This summer, in collaboration with the Franklin Regional Council of Governments (FRCOG), Greenfield Community College will offer an online course in municipal accounting. The course will meet a significant need, addressing the growing shortage of trained accounting staff in municipalities across Massachusetts.
The FRCOG offers a town accounting program that serves 12 towns in the region with a staff of 7-8 accountants. Whenever a staff member leaves, explains Bob Dean, the FRCOG’s director of regional services, it is extremely difficult to find replacements who have the necessary skills and who want to work part time and travel between towns.
Franklin county hasn’t been the only region facing this challenge. The Local Government Workforce Skills Gap Report, released by the Baker administration in 2018 showed a great need for training in many local government positions across the commonwealth, including accounting. In response, Dean proposed that the FRCOG develop a training program of their own. After securing funding through an Efficiency and Regionalization grant and a Community Compact grant, both from the Commonwealth, Dean brought GCC on board to administer the course.
Offered through GCC’s Workforce Development & Community Education, the municipal accounting course will be online and asynchronous, allowing people from across the state to participate. An orientation was held June 14,, after which students will complete the course at their own pace. The instructor, a retired municipal accountant who worked with the FRCOG in the past, will hold weekly online office hours to provide help with the material. Students who finish the course will receive a certificate of completion from Greenfield Community College.
“We are thrilled to partner with the FRCOG to offer this critical training in municipal accounting. We filled 32 seats in the course in less than two weeks and have several names already on a wait list. The interest has been overwhelming,” says Kristin Cole, Director of Workforce Training programs at GCC. The grant supporting the course ends in June, but GCC and the FRCOG are hopeful they’ll be able to secure more funding to make the class sustainable. Although most of the interest has been among accountants already employed by municipalities, Dean also sees this as an opportunity for people pursuing new careers. “I would love to get it to a point where folks who are looking for a new career and have an aptitude for numbers and bookkeeping, but hadn’t really thought about municipal accounting, pursue the training,” says Dean. “I think this type of program is where GCC fills a vital role for Franklin County,” he adds.