MassHire Greater Lowell Workforce Board
September 20, 2018
Verizon-Cross Point
900 Chelmsford Street
Lowell, MA 01851

Call to Order: 8:00 a.m.
Presiding Officer:  Ray Wrobel, Chair

Attendees:  Melida Aizpurua, Kimberly Bodkin, Judy Burke, Stephanie Cronin, Maureen Fitzpatrick, Beth Goguen, Charlene Jancsy, John Kovach, Maureen Kriff, Staci Landress, Stephanie Lee, Betty McKiernan, John Palmieri, Sovanna Pouv, Tom Raiche, Andrew Shapiro, Cynthia Smith, Anne-Marie Sousa, Susan Winning. Quorum present.  Staff: Peter Farkas, Katy Gentile, Nancy McGovern, Beatriz Sierra, Cathy Sturtevant, Cathy Byrnes, Nancy Gagnon, Shannon Norton

Welcome. Chair Wrobel welcomed everyone and thanked Stephanie Lee for hosting us at Verizon at Cross Point. The Chair introduced John Kovach from Mack Technologies who recently joined the Board and recognized Sue Koerber who recently resigned from the board. The board went around and did introductions.

The MassHire transition launch was September 10th. The Chair thanked the Board and the Career Center for putting together the event. Secretary Acosta and Representatives Golden and Mom were in attendance.

Review and Approval of June 6, 2018 Minutes. Chair Wrobel requested review of the June 6, 2018 minutes.  With no comments or questions and a quorum present, Chair Wrobel requested a motion to accept the June 6, 2018 minutes.  Motion made by Betty McKiernan; seconded by Stephanie Cronin.  All in favor?  Yes. Opposed?  No. Vote: Unanimous.

Introduction of Guest Speaker: Donna Cupelo, Region Vice President, New England Verizon Corp.
Chair Wrobel introduced the guest speaker, Donna Cupelo.  The following are highlights from the speaker:

Ms. Cupelo thanked the board for the work they do to support workforce development in the region. She commented that she is the chair of the State Workforce Board and has had the opportunity to work with people like Ray Wrobel. The state workforce board is charged with looking at a state strategic plan and setting an agenda that is in line with the administration’s goals. The state board oversees the implementation of the federal WIOA program and Massachusetts has one of the strongest teams and models in the country. Governor Baker put together the Workforce Skills Cabinet made up of the Secretariats of Education, Labor & Workforce Development and Economic Development. They were charged with integrating programming across agencies.

The state strategic plan focuses on Adult Pathways by addressing the workforce needs of adults and the types of retraining that will be needed. It also focuses on Youth Pathways to ensure our youth are properly trained for in-demand industries.

Regional Planning – the process was undertaken by seven uber regions and common themes/industries were identified: Healthcare, Professional and Technical, Advanced Manufacturing and Construction. The state board will be examining trends in these industries and providing intelligence to the regions.

Rebranding– Research and surveys showed that only 6% of employers are aware of the Career Centers and approximately 7% of job seekers. The findings also showed that If you are from a specific area, Lowell for example, you know your board and career center but if you are not from a specific area you may not know how to access services. The MassHire rebranding initiative streamlines the process.

The state board is also focusing on training and technology. The unemployment (UI) rate is relatively low but there are certain populations that that have a higher rate than the average. Statewide, there are approximately 100,000 jobs unfilled. The challenge is the types of jobs unfilled such as Advanced Manufacturing, are difficult to fill because they require a specific skill set. In the Greater Lowell Area there are 7,500 job postings, mainly software developers, truck drivers and customer service positions.

Currently there are 1,000 Verizon employees located at CrossPoint Tower in Lowell. Verizon has made a 700 m capital investment in infrastructure- they are not a regular utility but more of a tech company with investments in advanced technology in the ground as well as on the poles. The needs of their own workforce have changed-techs now have tablets and utilize other remote technology. In the Verizon Wireless stores the employee now must have an expertise to assist customers with current technology.

