Skills for America's–and Massachusetts'–Future

President Obama announced yesterday new investments in the Skills for America’s Future initiative, which focuses on training and preparing our workforce for manufacturing jobs.  In partnership with National Association of Manufacturers, community colleges and private sector employers, the new investments will train over 500,000 community college students and allow them to get industry-accepted credentials for manufacturing jobs that companies across America are looking to fill.

President Obama’s remarks specifically called out the skills mismatch that the Skills2Compete MA campaign and our partners at Associated Industries of Massachusetts, the Boston Federal Reserve Bank, Shire Pharmaceutical, Children’s Hospital Boston, Nypro, Accurounds and others have noted.  As the President said:

“The goal isn’t just making sure that somebody has got a certificate or a diploma.  The goal is to make sure your degree helps you to get a promotion or a raise or a job….

“Because the irony is even though a lot of folks are looking for work, there are a lot of companies that are actually also looking for skilled workers.  There’s a mismatch that we can close.  And this partnership is a great way to do it.

“So if you’re a company looking to hire, you’ll know exactly what kind of training went into a specific degree.  If you’re considering attending a community college, you’ll be able to know that the diploma you earn will be valuable when you hit the job market.”

Lest we think this isn’t relevant to Massachusetts, the President’s remarks and the announcement of these new investments address concerns raised by Bay State manufacturers in the recent two-part series in the Boston Business Journal.  The series, which focused on the revival of manufacturing in the Commonwealth, also pointed out that a shortage of trained workers could threaten companies’ ability to expand here.

The challenge is in how we connect the dots on the ground.  The Department of Higher Education’s Vision Project is focusing on increasing credential attainment at our public higher education institutions. Massachusetts’ Workforce Training Fund, Workforce Competitiveness Trust Fund, and the public-private SkillWorks initiative invest in and nurture precisely the kinds of employer-training partnerships the President is talking about.

Yet, in the case of the Competitiveness Trust Fund, there’s no money left to support these partnerships, and both the House and Senate neglected to pass amendments that would have made a modest pool of dollars available in FY2012.   And while the Vision Project is making recommendations, we’ll have to find both the funding and the political will in order to implement them and see the kind of transformative change that’s needed.

It can be discouraging to think about the limits of what we can accomplish given currently constrained resources, but we have to start somewhere.  We should find the resources needed for at least a modest investment in the Competitiveness Trust Fund in 2012; we should support financial aid for working adults who attend school part-time; and we should continue to pilot and then take to scale innovative, industry-driven approaches that help students successfully attain credentials.  The potential return on this investment in terms of job growth, business expansion, and income growth for workers is enormous.

The President wants to see 500,000 new community college students earn credentials that will position them for success in the labor market.  Let’s make sure a good number of those are right here in Massachusetts.


56 Senators and Representatives co-sponsor the Middle-Skills Solutions Act

Last week, 43 Representatives and 13 Senators signed on to co-sponsor the Middle-Skills Solutions Act, originally filed by Sen. Donnelly and Rep. Coakley Rivera and an outgrowth of the Skills2Compete MA campaign.  The bill aims to improve pathways to middle-skill jobs for adults through increased regional coordination of workforce, education and business sectors as well as through the creation of a Middle-Skills Council and Regional Skills Academies.

THANK YOU to all of our bill sponsors!  And thanks to all of you who contacted your representatives and senators and asked them to sign on.

Rep. Denise Andrews (D-Orange)
Rep. Michael Brady (D-Brockton)
Rep. Paul Brodeur (D-Melrose)
Rep. William Brownsberger (D-Belmont)
Rep. Antonio Cabral (D-New Bedford)
Rep. Linda Dean Campbell (D-Methuen)
Rep. Christine Canavan (D-Brockton)
Rep. Stephen Canessa (D-Lakeville)
Rep. Gailanne Cariddi (D-North Adams)
Rep. Cheryl Coakley-Rivera (D-Springfield) *
Rep. Micahel Costello (D-Newburyport)
Rep. Sean Curran (D-Springfield)
Rep. Linda Dorcena Forry (D-Dorchester)
Rep. Sean Garballey (D-Arlington)
Rep. Anne Gobi (D-Spencer)
Rep. Thomas Golden, Jr. (D-Lowell)
Rep. Jonathan Hecht (D-Watertown)
Rep. Kevin Honan (D-Brighton
Rep. Louis Kafka (D-Soughton)
Rep. John Keenan (D-Salem)
Rep. Kay Khan (D-Newton)
Rep. Peter Kocot (D-Northampton)
Rep. Paul Mark (D-Pittsfield)
Rep. Christopher Markey (D-Dartmouth)
Rep. Kevin Murphy (D-Lowell)
Rep. David Nangle (D-Lowell)
Rep. Harold Naughton, Jr. (D-Clinton)
Rep. James O’Day (D-West Boylston)
Rep. Angelo Puppolo, Jr. (D-Springfield)
Rep. John Rogers (D-Norwood)
Rep. George Ross (R-Attleboro)
Rep. Tom Sannicandro (D-Ashland)
Rep. John Scibak (D-South Hadley
Rep. Stephen Smith (D-Everett)
Rep. Todd Smola (R-Palmer)
Rep. Christopher Speranzo (D-Pittsfield)
Rep. Ellen Story (D-Amherst)
Rep. William Straus (D-Mattapoisett)
Rep. Benjamin Swan (D-Springfield)
Rep. David Torrisi (D-North Andover)
Rep. Chris Walsh (D-Framingham)
Rep. Marty Walsh (D-Dorchester)
Sen. Katherine Clark (D-Melrose)
Sen. Sal DiDomenico (D-Everett)
Sen. Kenneth Donnelly (D-Arlington) *
Sen. Jamie Eldridge (D-Acton)
Sen. Susan Fargo (D-Lincoln)
Sen. Michael Knapik (R-Westfield)
Sen. Thomas McGee (D-Lynn)
Sen. Michael Moore (D-Milbury)
Sen. Richard Moore (D-Uxbridge)
Sen. Michael Rodrigues (D-Westport)
Sen. Michael Rush (D-West Roxbury)
Sen. Karen Spilka (D-Ashland)
Sen. James Timilty (D-Walpole)
Sen. Dan Wolf (D-Harwich)

*Lead Sponsors

Support the Middle-Skills Solutions Act

**We need your help today! Please call your representatives and senators and ask them to co-sponsor the Middle Skills Solutions Act!**

On Friday, January 21, Senator Kenneth Donnelly and Representative Cheryl Coakley-Rivera filed the Middle-Skills Solutions Act in the Massachusetts Senate (Docket #1547) and House (Docket #3180).

The recommendations in this bill, which SkillWorks, the Workforce Solutions Group, and some of our allies from the business, philanthropic, workforce and education communities worked on together, are a good first step toward addressing some of the barriers that keep adults from making progress toward credentials and degrees, and hence middle-skill jobs.

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.   We need your help in getting senators and representatives to sign on as bill co-sponsors before the deadline of Friday, February 4.

Please call your state representatives and senators today and ask them to co-sponsor the Middle-Skills Solutions Act (Senate 1547, House 3180).

Vote on November 2

Your vote counts on November 2!

Before you go to the polls on Tuesday, take a few minutes to hear what the candidates had to say about jobs and training at the Skills2Compete MA gubernatorial forum last month.

The person we elect to serve as our next governor will make crucial decisions about the Commonwealth’s investments in middle-skill jobs and how to better prepare our residents for these jobs.