to keep the ice a little thicker than normal rinks because of that situation.” So what’s it like driving the ice resurfacing machine up there? “It’s actually pretty easy,” Kearns said. “The hard part is learning the depth of the blade to put down, how deep you should cut it, and how much water to put down. That took a little bit of time.” The vehicle that Kearns operates resurfaces ice by removing the snow that is left on top by skaters. The blade, which is located under the back of the machine, cuts into the ice surface to remove the snow, which is then deposited in a catch basis by a horizontal auger located behind the seat in the rear of the vehicle. As it picks up the snow, the vehicle drops hot and cold water onto the cleaned sheet of ice. The cold water fills in

“We’re definitely in a different situation being on the third floor above the basketball courts. We have the heat from the building rising up against our refrigeration unit which isn’t favorable for good ice, that’s for sure. We have to keep the ice a little thicker than normal rinks because of that situation.”


Driving an ice resurfacer, more commonly known as a Zamboni, on a skating rink takes dexterity and patience when cleaning along the boards.

— Dan Kearns, rink manager, Boys & Girls Club of the Berkshires the ruts left by skate blades, and the hot water smooths them out. “It takes me about an hour every morning to get the ice back into good shape for the figure skaters,” Kearns said. “They’re usually the first on the ice except on the weekends when we start with hockey.”

A matter of logistics What makes driving the ice resurfacer at the club a little trickier than at other rinks is when the driver has to dump the snow that has been collected from the machine. At the Boys & Girls Club, the front end of the vehicle comes up like the back end of a dump truck and deposits the snow in a small chute located at the back of the rink. From there, the material cascades three stories down the back of the building before landing on the nearby CSX Railroad tracks. In order to perform this task, Kearns has to carefully maneuver the machine close enough to the chute so the snow falls in it correctly. When finished, Kearns then has to put his Zamboni in reverse, then back out on to the ice surface.”It’s not easy,” Kearns said. “You also have to back

the Zamboni off the ice where we keep it ... In most rinks you drive it right out and drive it right off so you don’t have to worry about dumping.” Just getting a Zamboni up to the third floor of the Boys & Girls Club presented its own set of challenges. The club purchased its current Zamboni from the Westminster School in Simsbury, Conn. four years ago, but had to use a crane to lift it high enough to get it in the rink. Problems occurred when the new Zamboni was too big to fit through the outside opening to the rink. So part of an outside wall had to be knocked down so the machine could finally be brought in. “That was crazy,” Kearns said. Frank J. Zamboni invented the modern ice resurfacer in 1949 while looking for a more efficient way to clean the ice at the skating rink that he had built with his brother in Paramount, Calif. Before the Zamboni was invented, ice was cleaned by a tractor pulling a scraper, and the process took more than an hour to complete. One trip around the ice at the Boys & Girls Club now takes about 15 minutes, Kearns said. Zamboni, who tested three proto-

types before finding one that worked, originally experimented with a tractor, and the modern ice resurfacer retains many aspects of that traditional farm machine. According to Kearns, the Boys & Girls Club’s vehicle is built on a chassis made for a Chevrolet Tahoe. It moves on studded snow tires and is powered by two large propane gas tanks that are situated near the driver’s seat. “It’s just like driving a big tractor,” Kearns said. Driving it slow across the ice produces the best results. “I keep it at 18 to 20 rpms, which is probably 7 to 10 mph,” Kearns said. “It’s a better cut. You get going too fast and it kind of skips off the ice. When you drive it too fast the ice is choppy.” Has anyone ever driven the vehicle through the wooden boards that surround the rink? Kearns won’t say. He tells a visitor to speak with a former rink manager who held the job when he was 18. “We’ll leave it at that,” he said. Tony Dobrowolski can be reached at or 413-496-6224.

