Participant Highlight: Rizel Bobb-Semple

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At just 21 years old, Rizel Bobb-Semple has already attained various postsecondary credentials, worked in healthcare and IT, is currently working toward an Associate’s degree in Computer Information Systems at Bunker Hill Community College, and is starting an exciting internship at HubSpot this spring!

She attributes many of her accomplishments to the training and postsecondary programs she participated in, like Hack.Diversity, of which SkillWorks is a proud supporter. And her connection with SkillWorks doesn’t stop there, having also participated in other funded programs in healthcare and IT – showing that she’s in the driver’s seat of her education, purposefully taking advantage of opportunities to learn about, explore, and enter into the career pathway that’s right for her.

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SkillWorks Partners to Increase Diversity in Tech

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On November 18, 2017, the New England Venture Capital Association (NEVCA) announced the launch of Hack.Diversity, a public-private partnership designed to tackle the underrepresentation of black and latino employees in Boston’s innovation economy. SkillWorks is a proud supporter of Hack.Diversity in partnership with the Boston Foundation, with an initial investment of $50,000 and the establishment of the Hack.Diversity Fund.

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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).