Expand proven strategies to close middle-skill gap

Two recent editorials, one in the Boston Globe and one in the Boston Business Journal, highlighted ideas for making workforce training more effective and accessible.  In “The Drill with Workforce Training” (January 28, Boston Business Journal), Joseph Giglio of Northeastern University makes the case for vocational training (in particular, our voc-tech high school system) and its role in preparing citizens for skilled positions in growth sectors like healthcare, energy, environment and information technology.

In “The ‘transition coach’, (January 30, Boston Globe), Laurence Harmon describes a new approach to increasing college retention and persistence of Boston Public School graduates.  Funded by The Boston Foundation, these transition coaches are helping students, who often don’t have parents or other mentors who can show them the ropes, navigate through the college registration process, financial aid forms, and course catalogs.  Early results show that persistence in college is up 20 points for the class of 2009 over the class of 2008, who did not receive this assistance.

As part of our campaign to increase the number of residents in MA with at least two years of post-secondary education and a credential, the Skills2Compete MA coalition has been advocating for both greater access to vocational-technical training and for greater investment in coaching and supportive students.

One might note that both articles referenced above focus on our future workforce pipeline–students graduating from high school and entering college.  Given that over 60 percent of our 2020 workforce is already in the workforce today, however, it would also serve us well to implement some of these proven strategies for adults.

Through a Social Innovation Fund grant, SkillWorks is creating a new college navigator to help support adult workforce training participants as they enroll in community college.  Our recent Middle-Skills Solutions Act also specifically calls out vocational-technical high schools and aims to expand their role in workforce training, especially since these schools often have the capacity, expertise and space to help more adults get the training they need.

To really close the “middle-skill gap” we have in the Commonwealth, we are going to need to invest in both youth and adults.  And it’s going to take both using existing resources more creatively (e.g. how do we expand the reach of our voc-tech high schools?) and increasing public and philanthropic investments where they are most needed and have a proven effect (e.g. college transition and navigation coaches).

 

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