A willingness to keep working in an area with a large elderly population is turning older workers into a hot commodity BY CLARENCE FANTO Eagle correspondent


Older job seekers recently flocked to the Berkshire Athenaeum in Pittsfield to attend a job fair held specifically for workers that are age 50 and over. The MassHire Berkshire Career Center began holding these age specific events in 2018. Many older residents also need to continue working to satisfy ongoing financial commitments like house payments or assisting their children with college tuition and fees, said Mitts, who is also a member of the Lenox Select Board and the town’s Affordable Housing Trust and Committee. The Berkshire Workforce Board is the supervisory agency and policymaking group for federally and state funded employment and training services for the county's 32 municipalities. While the county's unemployment rate has remained statistically low — it's 3.1 percent as of press time — Mitts stressed "there are also many people who are underemployed, working multiple jobs to make ends meet. Many older workers whose jobs are eliminated due to corporate restructuring need to find employment to stay in their homes, support families, and maintain a measure of health benefits and retirement benefits.” Some companies still see mature workers as "overqualified," she said. But old workers still need employment. They also manage their expectations, frequently taking salaried positions carrying financial compensation that's 10 percent to 35 percent less than they had previ-

ously been paid. Some employers hesitate providing job offers to mature workers who may expect to earn more than their less costly younger counterparts, Mitts said. But as Mitts emphasized, “Older workers have the benefit of years of experience; many are open to learning new skills on new platforms, they are eager to be given a chance for new challenges. "It’s important that the lines of communication are open and that professional development is available for workers at every level of a firm," Mitts said. "That’s what builds and expands productivity.” The career center in conjunction with other local organizations that serve the elderly began holding job fairs in the Berkshires specifically for workers age 50 and over in 2018. At the most recent event, 139 mature workers were connected with 37 businesses that were seeking a multigenerational workforce, Herzig said. Data on how many of those participants landed jobs as a result of that event was unavailable. Services for mature workers at the career center include weekly job club support group meetings along with networking opportunities. The center also offers free seminars on basic computer skills and online

strategies. Retraining programs are offered to help older workers develop new skill sets. “As businesses move to online applications these skills are becoming more and more important,” Herzig said. Mature workers are also known for their reliability, having a strong work ethic and being committed to arriving at work daily and on time, Mitts said. “Many employers are happy to hire seasoned workers,” she said. “Many of them have developed solid social skills, listening well to team members and problem solving together, seeing challenges from multiple perspectives and offering a range of solutions, as well as sensitivity to customer service needs of clients.” Key job sectors for mature workers in Berkshire County include health care, advanced manufacturing and hospitality. Health care is the county's largest job sector. “There’s a lot of opportunity in hospitality,” Mitts said. "These places like the fact that they can get seasoned workers who know the area.” For more information, visit

The Berkshire Eagle |

In an economy where employment is considered to be almost full, it's not unusual to see "help wanted" or "we're hiring" signs sprout up in the community. Mature workers, those ages 50 and over, have become the beneficiaries of this trend. At the MassHire Berkshire Career Center in Pittsfield, 45 percent of the job seekers during the eight months that ended in February were age 46 or older, according to recent data from the county's go-to resource that connects employers to workers. MassHire, a partnership between the nonprofit Berkshire Training & Employment, Inc., and the Massachusetts Department of Career Services, also oversees the Berkshire Workforce Board. “This data shows there is a large population of individuals actively seeking full- or part-time work,” said MassHire business services representative Melanie Herzig. “Mature workers are staying in the workforce longer or reentering later in life.” Employers value the knowledge and experience that older workers can bring to a business, and can help employers fill both full- and parttime positions, Herzig said via email. “Mature workers are dedicated, reliable and conscientious employees and can offer more flexible hours," she said. “People are working longer than they used to because they are living longer and want to maintain being engaged," said Marybeth Mitts, a consultant to the MassHire Berkshire Workforce Board. "Those who have purpose or find value in paid work or volunteer work and are engaged with others daily tend to be happier and find greater fulfillment in their lives.”

Berkshire Business Outlook | Sunday, March 22, 2020

When older no longer means ancient

Clarence Fanto can be reached at, on Twitter @ BE_cfanto or 413-637-2551.


