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Certifications needed for Springfield casino jobs

Date: 10/9/2012

By G. Michael Dobbs

HOLYOKE — Members of the State Gaming Commission were told last week that casino employees would need higher education to serve high rollers.

Meeting at Holyoke Community College (HCC) President William Messner presented Commissioners Bruce Stebbins and James McHugh with a draft of a plan that would name community colleges as the educational entities that would train and certify every job created at each of the expanded gaming facilities in the state.

Messner explained to Reminder Publications that his appearance before the commission and his presentation were to make "sure we're on the right track [about education of casino workers]."

The issue is to have a labor pool of trained workers in place, he said.

Messner added, "Once the license is awarded in the winter of 2014, we need to have our processes in place ... planning for this is considerable."

He told the commission that the expected 10,000 jobs at the three casinos would be sought by at least 20,000 to 30,000 applicants.

Messner added that while some jobs might not need extensive additional education — such as management or professional positions involving employees with previous education or experience — he did want the community colleges to provide certification for every candidate for all casino related jobs.

When asked if he was proposing a monopoly of sorts, Messner denied it was, although he admitted "one could define it as such."

Acknowledging that every casino would have its own particular training course, Messner outlined a proposal that the commission enter into an agreement naming the participating community colleges as the provider of workforce training.

He added the commission would need to define what is necessary education and training for those positions in a casino that would require a license — probably dealers — from the state.

The commission would also have to decide, explained Messner, how this additional educational infrastructure would be financed. At this time, there is an estimated $10 million cost associated with the start-up of the program. Although there could be tuition to pay for classes, Messner suggested spreading the cost between the chosen casino developers or seek state funding.

"This is not going to be inexpensive," he said.

McHugh said the plan brought forth was impressive and Stebbins suggested writing a first draft that could come before the complete commission.