Connecting Industry to Talent in the Digital Age: A Look at the Greater Boston IT/Tech Industry

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Guest written by: Philip Jordan, Economic Advancement Research Institute (EARI)

The U.S. economy is a complex and dynamic system within a global framework of goods and services. Through each boom and bust cycle, our economy has evolved, facing new global competitors and harnessing the creative and destructive power of technology. In the 21st century, this evolution has led to the intersection of the digital age and the human age; an age where repetition and consistency have given way to creativity and innovation, and skilled human capital fuels growth.

Continue reading “Connecting Industry to Talent in the Digital Age: A Look at the Greater Boston IT/Tech Industry”

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Skills to Succeed: A New Campaign to Increase Massachusetts’ Workforce Outcomes and Resources

As an article in today’s Boston Globe highlights, warnings of the instability of the Massachusetts economy are growing.  Reporter Deirdre Fernandes writes that the region’s top economists are stressing that despite numbers showing economic recovery and steady growth, when you check under the hood, you’ll see a more troubling picture. Yes, the official unemployment has dropped even lower than pre-recession levels to 4.4%, which is also below the current national average of 5%. And it’s true that the state economy has been experiencing steady growth, reaching an annual rate of 2.3%, well above the national average of 0.5%. But these data points divert attention from a myriad of challenges and systemic imbalances combining to create a ‘perfect storm’ positioned to wreak havoc on our economy.

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Continue reading “Skills to Succeed: A New Campaign to Increase Massachusetts’ Workforce Outcomes and Resources”

The economic imperative for more adults to complete college

“Not Just Kid Stuff Anymore: The Economic Imperative for More Adults to Complete College” by the Center for Law and Social Policy and the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems revealed that the number of high school graduates in Massachusetts will decline by nearly 10 percent between now and 2020.  We are one of 31 states which will experience a decline and one of thirteen that will experience a decline of between 5 and 10 percent.

What does this mean for the future of our workforce and for our economy?

Over 60 percent of the workforce in 2020 is already in the workforce today.  We will not be able to meet employer demand for college-educated workers by relying on high school graduates alone, especially if the size of this group is actually declining in our state.

While we certainly cannot afford to stop investing in quality public secondary education, the demographic shift in our population also makes a clear case for investing in the skills of our current adult workforce. We must help and support those with lower skills but who have the desire and ambition to gain more skills and a better job.

This means we need to:

  • Invest in job training and placement,  adult basic education, English language services, and transitions to post-secondary education and technical education.
  • Address financial aid policies at the state and federal levels to make aid more accessible and responsive to the needs of adults who often juggle work, family, and school.
  • Work with employers to identify jobs they have a hard time filling, and collaborate with them on appropriate training for these jobs.

Make no mistake, increasing public investments for any set of priorities is a difficult proposition in these times, when the rhetoric and often the fiscal reality is all about cuts.  However, making these investments is not only the right thing to do for our communities and neighbors, it’s what we need to do to ensure our long-term economic competitiveness.

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.