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The Yankee Express

Hebert Hall Ribbon Cutting at the Linwood Mill Complex

From left: Kevin Hayes, Chairman, BVCC Board, Tom Belland, BV Hub, Workforce Development Consultant, Senator Mike Moore, Jeannie Hebert, Senator Ryan Fattman, Jen Darling Administrator, BV Hub, Joscelyn Young, VP, BV Hub, Ashley Bregman, ED BV Hub

Members and supporters of the Blackstone Valley Chamber of Commerce (BVCC) gathered on June 5 for a ribbon cutting to officially open Hebert Hall in the Linwood Mill complex at 670 Linwood Avenue, Whitinsville.
Hebert Hall is a beautiful new space for the Blackstone Valley Hub for Workforce Development, a non-profit arm of the Chamber. The hall is a large open room of gleaming wood floors and rustic beams adjoining a new robotics and electronics lab. Outside by a deck, there’s a one-of-a-kind view of the falls that powered the sprawling mills.
Named in honor of Jeannie Hebert, the ribbon cutting fittingly coincided with the fifth anniversary of the Hub for Workforce Development.  Hebert spearheaded its creation and nursed it along until it became a reality – today serving 20 school districts and thousands of students, business partners, organizations and educators.
Hebert is the vital force of nature who has served as the President and CEO of the Blackstone Valley Chamber since 2008 and is currently President of the Blackstone Valley Hub.
She thanked the state legislators who believed in the workforce development project so much that they requested the BVCC take the project on when the original partner dropped out. 
“It never is one person, it really does take a village,” Hebert said. “I am very, very fortunate to be surrounded by talented and enthusiastic, dedicated and passionate individuals. This ensures hat when we shoot for the moon, which we do all the time here, we’ll land among the stars. So thank you very, very much for this honor,” she said, adding in her family and the Hub’s board of directors. 
The BV Hub was created to provide students with a work-based learning opportunity featuring technical skill training, employability, skill development and safety awareness.
It operates as the non-profit arm of the BVCC and is dedicated to serving the workforce training needs of the region, schools and businesses.
The goal is to create a workforce pipeline by giving students a centralized place to learn technical skills while connecting schools, students and employers. Companies are also using the BV Hub to upgrade the skills of their existing workers. Industry-standard equipment such as TRAK CNC mills and lathes, Bridgeport mills, Universal Collaborative robots, Miller Augmented Reality welders, 3D printers and a 22 seat computer lab for all the training programs the BV Hub provides.
It’s said that numbers don’t lie and the BV Hub’s numbers are certainly impressive. Eighty percent of students in the Advanced Manufacturing Career Pathway Program get matched with permanent job offers. The YouthWorks program, a state-funded youth employment program that helps teens and young adults get the skills and experience needed to find and keep jobs, saw $40,000 in direct payments to students and work-based placement employees in Year One. 
There are 15,000 students in the Blackstone Valley and Central Mass. school districts eligible for the Connecting Activities program. And the students can look forward to benefiting from the 183 cumulative years of experience in the manufacturing industry and educator experience of the BV Hub instructors’ team. 
As the manufacturing industry struggles with worker short ages that can limit growth and productivity, getting younger people into manufacturing is crucial. The BV Hub initiated the Blackstone Valley Manufacturing Career Program to attract high school students directly into the workforce by offering training opportunities for well-paying jobs with plenty of opportunities for advancement. 
The program is one of many that BV Hub can has developed or connected  with for students who were unable to gain access to vocational training.
Eighteen year old Elijah C. is a recent graduate from Goodrich Academy in Fitchburg and signed up for the Job Corps program.
“I wanted to be a welder, but the closest training was in Rhode Island,” he said. “It seemed pretty cool here, so I ended up coming on down.”
On average it takes about eight months to earn the primary credentials and then comes some extra work like a robotics class for soldering, Elijah said. 
“There’s also a work-based program because Blackstone works with job boards. So I’m a job board student. One of their partners, Algonquin has a six week job program where you get paid $18 an hour for 35 hours a week. It’s to get some extra money in our pockets before we leave Job Corps – so if someone needs to save up to get a car or a big purchase.”
A lot of people who come to Jobs Corp don’t have the ability for get those things on their own outside, Elijah pointed out and he’s happy to take full advantage of the program.
The Jobs Corps training program is free. There is on-campus housing Monday through Friday and on weekends, you’re free to go home. The housing is separated into male and female wings, serving persons aged 16-24.  Three meals a day are served without charge and basic necessities are also included such as bed, sheets, blankets, pillows. 
“Even if you need a toothbrush and soap, they get them to you,” Elijah said. “You also get a basic living allowance - $40 every two weeks – it’s enough to get yourself things that you need. I love it here.”