NEWBURYPORT — U.S. Rep. John Tierney yesterday toured Parker Street manufacturer Arwood Machine Corp., calling the company a role model for a national employment resource that has been helping people find work since 1998 and that is now up for renewal in Congress.
The goal of the Workforce Investment Act is to help employers find skilled people to fill much-needed positions and at the same time train those seeking manufacturing jobs.
The act helps bring both employers and employees together and has greatly benefitted Arwood Machine Corp. since the act's creation, according to Tierney.
Tierney said the reauthorization of the Workforce Investment Act of 2012 is a long overdue modernization of that bill that will strengthen the existing system by streamlining and increasing access to training, promoting innovation and ensuring accountability and transparency.
"This bill is going to provide for those opportunities," Tierney said.
Arwood is a certified contract manufacturer of ultra-precision, machined metal components for the aerospace, communications, medical, military and other commercial markets. About 42 percent of its business is in the aerospace field with another 18 percent centered on military and defense. The company's customers include Raytheon, Rolls Royce, General Dynamics; it employs about 100 people.
As part of the Workforce Investment Act's creation, Arwood has been partnering with area vocational schools and community colleges to train students who eventually become part of the company's manufacturing team.
That kind of synergy has been made possible by the act's Workforce Innovation Fund, a competitive grant program to support the development of new strategies, by expanding the role of community colleges, involving more businesses and partnerships, and by increasing the use of on-the-job training, incumbent worker training, transitional jobs, paid work experience so that individuals can learn and work and enter/re-enter the labor market more quickly.
"Coming here today is just one of the trips we make around to those companies that say they need people to be trained on that and they're willing to participate and then talk about just how essential it is as we continue our rebound from the recession and moving on. We've got jobs, let's fill them," Tierney said.
After a quick PowerPoint presentation led by Arwood Machine President Michael Munday, Tierney, along with Newburyport Mayor Donna Holaday and Chamber of Commerce Director Ann Ormond, toured the company's 80,000-square-foot plant. There they were able to see and touch some of the different components made by the plant's fleet of machines and technicians.
"I think it's a wonderful opportunity to showcase a really solid company that has grown within our Greater Newburyport environment and has been able to understand how to retool and remake itself and be able to shift gears into the aerospace, which has been highly successful for them," said Holaday. "They also knew they had to invest in additional training of their staff and be able to reach out to local resources like the Workforce Training Grant."
Before touring Arwood Machine Corp., Tierney and Holaday stopped by Newburyport Fire Department headquarters on Greenleaf Street to announce the department's acquisition of $86,545 in federal funds for portable gas detectors and thermal imaging cameras on each truck and flash lights and PASS alarms for each firefighter.
"These funds are helping to keep our families and firefighters safe by supplying critical equipment upgrades, like thermal imaging cameras that allow firefighters to see through smoke, darkness or heat-permeable barriers," Tierney said. "Local communities already at risk of cutting services due to economic pressures can upgrade safety equipment while maintaining force levels, keeping firefighters safe at the scene and keeping communities protected."
The grant comes courtesy of the highly competitive Department of Homeland Security's Assistance to Firefighters Grant.
"This grant will help enhance our operation and the safety of our firefighters. We appreciate Congressman Tierney's support for this program, which is vital to the safety of our firefighters and our community," said Newburyport fire Chief Stephen Cutter, who wrote the grant.