WorkReady NH offers job seekers new beginnings

HUDSON – Like countless other Granite State residents affected by layoffs and cutbacks, Cathy McGoldbrick has found herself attending college at the same time as her two children.

The Nashua Community College student said she decided to return to school after her 25-year career with Xerox ended with the recent elimination of her position.

Now a proud participant in the state’s WorkReady NH program, McGoldbrick said she’s looking forward to a new beginning, with her sites set on a career in manufacturing.

The Nashua student was one of the dozen or so attendees at Thursday’s 21st Century Workforce Roundtable event at Omni Components in Hudson.

U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster, who led the informal forum, said her goal is to keep abreast of local efforts to train and secure the next generation of New Hampshire’s workers.

Earlier this year, Kuster introduced legislation to provide tax credits to companies partnering with local educational institutions.

The District 2 Democrat said a primary goal of her “Make It In America” plan is to emphasize job creation, economic development and community well-being.

“Creating new jobs where there’s room for growth is one of the best things we can do for a community,” Kuster said, noting that similar roundtable events have given her valuable insights across the state.

“Our goal here is to learn what’s going on locally between the business community and the education community,” she added.

Holleigh Tlapa, who facilitates the WorkReady NH program at Nashua Community College, said the program has appealed to students of all ages, ranging from middle-aged moms like McGoldbrick to 70-year-old retirees contemplating a return to the work force to students in their late teens.

An initiative of the state’s community college system, WorkReady NH helps job seekers and career builders improve their skills and earn nationally recognized credentials at no cost to them.

“A main goal of this program is to increase self-esteem,” Tlapa said, “because a lot of people are feeling deflated by the job market these days.”

Omni Component Chief Executive Officer Frank Stone said such programs have proved a godsend to companies like his own. The Hudson firm, which provides engineered solutions and precision machining services to various fields, recently doubled its work force. These days just over 80 workers are employed at Omni, and Stone said the plan is to keep growing.

“So we’re constantly looking for good talent. We’ve found that if a good machinist is happy here, they’re going to stay here for a long time,” he said, noting that ongoing partnerships with both Nashua Community College and UMass Lowell have assisted greatly in the hiring process.

Michael Casper, CEO of UltraSource in Hollis, emphasized the need for a certain skill set at his 60-worker firm, which manufactures custom ceramic microchips.

“We need people with good math skills and perfect attention to detail,” Casper said.

Nashua Community College President Lucille Jordan said the state’s community college system is tailored to help meet each region’s unique needs.

“In Southern New Hampshire, we’re definitely seeing a greater need for precision manufacturing, so the Nashua school’s curriculum is very focused on this,” Jordan said. She noted that many of the Nashua programs integrate hands-on learning in campus-based laboratories, where students can have their first encounters with equipment they’ll hopefully use on the job one day.

This is all part of the bigger picture, said Desiree Crossley, marketing coordinator for the state community college system’s Advanced Manufacturing Partnerships in Education program.

“We’re teaching our students using professional-grade equipment,” Crossley said. “What many potential students are surprised to learn is that today’s manufacturing jobs are very, very different than those offered years ago.”

“It’s high-tech, it’s clean and it’s a very well-paying field,” she added. “Today, manufacturing is a valid career choice. It’s not just a job.”

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