Berkshire Business Outlook Sunday, March 22, 2020 |

Interning means learning Internships, apprenticeships provide entry to jobs


Railroad Street Youth Project cosmetology apprentice Olivia Brosnan practices her client hair washing technique on fellow apprentice Emi Sarmiento, during a recent session at Mulberry Hair Company in Great Barrington. Salon owner Caroline Crehan Becker coaches Brosnan from the sidelines, while other apprentices watch, learn, and wait their turn to try. BY JENN SMITH

The Berkshire Eagle |

The Berkshire Eagle


Internships can be excellent pathways into local jobs and careers. Just ask Jade Schnauber, 22, a senior at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts. Two years ago, Schnauber's mother sent her a link to Berkshire Business Interns, an internship program run by Lever Inc., a small business incubator in North Adams. "I told her, I'm not a business student," Schnauber said. Her majors are early childhood education and sociology. "But she encouraged me to apply anyway. "Then I got an email back." Following a successful interview, Schnauber received an internship with Lever. She was invited back to the program, since renamed Berkshire Interns, and now runs the entire initiative herself by serving as Lever's workforce programs manager. She attributes her success to communicating clearly and often with her employer about how the internship would best support her desire to

gain practical workforce experience. "I’ve felt supported as an intern. My supervisor and I would have a lot of meetings, sit and talk about what I was working on, and he would give me feedback," she said. Schnauber also appreciated that her knowledge was recognized and valued while working as an intern. "They would take my ideas and use them," she said. "I designed a whole curriculum, and the fact that my supervisors said "yes, we can use this thing", gives me a lot of confidence in the program I now run." Prospective interns should look for opportunities that will make the best use of their time and effort, Schnauber said. Berkshire Interns does not provide internships where participants are more likely to provide coffee for their co-workers than work as contributing team members. "Unfortunately, those internships can exist," she said. "But we don't accept them in our work." The internships that are offered in Lever's 10-week Berkshire Interns program are full-time paid positions. The program aims to match 50 in-

terns with area businesses this summer. Lever worked with 45 last summer. To find the internship opportunity that's best suited for you, Schnauber and other workforce experts recommend looking at what a prospective company can offer you as well as taking a personal, internal audit of what you seek to gain from the experience. "Find a company that resonates with you, that does work you're familiar with or can offer something you want to learn," she said.

Other ways to gain experience Businesses and communities have other ways of helping people become skilled workers and productive employees, local workforce and youth empowerment experts say, Railroad Street Youth Project in Great Barrington gives teenagers and young adults opportunities to explore their interests through apprenticeship and mentoring programs that allow them to work side-by-side with professionals who

are passionate about their work and the community. Railroad Street currently offers apprenticeship programs in cosmetology, childcare and culinary arts. "Beyond skills, youth empowerment is as much about adults connecting with young people and exploring a career path with someone in the community who is excited about what they do," said Railroad Street Executive Director Ananda Timpane. "Our youth get to build a network in South County of peers and mentors that will support their career paths." On a recent Monday afternoon, seven young women stood clustered around Mulberry Hair Company owner and stylist Caroline Crehan Becker, who had just situated student Angeli Faggioni in her salon chair. They were charged with coloring Faggioni's ash brown hair by saturating it with a pudding-thick custom blend of cabernet-colored dye. From the sidelines, Crehan Becker coached the teens on their application techniques and precision. To a demure girl lightly brushing

Berkshire Business Outlook | Sunday, March 22, 2020


Jade Schnauber, 22, is a senior at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts and also the manager of workforce programs, including Berkshire Interns and Berkshire Entry, for Lever Inc. in North Adams. Formerly a Lever intern, she will go on to manage these programs fulltime upon graduation this spring.

Career exploration for all ages The MassHire Berkshire Workforce Board in Pittsfield supports high school and college interning


Railroad Street Youth Project cosmetology apprentices Deisy Escobar, left and Emi Sarmiento, right, work on dyeing a section of Angeli Faggioni’s hair during a recent practice session at Mulberry Hair Company in Great Barrington. The program gives them skills, mentoring and the camaraderie of learning with one another. opportunities. But executive director Heather Boulger and youth director Heather Shogry-Williams also assist local schools in implementing a variety of career "awareness and exploration activities." They range from career fairs to job shadow days and guest classroom speakers for students in the kindergarten through 12th grade. During fiscal 2019, Boulger and Shogry-Williams said the board assisted local high schools place 385 student interns in 211 regional businesses; helped 2,234 students in grades K-12 participate in 29 career awareness activities, and provided 26 teachers with career-readiness professional development opportunities to help them better under-

stand the careers that are available and developing within the 21st-century economy. The board receives $200,000 each year to implement the region’s Connecting Activities programming, which helps provide stipends to the schools to place students in internships, arrange career readiness activities, provide company tours, establish career support teams, among other functions. High school internship opportunities are currently being developed within what Shogry-Williams call "the region’s most critical industry sectors: health care and social assistance; hospitality and tourism; advanced manufacturing and the skilled trades.

