By Rod Lee
It could be said that no better evidence exists of a perfect collaboration—between the private and public sectors, between Democrats and Republicans, between the Blackstone Valley Chamber of Commerce and its many partners—than the one that was celebrated on August 30th during a MassMEP Recognition Ceremony for twelve learner-achievers at the Blackstone Valley Education Hub at the Linwood Mill in Whitinsville.
As solid proof, there was Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito, the second most prominent Republican in the state, delivering keynote remarks at the ceremony, while former State Sen. Dick Moore, a Democrat and the visionary behind creation of the Ed Hub, watched from a ringside seat.
“Here we are again, almost a year later,” Chamber President/CEO Jeannie Hebert said in welcoming those in attendance for a salute—accompanied by the presentation of certificates—to Tyler Brown, Anthony Cesaitis, Rahiem Johnson, Wendell Perez, Evan Pierre, Joseph Walz, Logan Havey, Joshua Kenadek, Britney Lloyd, Arinze Manning, Isias Saldano and Robert Savering for training they underwent in preparation for roles in the machining and manufacturing workforce.
Ms. Hebert was alluding to the time that had passed reaching this milestone; and the years of starts and stops that preceded it, in bringing the BV Education Hub to fruition.
“None of this would be possible without all of you,” Ms. Hebert told her audience of company representatives, mentors, legislators and other supporters. “You are the wings beneath our wings.”
In commending “Jeannie’s passion and commitment,” part of what she described as “the secret sauce” that makes the BV Education Hub a new and potentially powerful force in developing candidates for machining and manufacturing jobs in the region, Lt. Gov Polito said it is all about creating “pathways:” a drive on the Commonwealth’s part to “keep jobs here.”
The BV Education Hub is “preparing the next generation to call Massachusetts home in growing” the state’s manufacturing sector, she said.
Echoing Ms. Hebert’s own thoughts, Lt. Gov. Polito, addressing the students, who were seated facing her, said “you have earned your seat in this room.
“We are innovating the way we are educating!” the lieutenant governor said.
With “a second STEM Week set to start on October 21st, “we are looking for more opportunities for women and people of color,” she said (which explains why she appeared to give Britney Lloyd an especially warm hug as Ms. Lloyd, the lone female recipient, came forward to accept her certificate).
State Rep. Jeffrey Roy put the significance of the BV Education Hub in perspective when he shared a personal story about his family’s life in manufacturing. “My grandfather lived next door, on Maple Ct., from 1940 to 2001, and he worked at the Whitin Machine Works,” a dusty, grimy, dirty place, Rep. Roy said. Rep. Roy himself worked on the manufacturing line at a plant in Hopedale, “bagging Gillette razors.” Today’s manufacturing is cleaner and more technologically driven and thus more efficient, he said, telling the students “Massachusetts has the most talented workforce in the nation and you are joining it.”
Mentors from Lampin, Lenze, the U.S. Army Recruiting Station in Milford, Pride Productions, Package Steel Systems and the Grafton Job Corps helped shepherd the students through the process; one of them, Stephanie Ashworth of the Grafton Job Corps, said “these young people are my passion. These individuals inspire me every day. The opportunity they have been given could not have happened without the Blackstone Valley Education Hub and MassMEP.”
As was noted in a press release in advance of the event, the BV Education Hub moved from “an innovative idea to active practice” in 2017 by way of a collaboration involving area manufacturers and the Uxbridge and Northbridge school districts—aided immeasurably by a Capital Skills grant from the Baker-Polito administration. The BV Education Hub “represents a multi-faceted” approach with its fully-equipped computer lab, small-group instruction in a classroom setting and “performance Fab-lab” outfitted with “mills, lathes, CMM and CNC machines.”
A light moment came near the end of the ceremony when State. Sen. Michael Moore pointed out that “even eleven years ago, in the midst of a recession, we had a strong manufacturing base, but we didn’t have you (the students);” then, in referencing Ms. Hebert’s persistence, Sen. Moore said a common refrain within the local legislative delegation was “Jeannie’s calling again—and we rolled our eyes.”
“I never did, Jeannie!” State Rep. David Muradian protested, to a burst of laughter.
Smiles all around, as a dead-serious mission took an important step forward.
Contact Rod Lee at [email protected] or 774-232-2999.