MA Jobs & Workforce Summit Recap: This Year, We Mean Business!

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In case you missed it, the Workforce Solutions Group (WSG), with support and in partnership with SkillWorks, successfully hosted the 7th Annual Massachusetts Jobs and Workforce Summit on Wednesday, October 26 in Devens, MA. Every year, the Workforce Solutions group brings more than 300 key policy makers, business, labor, and education leaders, to present the latest information about statewide labor and credential needs, higher education initiatives and career pathways for young adults. This year’s theme? We Mean Business!

Continue reading “MA Jobs & Workforce Summit Recap: This Year, We Mean Business!”

Help wanted: Business leaders who support jobs, skills & training

This week at the Clinton Global Initiative-America (CGI-America) jobs and economic recovery covening in Chicago, the National Skills Coalition, Skills for America’s Future, National Fund for Workforce Solutions, and Corporate Voices for Working Families announced the creation of Business Leaders United for Workforce Partnerships.  Business Leaders United is an initiative to bring diverse business leaders together to help shape a national skills strategy that can address structural skill shortages that are putting the brakes on economic recovery and job creation.

There couldn’t be a better time or greater need for such a group.  Congress cut $1 billion from the  federal workforce system in FY2011, and is looking at even deeper cuts in FY2012.  At the same time, study after study is pointing out that we still have a skills gap–that up to 2 million jobs may be unfilled despite the recession–because our workforce is inadequately trained.

Business leadership is needed more than ever to speak to the importance of an appropriately skilled and trained workforce to spur growth and competitiveness.

The new Business Leaders initiative, whose first investor is the Joyce Foundation, will wisely bring businesses to the table as partners in training delivery and in shaping workforce policy.   The initiative’s goals are to:

  • Expand the number of these partnerships by more than 30 percent across 50 states.
  • Facilitate conversations between local business leaders and federal policymakers about how private, philanthropic, and public dollars can be leveraged to replicate and sustain these partnerships nationally.

Will Massachusetts’ companies step up to the challenge?

Skills2Compete MA is seeking business partners to speak out on the importance of investing in our Commonwealth’s workforce and to help shape our skills training and education systems and investments.

As Patrick Flavin, AVP Director of Workforce Initiatives for The TJX Companies, Inc. said in announcing the Business Leaders United initiative, “In order to better realize long-term economic recovery, we need to close the gap between untapped talent and entry level workforce needs.”

Please join Skills2Compete MA and be part of the solution.

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.

The business benefits of investing in lower-wage workers

In our last post, we discussed the approach that one business, Nypro, takes to investing in its workforce.

A just-released business brief from the National Network for Sector Partners talks about the benefits of making these investments.  Through case studies and interviews, the brief makes the case that training and advancing lower-wage workers has top and bottom line benefits–increasing revenues while decreasing expenses for businesses who make these investments.

According to the brief, which features several Massachusetts employers, including Visiting Nurses Association of Eastern Massachusetts; Harvard Vanguard Medical Associates; and Chelsea Jewish Nursing Home,  employers around the country that are building their bottom line by unlocking the potential of their lower-wage workforce.

Are you an employer interested in learning more?  Five fundamentals common to all employers interested in developing their lower wage workforces include:

  • One or more influential internal champions to promote the value of the initiative
  • An able and willing workforce, ready to take advantage of the training opportunities offered
  • An evidence-based business case for sustaining and improving the program
  • The ability and willingness to offer support to workers while they are in training
  • Dedicated, skilled management of the program

The overriding lesson is that employers who treat their basic-skill workforce as a durable asset — as a locus of quality and a source of steadily increasing skill and performance — find that their business is materially better for their effort. These are some of the returns they describe:

  • Revenues improve as quality and customer satisfaction rises.
  • Costs go down as errors, corrections, and vacancies diminish.
  • Employee teams become more productive and cohesive.
  • Less time is lost on supervisory interventions, customer complaints, and re-working.
  • The costs of excessive turnover — especially vacancies, recruitment, and re-training— all drop sharply.
  • The company’s reputation improves among both customers and potential employees.
  • The company becomes a magnet for the most motivated and productive workers.