By Etta Walsh
CHICOPEE – The commander of Westover Air Reserve Base thinks he can make his military budget go farther if he can work out a deal with Westover Job Corps to use students at the federally funded job-training program to do some work at the base.
Col. Bob Swain, commander of the 439th Airlift Wing, said students at the Johnson Road Job Corps center are training in the building trades, culinary crafts and computer systems – skills that could be put to good use at the largest Air Reserve base in the country.
Job Corps Director Curtis Price said he is interested in Swain’s proposal for collaboration, which the commander voiced at last week’s luncheon of the Job Corps’ Community Relations Council.
“I look forward to working with you,” Price told Swain.
Swain said even though the Job Corps is located on former Westover base property, declared surplus many years ago, there is little interaction between the base and the job-training program.
“It’s like we’re neighbors who don’t get to know each other,” Swain said. The commander said he is unsure what shape collaboration would take, or how it would be accomplished. But the opportunity is there and should be investigated, he said.
“These are the types of people we want to hire,” he said. “If they’re local, they’re going to stay with us.”
One area of collaboration could be using Job Corps culinary arts students to cater events at the base’s Galaxy Club, Swain said. He also said personnel from the air base could act as mentors for the Job Corps students.
The Westover Job Corps program has 550 students, aged 16 to 24.
“This is a great program.” Swain said.
Westover Air Reserve Base is an economic engine for the region, pumping $195 million into the economy within a 50-mile radius of the 2,500-acre base during 2008. The base employs 3,600 workers, including military personnel, Civil Service workers and private contractors.
The air base isn’t the only large area employer interested in establishing closer ties with the Job Corps program.
Juan Martinez of the University of Massachusetts-Amherst’s Human Resources office, said he wants to get more Job Corps students assigned to positions at the 1,450-acre university, which has 26,000 full-time students and 1,200 faculty members.
Describing the campus as a small city, with its own healthcare center, police force, full-time maintenance crew and seven dining facilities, Martinez said he has placed Job Corps students in food-service and maintenance jobs on campus and hopes to use students studying healthcare services in the campus healthcare center.
“For myself, for UMass, it’s been a very good partnership,” Martinez said.
He said getting Job Corps students into university positions helps the students consider going to classes at UMass.
“I don’t just want to hire them. I want them to look around and say, ‘I could go here,’” Martinez said.
Westover Air Reserve Base, UMASS plan collaborations with Job Corps
By Etta Walsh