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dsc_0558-smNORTH BROOKFIELD, MA – JUNE 24, 2016 – For nearly 100 years, shoes or shoe parts have been manufactured at the same factory in this quite community in Worcester County called home to less than 5,000 residents.

Today, in a building on School Street, Vibram USA makes the shoe soles for many name-brand styles, including Ralph Lauren, Merrell, North Face, and Saucony. The company also makes the distinctive FiveFinger athletic shoes.

But company executives worry the manufacturing techniques practiced by employees who have worked there for decades will be lost as older workers begin to retire. Nearly 56 percent of the company’s workforce will reach retirement age within the next five years.

Many companies across the Commonwealth can tell the same story –an aging workforce with not enough younger, skilled workers in the pipeline to replace them.

During the next decade, in manufacturing alone, approximately 100,000 jobs will open up.  Two-thirds of which will be replacements for aging workers.

That’s part of the reason why the Baker-Polito administration has made workforce development a top priority, and is investing in training programs and equipment.

Lt. Governor Karyn Polito recently visited Vibram USA to award the company one of nearly $8.5 million in grants from the Workforce Training Fund. The grants were awarded to 101 companies around the Commonwealth. More than 6,200 individuals will receive training at their workplaces through these grants.

Governor Charlie Baker, Lt. Governor Polito and members of the Governor’s Workforce Skills Cabinet are very cognizant there is a gap between employers’ needs for skilled workers and residents’ ability to get training and education for jobs in growing industries in the Commonwealth.

“Our administration is focused on meeting the needs of employers in Massachusetts by aligning workforce training, economic development and education,” Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito said. “These grants offer a unique opportunity for local businesses not only to improve their workers’ skills, but also to boost their bottom line as a result of the training.”

The Workforce Training Fund is an important tool that assists Massachusetts businesses to become more competitive by investing in the skills of their workers. The Workforce Training Fund is also a vital resource to thousands of Massachusetts workers who wish to advance their skills to achieve promotional opportunities and higher wages.

Michael V. Gionfriddo, President and CEO, Vibram USA said “With the support of the Workforce Training Fund Program, Vibram can continue to focus on improving the skills of our workforce and developing the future leaders of our company.”

The Workforce Training Fund is a program of the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development. The program is administered by Commonwealth Corporation, a quasi-public state agency that fosters partnerships between industry, education and workforce organizations to strengthen skills for youth and adults in order to help them thrive in the state’s economy.

The Workforce Training Fund provides grants up to $250,000 to companies of any size in Massachusetts to pay for workforce training over a two-year period. Grants are awarded to projects that will upgrade workers’ skills, increase productivity, and enhance the competitiveness of Massachusetts businesses. Grants are matched dollar-for-dollar by the award recipients.

“Businesses’ investment in training is one of the best ways to grow and retain talent within an organization. As an added benefit, workers who receive additional training feel valued by their companies,” Labor and Workforce Development Secretary Ronald L. Walker, II said.

“The Workforce Training Fund is a great resource to support businesses in investing in the skills of their incumbent workforce.  We encourage Massachusetts companies to learn more about how the fund can help them to meet their business needs through training,” said Nancy Snyder, president of Commonwealth Corporation.

The Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development and Commonwealth Corporation hope to encourage businesses to address workforce training needs through the Workforce Training Fund. The fund awards more than $1 million each month, on a rolling basis throughout the year. Interested parties are encouraged to visit www.commcorp.org/wtfp to learn more.

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