Getting serious a decade after the call for "New Skills"

In their recent Commonwealth Magazine piece, Jerry Rubin and John Schneider take us briefly back to December 2000, when MassINC released its “New Skills for a New Economy” report that revealed one in three workers in Massachusetts did not have the skills needed to thrive in our “new economy.”

A decade later, in January 2011, we can look back and be proud of education reform, health care reform and financial reform that have addressed crises or urgent needs in our Commonwealth and in the nation at large.

What we haven’t seen, however, is the kind of reform or the kind of focused, sustained effort and attention needed to address the skills gap detailed in the “New Skills” report.

As Rubin and Schneider point out, numerous efforts and initiatives have been tried with some success, but it seems that on the whole, we are just as far from meeting our employers’ skill needs today as we were in 2001.  And while the pain of the current recession might cause some to think that training investments should not be a high priority, the strength of our recovery as well as our long-term economic vitality depend on our ability to nurture a talent pool in the Commonwealth that will help our businesses grow.

Massachusetts prides itself on being the capital of innovation and being on the cutting edge, yet other states are leapfrogging past us in this area.  Oregon, Kentucky, Washington, Virginia and Rhode Island, to name just a few, have either initiated or made significant strides toward building better career pathways systems with more integrated community college, career and technical education, workforce development and adult basic education over the last decade.

Senator Donnelly and Representative Coakley Rivera filed the Middle-Skills Solutions Act last week in the Massachusetts Senate and House–taking a good first step this legislative session to addressing some of the systems reform issues that keep adults from making progress toward credentials and degrees.

The Middle-Skills Solutions Act:

  • Establishes a Middle Skills Council to provide recommendations on how to better align adult basic education with post-secondary education and training in order increase the number of adults with middle-skill credentials and jobs.
  • Requires regional coordination between employers and training providers, including community colleges, in order to increase collaboration and reduce duplication and inefficiencies in our training systems; and
  • Establishes Regional Skills Academies to spur innovation within our community colleges that speeds credential attainment by lower-income, lower-skilled adults seeking career and wage advancement

We hope you’ll join us in supporting the passage of this bill and the other recommendations contained in our Skills2Compete MA policy recommendations.

We cannot afford to let another decade go by before we get serious about creating opportunities for both the residents and the businesses of the Commonwealth to thrive.

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