Verizon Innovation Center-patents are coming out but there are scientists, software developers and engineers still needed. Training is done mainly internally so Verizon hasn’t utilized the Career Centers in that aspect. However, they did work with Career Center a few years ago to fill several job openings.

There is an expectation that teachers and students are going to utilize tech in and out of the classroom. The Verizon Innovative Learning School Pilot Program was developed -a middle school pilot program where high-tech curriculum is taught.

The board views workforce development as essential to the economy. Ms. Cronin asked about transportation and the ability for job seekers to get to jobs. Ms. Cupelo commented that the work between the agencies is crucial and work on the transportation infrastructure is crucial.

Ms. Farkas commented that the exposure to the students by companies such as Verizon at the high schools through Connecting Activities is critical and he thanked Ms. Cupelo for Verizon taking the initiative. Ms. Cupelo commented that healthcare has led the way in outreach and the ability to move along a pathway.

Ms. Cupelo concluded her remarks and Chair Wrobel thanked her for attending.

GLWB Report – Peter Farkas


Unemployment Rates:Mr. Farkas walked through the regional unemployment figures versus the state as of July 2018. There was an increase of 7% in people utilizing the Career Center, but the unemployment rate remained the same.

Board Certification: The Board received certification from 7/1/18-6/30/2020. The components of the certification were the Strategic Plan (Mr. Farkas thanked Ms. Fitzpatrick and the Strategic Plan committee), an update to the Partner MOU and the Career Center Certification Policy and Certification. Mr. Farkas thanked Ms. Janscy and the Workforce Performance and Opportunities Committee for their work on certifying the career center.

Workforce Rebranding Initiative: The rebranding roll out is still ongoing as not all regions have transitioned yet. Ms. Cupelo commented that the transitions will be going on until the end of the year. Ms. Cronin commented that when you search MassHire you don’t get the greater Lowell website or the Career Center website. Mr. Farkas stated that there is a newsletter in the packet that gives a list of all the regions.

Resource Development: Mr. Farkas indicated that the Board continues to seek funding opportunities. There is a list of grants that have been applied for included in the packet. The CDBG grant from the City supplements the Youthworks grant. In addition, we have partnered with CTI on the Secure Jobs initiative

Regional Planning: The regional blueprint was accepted by the Workforce Skills Cabinet in May. The priority industries for the regional plan are Advanced Manufacturing, Healthcare and Professional, Scientific and Technical. We are in year 1 of a 4-year implementation. An RFP was issued for a consultant to assist with year one implementation.

Youth Employer Breakfast: The breakfast was held on September 13th. The breakfast is to honor the employers who work with our high school students through the Connecting Activities program. There were 35 employers and approximately 70 people in attendance.

Annual Plan and Budget: Mr. Farkas stated that the budget for Fiscal Year would be approximately $4.9 million. At the June meeting the board voted to allow the Executive Committee to vote because the federal funding numbers were not yet released. The region did not experience the 10% cuts we were expecting. We saw a slight increase; the formula is complex. The Connective Activities budget was increased in the state budget this year.

Grants and Resources: The board has applied for a NEG grant to the State for $1.5 million to help dislocated workers affected by the opioid crisis. The recent hurricane could have an impact on the funding as they would both be considered emergency funds. The board secured $75K in year-round Youthworks funding, a youth skills training and jobs program that runs from October to May.

Ms. Cupelo applauded the board for aggressively going after grants because you can’t count on Federal and State funding to be consistent.


Chair Wrobel thanked everyone for attending. The Chair asked if there was any other business. Seeing none, the Chair requested a motion to adjourn.  With no other business, motion made by Elizabeth McKiernan; seconded by Maureen Kriff.  All in favor? Yes.  Opposed.  No.  Unanimous.  The meeting adjourned at 9:00 AM.