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US Rep. Richard Neal touts precision manufacturing opportunities in Western Massachusetts, calls for closing skills gap

August 01, 2017

Highlighting the precision manufacturing and other high-skills job opportunities that are going unfilled across Berkshire County and Western Massachusetts, U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, D-Springfield, stressed Tuesday that more must be done to connect local residents to these positions. 

The congressman, who toured Lee-based Berkshire Sterile Manufacturing Inc. as part of Startup Day Across America, said the three-year-old biopharmaceutical company "highlights the opportunity for aspiration and achievement" in Western Massachusetts.

It, however, also underscores the need for addressing the skills gap and ensuring educational and training opportunities exist for jobs being created in the advanced and precision manufacturing fields, Neal offered.

Contending that six million technology-related jobs across the country go unanswered, including between 17,000 and 20,000 precision manufacturing jobs in New England alone, the Springfield Democrat said he believes the government should play some role in helping align Americans with open job opportunities.

Neal, who noted that many of those positions require education and skills beyond a high school diploma, offered support for ensuring community colleges and state public higher education institutions design initiatives to better connect students with in-demand jobs.

"Staying is school is an important consideration, and, in addition to which, providing an opportunity through the community college system, I think, makes a good deal of sense," he told reporters. "The other highlight that was noted today was the role that apprenticeship programs can play that largely start with internships."

The congressman added that it's also important to target these programs at individuals who "for whatever reason have fallen outside the mainstream" and may have left school or the workforce. 

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