As the post-pandemic economy begins to recover, businesses in Franklin County and beyond are scrambling to hire enough staff while college students are looking for well-paid, meaningful work. In response, Greenfield Community College and staffing agency United Personnel are collaborating on an initiative that will bring these groups together and strengthen the Pioneer Valley economy in the process.
Through the Summer Career Program, GCC students and recent graduates will earn money, gain experience in manufacturing and distribution, build their resumes, and learn about possible careers. United Personnel will connect participants to jobs in machine operation, assembly, warehousing, quality control, and shipping, with businesses like Yankee Candle and Pelican Products. The work hours can be flexible, allowing time off for vacations and classes, and may continue beyond the summer for those who would like to keep working. United Personnel will even help place students with friends and family members to make the transition to the workplace smoother.
Pay rates for these jobs start at $15-$18 per hour, and with overtime, a student could earn $7000-$10,000 over the course of the summer. As a further incentive, students who work at least eight weeks during the summer will be eligible to apply for one of ten $500 scholarships.
The Summer Career Program will also offer career development opportunities for participants. United Personnel will connect them with professionals in manufacturing, setting up informational sessions with staff in engineering, environmental health & safety, quality assurance, finance, human resources, and plant management, for example, to learn about their opportunities if they pursue careers in the field.
The collaboration with GCC is the brainchild of Tricia Canavan, the president of United Personnel. Canavan has been involved with a variety of workforce development projects and efforts to educate the labor market in our area on the broad career opportunities in manufacturing. As we’ve come out of the COVID pandemic, the most acute challenge has become the shortage of workers. “The workforce needs in Franklin County are significant in terms of what companies are looking for,” Canavan says. “I’ve got clients with literally hundreds of jobs available.”
Canavan has been serving on the Franklin County Workforce Initiative, which was spearheaded by GCC. Impressed by the college’s forward thinking approach, she saw that United Personnel and the college could work together to benefit students and employers and proposed the collaboration.
With the Summer Career Program, Canavan is excited to introduce students to the possibilities of the manufacturing sector. “You can make a lot of money over a career in manufacturing, as you gain more experience and take on more supervisory and management responsibilities.” Further, Canavan notes, for those who do not plan to go on to a four-year college, it’s much easier to progress to a living wage job without a bachelor’s degree in a manufacturing environment. “We need to show people that there are other ways forward, where you can gain experience and knowledge and make a good living, doing interesting work,” she observes. ”There’s a ton of manufacturing in Western Mass with excellent wages and great career opportunities—opportunities to support your family and contribute in really important ways.”
The Summer Career Program is a win-win for United Personnel and GCC. “We’re seeing it as a way to help our students engage with meaningful work opportunities and career exploration, and we’re helping with local recruitment efforts to help speed the economic recovery of the local businesses throughout Franklin and Hampshire Counties,” notes Kristin Cole, GCC’s Director of Workforce Training Programs. From Canavan’s perspective, it’s also a way to forge even deeper relationships between the college and business community. “We’re really excited to work with GCC and grateful for their forward thinking approach. Community colleges are drivers of economic and workforce development, and I think this partnership shows the college’s ability and willingness to think that way.”
While there is no deadline to apply for positions through the Summer Career Program, Canavan encourages students to apply as soon as possible at first-job-now.unitedpersonnel.com to have the best selection of job opportunities and to make the most of the time available.