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Breaking Down Barriers to Close the Skills Gap A plan to close the gap between

Breaking Down Barriers to Close the Skills Gap

A plan to close the gap between our schools, our workforce, and our job market

Enhance the Quality of Career and Vocational-Technical Education

INVEST in our children by increasing state funding for K-12 education targeted to our vocational-technical schools, with an emphasis on schools serving students in a gateway city region.

MODERNIZE our vocational-technical schools and programs by increasing state technology grants, incentivizing the private sector to match public funds at a high rate. Continue to work in close coordination with the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) to repair or rebuild our vocational-technical schools and bring high quality programs to serve youth and adults in a rapidly changing economy.

Build Public-Private Partnerships to Promote Workplace Experience in Higher Education

DEVELOP a working group, co-chaired by secretaries of education, housing and economic development, and labor to survey the Commonwealth’s employers, including small businesses and companies in our signature industries such as life sciences, information technology, and clean energy, on workforce needs.

ORGANIZE a task force that brings together leaders from each of the state’s 29 public colleges and universities as well as the business community to create a program that dramatically increases the number of internship and co-op opportunities in public higher education.

ENHANCE and promote existing websites to consolidate state resources into an easy to navigate resource, highlighting co-op, internship, and job openings.

FACILITATE discussion boards online that allow school administrators, students, parents, and other citizens to voice concerns and share ideas regarding their goals for a 21st century Massachusetts economy.

Provide Adults with the Training and Resources They Need to Find Work

LAUNCH a series of training workshops organized by the state for unemployed adults to learn resume, interviewing, and job search skills along with job fairs where companies can market available positions and conduct on site interviews.

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The Impact of the Skills Gap on Economic Growth and Employment

Massachusetts is home to the most well-educated workforce in the nation, yet we lag behind several states in economic growth and job creation. Nearly one in two of the Commonwealth’s workers held a bachelor’s degree or higher in 2010, but for the only time since World War II, we saw fewer jobs at the end of the decade. For the first time since the Great Depression, like the rest of the country, we saw a decade with no household income growth. 1 The gap between our educational attainment and our economic growth is tangible, and it’s hurting our people and our economy. Families continue to struggle in search of economic opportunity and economic mobility.

For centuries education has served as the great equalizer for our Commonwealth and our nation. Unless we deliberately address the gap between what our economy needs and what our students learn, the American Dream will remain out of reach for too many citizens who feel left out and left behind.

Having successfully run a family business, served as state treasurer, and played

a leadership role in numerous nonprofit organizations, Steve brings to the Corner Office

a proven track record of building consensus and collaboration among his colleagues to implement common-sense solutions that can change peoples’ lives.

This paper is the first in a series of policy and issue proposals as part of Steve’s plan to build a Commonwealth that leaves no one behind. In it, Steve describes specific steps he will take as governor to close the skills gap between our schools, our workforce, and our job market. He addresses the challenge that far too often, government stands as a barrier to economic growth because it operates within strict divisions of authority without first trying to build consensus and develop common-sense solutions across multiple agencies. Future papers will build on the concepts mentioned below to address the broader challenge of economic and income inequality.

Enhance the Quality of Career and Vocational-Technical Education

To keep pace with the rapid change of a 21st century economy and marketplace, Massachusetts needs to modernize its schools. With more than 100,000 unfilled job openings in Massachusetts because unemployed workers lack the required skills, now is the time to invest in skills and industry-specific training. 2

Enhancing the quality of career and vocational-technical education is crucial to ensuring that Massachusetts can close the skills gap in the decades ahead. More than 44,000 students, or 15 percent of all public high school students in the Commonwealth, attend 64 vocational-technical schools and programs. 3 Increasing funding to these schools and leveraging public-private partnerships to attract investment and shape curricula will provide students with the 21st century learning environment and technology they deserve.

Steve will propose dramatically increasing annual vocational-technical school equipment and technology grants. The Patrick administration originally announced $1 million annual grants in the 2013 fiscal year as part of its Five-Year Capital Investment Plan and received a $1.67 match from private sector donations for every $1 of taxpayer money invested. 4 Steve will propose a similar grant for technology and equipment that

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commits additional state funding and encourages private sector partners to match the funds at a high rate.

In addition to technology advancement, Steve will commit to increasing state funding for K-12 education targeted to our vocational-technical schools, with an emphasis on schools serving students in a gateway city region. This funding will be geared towards supporting the growth of new majors and programs in demand by employers and to cut down waiting lists for aspiring students. Steve’s proposal will place a strong emphasis on investments in those schools serving a gateway city region because these older industrial cities and the surrounding communities have suffered disproportionate losses in manufacturing. Since 1960, the 11 original gateway cities lost 134,000 manufacturing jobs, translating into more than a third of the state’s total decline. 5 Targeted strategic investments can ensure that cities left out and left behind from the burst of knowledge-based job growth at the end of the 20th century once again have a prosperous future ahead.

For many students today, vocational-technical schools offer preparation for a diverse range of career paths after graduation, including two and four year college admission, associate programs, military service, and direct employment opportunities.

