Last Thursday, over 20 groups and individuals testified before the Joint Committee on Labor and Workforce Development to offer their strong support of the Middle Skills Solutions Act: An Act establishing a middle skills council and the creation of regional skills academies in the Commonwealth (SB 921/ HB 2713).
Legislators who testified included Senator Donnelly, Senator Eldridge, Senator Clark, Senator Spilka, Senator Rush (represented by his chief of staff), Senator McGee, and Representative Fox.
Businesses, training organizations, individuals and community organizations who testified included Accurounds, AIM, the Progressive Business Leaders Network, Children’s Hospital Boston, the NE Clean Energy Council, the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, Middlesex Community College, Minuteman Vocational Technical High School, the Mass AFL-CIO, JVS, participants from the Hotel Training Center, National Network of Sector Partners, SkillWorks, and the Workforce Solutions Group, with many others submitting written testimony.
Some repeated themes we heard included:
- Despite high unemployment, employers are still having a hard time filling jobs, many of which are middle-skill, technical positions.
- We need better coordination between our employers and skills training providers to make sure we’re training the skilled workers employers need.
- We need to invest in better pathways that link together ESOL, ABE, skills training and post-secondary education.
- Better regional coordination, such as that proposed in this bill, will help integrate different parts of our education and training system while minimizing duplication of effort.
- Investments in middle-skill training and job placement is important to our economic recovery and long-term economic vitality.
Senator Wolf and Representative Erlich voiced their strong support for the bill as members of the committee, and vowed to work to report it out favorably. Senator Wolf in particular asked testifiers to “provide ammunition” that could be used once the bill reaches the floor in order to ensure its passage.
The committee will now consider the legislation and testimony before deciding whether to report out favorably on it; there’s no specific timeline on when any decision will be made. There is still time to submit written testimony if you have not done so. Testimony should be sent to Sue Parsons (sparsons at liveworkthrive.org) or Loh-Sze Leung (loh-sze.leung at tbf.org); we will forward it to the appropriate staffer for consideration.
Post-hearing (November 1), the Boston Globe / boston.com published an Op-Ed by Senator Donnelly on why he is working so hard to pass the Middle Skills Solutions Act. The piece concludes this way:
“If we are serious about building a healthy economy over the long term and providing good jobs for our residents, we must bring a laser focus to building a strong workforce that will attract business and industry to the Commonwealth. We should focus on creating pathways and opportunity for our young people and adult workers to gain the middle-skills training and credentials that our businesses need. We must ensure that we deliver programs that provide the education and skills to power industry and business. If we are serious about creating good jobs for our residents , we must begin now. The Middle Skills Solutions Act is a beginning.”
Read selected testimony from the hearing
Thanks again to everyone who testified or submitted testimony in support of this bill. We look forward to staying in touch to inform you of next steps!