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.
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.
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.
“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?
- Massachusetts is a high educational attainment state, with growing employer demand for more workers that have at least some level post-secondary education or training.
- In fact, between 2008-2018, state labor demand will increase six times as much for college-educated workers (148,000 additional jobs) as for high school graduates and dropouts (25,000 additional jobs).
- However, recent high school graduates are our traditional source of such workers, and their numbers will decline in MA over the next decade.
- We therefore face an imperative to help many more adults complete college credentials in order to meet employer needs.
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.
“Employers have millions of jobs they are trying to fill. But in some cases, they are having trouble.”
So begins a new series on NPR about the labor-skills mismatch that we currently have in the United States, even during this recession.
While this first segment focuses on higher skilled jobs like architects, engineers, and software developers, middle-skill jobs like airplane mechanics are also noted as being difficult to fill. Employers also focused on the importance of post-secondary credentials and experience in terms of getting hired in the current labor market.
All of this underscores the critical nature of the work we need to do to prepare our workforce for middle-skill and high-skill jobs. If employers can’t find the workers they need, even in the midst of the worst recession in recent history, we clearly need to do a better job of aligning our training and educational systems to where the jobs are. Of course, part of this work needs to be focused on the K-12 pipeline, integrating STEM into the curriculum, strengthening college preparation and improving basic skills.
However, we cannot ignore the fact that two-thirds of our 2020 workforce is already past high school, and many adults need opportunities to re-train or up-skill as well. Here in Massachusetts, this means we need stronger and more adult basic education programs; better transitions to post-secondary education and training; better linkages between workforce development, adult education, higher education, and businesses; support for adults in post-secondary education; more evening/weekend/modular/accelerated certificate and credential programs; and more investment overall in public higher education.
If we can’t give our workforce the skills to compete in the 21st century economy, we’ll all lose the race.