"In regards to high school internships, we have been working overtime with all of the region’s public school districts to continue to expand upon their internship opportunities for students," Shogry-Williams said. "These internship opportunities (paid by the employer or unpaid) are highly regarded by the Berkshire business community in serving as a viable solution in meeting their current and future workforce needs to keep their businesses thriving here," she said. Jenn Smith can be reached at, at @JennSmith_Ink on Twitter and 413-496-6239.

The Berkshire Eagle |

Faggioni's strands with the hair color, Crehan Becker cracks, "C'mon! Don't be afraid. You have to really work it in with your fingers to really get that color!" Another girl combs gobs of dye from Faggioni's hair. "You don't want to oversaturate," the stylist reminds her. "You don't want to waste color." The dye has to be spread equally throughout Faggioni's hair, a balanced approach that is similar to Crehan Becker's style of mentoring. "I like how she's not afraid to tell you if you're doing something wrong," said Emi Sarmiento, a sophomore at Monument Mountain Regional High School. "But she's also really funny and she really cares." Sarmiento has been participating in cosmetology and culinary apprenticeships since she was in the seventh grade, a process that has helped her become more confident in her abilities. She cuts her parents' hair at home. "I like working with my hands," she said. Sarmiento's hair dyeing partner, Mount Everett Regional School freshman Deisy Escobar, said the apprenticeship program, "helps you know what you want to do and don't want to do."


Berkshire Business Outlook Sunday, March 22, 2020 | The Berkshire Eagle | 14

The journey to something better Stymied in retail, Berkshire resident finds career in manufacturing BY MITCHELL CHAPMAN The Berkshire Eagle LEE — It's a familiar story for many Berkshire residents. Employees can't always advance in their chosen professions because they reach a dead end. James Zigmand knows this tale well. The 53-year Great Barrington resident hit that wall four years ago when he found himself at a Berkshire County unemployment office searching for a new job opportunity. Zigmand was a manager at Dave's Pet Store in Northampton, and had worked in the retail industry since graduating from Mount Everett Regional School in 1984. But Great Barrington is a long way from Northampton and Zigmand wanted to find a job that was a little closer to home. He quickly found that those kinds of opportunities weren't available locally. But then Zigmand heard of a free job training program offered by the MassHire Berkshire Career Center in Pittsfield. So he decided to enroll in two courses: introductions to both advanced manufacturing and the local paper and pulp industry

One day, a representative from Onyx Specialty Papers in Lee visited his manufacturing class, and Zigmand became interest in the opportunities available in the paper and pulp industry. When the classes ended, Onyx encouraged all the graduates to apply for entry-level positions, and Zigmand did. He soon found himself working as a shift worker at Onyx serving as a third helper, a job that requires driving a forklift and loading paper pulp into a pulper machine, a process that occurs at the very beginning of the paper-making process A little over two years later, in March 2019, Zigmand moved up the employment ladder again. He current serves as a quality control specialist, a job that takes place at the end of the paper-making process. Starting wages for manufacturing jobs in the paper-making industry start at about $19 an hour, according to Zigmand, a figure that originally astonished him. "What got me was the amount of money you could earn," he said. "Manufacturing is huge, and it's expanding. A lot of companies are looking for people with just some


James Zigmand, a quality control inspector at Onyx Specialty Papers inspects a finished sheet of paper to see if it matches the specifications outlined by the customer.

Always seeking talented people

75 CAMP AVENUE, STAMFORD, CT 06907 T: 203-972-1028 • F: 203-966-8471 E: •

• Be reliable • Be punctual • Work hard • Be persistent • Look for opportunity

training and experience." Zigmand had gone from working as a manager in a pet store to a shift worker at a manufacturing plant, so it took some time for him to get used to his new schedule. At Onyx, shift workers cycle through a three-week schedule. They work from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. the first week; from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. the second week; and from 2 p.m. to 10 p.m. in week three before the cycle is reset in week four.

