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IN THE NEWS- Patrick-Murray Administration Announces Statewide Training Grants in Pittsfield
February 16, 2007

PITTSFIELD - February 16, 2007 - Citing workforce training as a high priority, Director of Workforce Development Suzanne M. Bump announced today that Berkshire Medical Center will receive a Workforce Training Fund grant of $233,970 to train 20 nurses to become clinical instructors. Bump was joined by Senator Benjamin Downing, Pittsfield Mayor James Ruberto and other community leaders.

Bump announced 16 new Workforce Training Fund grants for Western Massachusetts totaling over $1.1 million, which will help train over 1000 employees in the region. Statewide, the WTF is awarding 90 grants totaling more than $7.1 million to train more than 9700 workers.

Bump paid tribute to nurses trained from a previous Workforce Training Fund grant awarded to Berkshire Health Systems, of which Berkshire Medical Center is part of, in 2000. Berkshire Health Systems was the first grant recipient to train its employees to become nurses and has since trained 27 workers without prior experience to pursue nursing careers.

"The Patrick-Murray Administration strongly supports the Workforce Training Fund in its mission to help provide training to employees in every region of the Commonwealth," said Bump. "One of our most pressing workforce challenges is to increase the number of nurses and clinical nursing instructors, which makes this grant doubly important. This is a wise investment and a step in the right direction to address this workforce need."

State job vacancy data points to the need for nursing training with nearly 4,600 vacant job postings for nurses in Massachusetts. In the Berkshires, the health sector is second only to the seasonal tourist trade in the number of vacancies.

Founded nearly four decades ago, Berkshire Health Systems is a national award-winning private, non-profit health care company with several facilities employing over 2,500 across Berkshire County. Berkshire Health Systems will use their grant to train 20 nurses - 17 at Berkshire Medical Center in Pittsfield and 3 at Fairview Hospital in Great Barrington. Nurses will earn Bachelor of Science degrees in Nursing online from UMass-Amherst.

"Berkshire Health Systems is committed to investing in its facilities, technology and programs, and the people who provide our community with the highest level of care," said David E. Phelps, President of Berkshire Health Systems. Building on an earlier state grant, BHS then "developed our own internal program providing free tuition and fees to any employee of BHS who wanted to become a nurse. This new grant will go one step further, helping us to advance the training of existing Registered Nurses who will earn their BSN's. Not only does this offer the availability of additional faculty for nursing training programs, but it also provides us with nursing professionals dedicated to enhancing their leadership and clinical skills, which will benefit Berkshire Health Systems and the patients we serve."

"Berkshire Health Systems has been developing innovative education and training programs in collaboration with us for several years and we applaud their efforts with this project," said Heather Boulger, Executive Director, Berkshire County Regional Employment Board, Inc. "The Workforce Training Fund is a tremendous resource for Western Massachusetts employers and has helped improve the skills of more than 4,000 employees. The Fund is essential to the region's workforce resurgence."

Boulger added that the WTF has awarded more than $4.2 million to 56 companies in the Berkshire region since it began eight years ago.

"I applaud the Department of Workforce Development for recognizing the positive impact this funding will have on the Berkshire region, as well as Berkshire Health Systems for continuing their commitment to being the leading provider of health care services by assisting RNs to enrich their careers and the nursing profession in Berkshire County," said Senator Benjamin B. Downing (D-Pittsfield).

The Workforce Training Fund, administered by the Department of Workforce Development, provides businesses and labor organizations with matching grants of up to $250,000 to finance incumbent worker training. The Fund also offers grants of up to $1 million for companies that meet specific criteria set by the state.

Since its inception in 1999, the Workforce Training Fund has awarded nearly 4,000 grants totaling more than $145 million to train over 200,000 Massachusetts workers.

For information on the Workforce Training Fund, visit www.mass.gov/wtf. Applications from companies for the next funding cycle are available on-line and are due March 1, 2007 at 5:00 p.m.

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