As chairman of the MSBA, Steve recognizes the importance of school building needs. Most of the Commonwealth’s vocational technical regional schools are more than 40 years old, and many lack high quality state-of-the-art programs capable of serving youth and adults in an ever-changing economy.

The rationale for investing in these programs is grounded in convincing data. On average, vocational-technical schools have higher graduation and lower dropout rates than other high schools. 6 The graduation rate for special needs students at vocational- technical regional schools, at 82 percent, is nearly 20 percent higher than the statewide average at other high schools. 7

Build Consensus and Public-Private Partnerships to Promote Workplace Experience in Higher Education

Co-op and internship programs offer college students ideal job preparation, experience, as well as skills training for careers after graduation. As governor, Steve will develop an interagency working group, co-chaired by secretaries of education, housing and economic development, and labor to survey the Commonwealth’s employers on their workforce needs.

Steve will ask this working group to conduct the survey and issue a report on its findings within his first six months in office. In addition to cabinet meetings, he will ask the interagency working group to meet regularly and develop a system of performance metrics that evaluates monthly employment data in the context of both short and long- term goals to close the skills gap.

Steve will also organize a task force that brings together leaders from each of the state’s 29 public colleges and universities and business community leaders to create a program that dramatically increases the number of internship and co-op opportunities in public higher education. Students along with employers will benefit from a renewed

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focus on public-private partnerships that help bridge the gap between what students learn in the classroom and how they perform in the workforce.

During his campaign, Steve will take a leadership role in facilitating conversation and dialogue among the Commonwealth’s employers by inviting them to a roundtable discussion that addresses the challenge of ensuring educational attainment is more closely aligned with job growth.

Nearly 300,000 students study in one of our public colleges and universities, but each year retaining those students and encouraging them to stay in Massachusetts after graduation poses a significant challenge for our economy. About 58 percent of New England students who leave the region after graduating cite employment as the primary reason for moving, far ahead of family or housing reasons. 8 Creating more internship and co-op opportunities for all students in public higher education will significantly increase their job opportunities and networking connections after graduating.

In an effort to make government faster, more flexible, and more entrepreneurial, Steve will coordinate with his interagency working group to enhance and promote websites that will consolidate state resources into an easy to navigate resource, highlighting co-op, internship, and job opportunities.

In addition to communicating information about job opportunities, these sites will also serve as a forum for citizens to engage with one another online. Steve’s goal is to promote discussion boards that allow school administrators, students, parents and other citizens to voice concerns and share ideas regarding their goals for a 21st century Massachusetts economy.

Provide adults with the training and resources they need to find work

Putting Massachusetts residents back to work will be Steve’s top priority as governor. With 250,000 people out of work and another 250,000 people underemployed yet more than 100,000 unfilled jobs, workforce training can help reduce that gap. Particularly among aging adult workers, the need to assist them with job research and marketing is crucial to putting our citizens back to work. In Central Massachusetts, for example, where 45 percent of the labor force is 45 or older, and only 32 percent is 34 or younger, the region could use state assistance putting its older population to work in the short term. 9

As governor, Steve will organize a series of training workshops for unemployed adults to learn résumé, interviewing, and job search skills. He will also organize job fairs where companies can market available positions and conduct on site interviews. While we continue to focus on training our students for the jobs of a 21st century economy, we cannot afford to lose sight of adults who need work now.

1 Andrew M. Sum et al., “Recapturing the American Dream: Meeting the Challenges of the Bay State’s Lost Decade,” Massachusetts Institute for a New Commonwealth (December 2011): 6-7,

9.

2 David Riley, “Patrick’s community college plan has support,” MetroWest Daily News, March 19,

2012.

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3 Press Release, “Lieutenant Governor Murray Visits All Vocational-Technical Schools in Massachusetts,” May 3, 2013,

http://www.mass.gov/governor/pressoffice/pressreleases/2013/0503-vocational-technical-

program-visits.html.

For state-wide enrollment data see “School District Reporting Data,” Office for Career/Vocational Technical Education, http://www.doe.mass.edu/cte/data/.

4 Press Release, “Lieutenant Governor Murray Announces $1.1 Million in Grants to Benefit Vocational Schools Across Massachusetts,” May 29, 2013,

http://www.mass.gov/governor/pressoffice/pressreleases/2013/0529-vocational-school-grants-

announced.html.

5 Mark Muro et al., “Reconnecting Massachusetts Gateway Cities: Lessons Learned and an Agenda for Renewal,” Massachusetts Institute for a New Commonwealth (February 2007): 6.

6 In 2011, Massachusetts’ comprehensive high schools had a dropout rate of 2.8 percent, while vocational-technical schools had one of 1.6 percent, and regional vocational-technical schools posted an even lower dropout rate at 0.9 percent.

See Allison L. Fraser and William Donovan, “Hands-On Achievement: Why Massachusetts Vocational Technical Schools Have Low Dropout Rates,” Pioneer Institute 96 (January 2013): 1.

7 Ibid., 5.

8 Alicia Sasser Modestino, “Retaining Recent College Graduates in New England: An Update on Current Trends,” New England Public Policy Center at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston (May 2013): 4.

9 New England Public Policy Center at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, “Labor Market Trends in the Central Mass Region” (October 2012): 4.