But Zigmand was eager to prove himself in his new industry, and when the opportunity arose for him to serve as a quality control specialist on a temporary basis, he jumped at it. He interviewed five times for that position before receiving a permanent job. For those interested in achieving what he accomplished, Zigmand recommends, "be punctual, be reliable, work hard, look for opportunity." Persistence helps, "and you'll also

need some luck," he said. "I was lucky that opportunity opened up for me." For information on programs available at the MassHire Berkshire Career Center, go to, call 413-499-2200, or visit the career center at 160 North St. in Pittsfield. Mitchell Chapman can be reached at 413-496-6217, or

Moving up the employment ladder Training programs available for professional certifications BY BOB DUNN The Berkshire Eagle

Loans, grants and scholarships At Mildred Elley, students who qualify can receive financial aid in the form of loans, grants and scholarships. The school will also work with individual students to finance their training. Job seekers are also concerned that they are too old to either learn a new skill, re-enter the job market or change careers. But age isn't a barrier to obtaining work in the Berkshires, where the average population is older than in many other areas of the state. The career center recognized this trend when it began holding job fairs targeted specifically for those ages 50 and over two years ago. About 40 employers participated in those events.

“I don’t think in this job market, age is really a factor right now," Gelaznik said. Some fields, like massage therapy, are actually seeking older applicants. Gutierrez said. "Workers in their 30s, 40s or beyond should feel comfortable pursuing a new career path," he said. With the economy doing well, those who obtain certifications tend to be hired relatively quickly, Guiterrez added.

A cosmetology student at Mildred Elley who was three months shy of graduation was offered a job on the spot by a representative of Miraval resorts during a recent campus visit. Many people have also found work quickly as certified nursing assistants or licensed practical nurses. “The job market is really wanting them,” Guiterrez said. Bob Dunn can be reached at bdunn@, at @BobDunn413 on Twitter and 413-496-6249.

The Berkshire Eagle |

PITTSFIELD — Relatively low unemployment numbers and a growing need for certified workers in health care and service industry professions have created opportunities for those in need of a job or looking to make a career change. But, what skills are in demand and how does one go about learning them? Melanie Gelaznik, Executive Director of the MassHire Berkshire Career Center and Michael Gutierrez, President of the Mildred Elley school's Pittsfield campus, have identified a few trends in the types of in-demand jobs for which training is available locally. Health care is the county's largest job sector, and both Gelaznik and Gutierrez agree there is a growing need in the Berkshires for certified nursing assistants (CNAs), licensed practical nurses (LPNs) and medical assistants. Other growing professions in the Berkshires that require certification include addiction recovery counseling, and commercial drivers, she added. Gutierrez said service-related jobs that require certification such as massage therapist and cosmetologist are also in high demand In the past, it was much easier to find employment without some type of certification being required, but that's no longer the case, Gelaznik said. Concerns about the cost of training for these certifications can be mitigated, they both said.

The career center provides programs for people who have been laid off and are collecting jobless benefits, along with low-income adults and young people who are considered to be "at-risk." Clients who fall into those categories don't have the two-to-four years needed to invest in a degree program. They need to find work relatively quickly, because they are on a limited budget or in poverty, she said. The career center's goal is to get clients into a program that takes a year or less to complete. Career center clients who are collecting unemployment or whose income falls below poverty guidelines automatically qualify for federal assistance funds, she said. So do people who are receiving either food assistance or receive monthly supplements to purchase nutritious food through SNAP benefits (the Special Nutrition Assistance Program).

Berkshire Business Outlook | Sunday, March 22, 2020

James Zigmand’s Tips for climbing the employment: ladder:


Berkshire Business Outlook Sunday, March 22, 2020 |

GET OUT WHEN THE GETTING’S GOOD Want to sell your business within five years? This book is for you. Author Allen Harris - founder and owner of Berkshire Money Management - guides you toward a more profitable, smooth transfer of your business with actionable, sound advice. Get a complimentary copy or begin a confidential conversation about retiring by emailing him at

The Berkshire Eagle |





Historical performance is not indicative of future results. The investment return will fluctuate with market conditions. Performance is not indicative of any specific investment or future results. Views regarding the economy, securities markets or other specialized areas, like all predictors of future events, cannot be guaranteed to be accurate and may result in economic loss to the investor. Investment in securities, including mutual funds, involves the risk of loss.

Turn static files into dynamic content formats.

Create a flipbook
Issuu converts static files into: digital portfolios, online yearbooks, online catalogs, digital photo albums and more. Sign up and create your flipbook.