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Eighty-one percent of Massachusetts jobs are currently classified as middle-skill or high-skill, and within this decade 70 percent will require postsecondary education. Yet only half of Massachusetts adults today have some postsecondary qualification, and the next generation (relying on guidance from peers, parents and teachers) does not fully understand the demands and opportunities of the world in which they will pursue their careers.
That was the sobering message at the Future Ready Summit at Worcester's DCU Center on Monday.
Future Ready Massachusetts is a public communication campaign promoting college and career programs that exist across the state. It is a collaborative project of the Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education (MBAE), the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education (DHE) in partnership with Achieve Inc., a national nonprofit education reform organization.
Among the more than 500 attendees at the summit, there was only a scattering of business people.
Organizers of the Future Ready campaign say students must acquire the knowledge, skills and attitudes needed to complete education and training that will provide access to careers of choice. The campaign's key messages are:
- Start Now: It's never too early (or too late) to begin planning.
- Aim High: Students who challenge themselves through a rigorous course of study usually go the farthest.
- Look Beyond: Look outside the classroom for learning opportunities that support career readiness.
The employer role falls largely under the third heading, but the others are also important. Although we often focus on high school, panelist Kathleen Finn of IBM pointed out, there are age-appropriate ways to get younger students to start thinking about careers. Finn also noted that while small companies do not have the resources of large ones like hers, they represent in aggregate a huge reservoir of talent in every community that can engage with schools and students locally.
The employer community has a vital stake in the success of education in Massachusetts. The small turnout of business people at the Worcester summit was hardly surprising – but the effort will fail without their substantial engagement at the local level.
Companies are expanding the concept of "succession planning" beyond top executive positions to their entire workforces – and Massachusetts should be thinking along the same lines, Yolanda Kodrzycki, Director of the New England Public Policy Center (NEPPC) at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, told an audience representing employers, government and education on Wednesday morning.
Our state's incumbent workforce, Kodrzycki noted, is the twelfth-oldest in the country, but outside Greater Boston, a magnet for young people, it is fourth-oldest, behind only Maine, Vermont, and New Hampshire. The ongoing generational transition is complicated by deficiencies in the skills pipeline and by limited opportunities for young people to gain work experience.
Kodrycki spoke at the release of a report, "Closing the Massachusetts Skills Gap," that completes an 18-month project examining labor demand and supply regionally and statewide. Commonwealth Corporation, a quasi-public workforce agency, commissioned the analysis from NEPPC; Eastern Bank supported the report's production. For employer s concerned about workforce issues, the statewide report and the eight regional reports offer a mine of information and insights.
Speakers at the release event included the state secretaries of Labor and Workforce Development and Education, Nancy Snyder of Commonwealth Corporation, Wanda McClain of Brigham & Women's Hospital, and Nancy Stager of Eastern Bank.
Recommendations to address the skills gap are proposed by Commonwealth Corporation fall under four headings:
- Improve employment outcomes for young workers (teens through post-secondary) through work experiences, internships, coaching, and more flexible hiring practices
- Expand the scale and intensity of Adult Basic Education and English language programs, with more cooperation between employers and educational programs.
- Align education with persistent and emerging skill needs, again stressing links between industry and training providers.
- Craft more effective and accessible educational models that support ongoing skill development and lifelong learning, such as the newly streamlined Workforce Training Fund Program.
The Massachusetts Workforce Training Fund Program (WTFP) today announced four policy changes that will streamline the grant process and make thousands of additional employers eligible for the Express Grant program.
WTFP officials said the fund’s advisory board voted recently to cut in half the two-year waiting period for companies that receive a grant and wish to apply for a subsequent award. The board also made companies with between 50-100 employees eligible for Express Grants; eliminated the waiting period between General Program grants and Express Program grants; and increased the allowable grant period for Technical Assistance grants from six months to 12 months.
Express Grants allow small employers to quickly and simply provide training for employees by using existing training courses where a pricing structure already exists.
“The changes acknowledge the fact that training is an ongoing process that employers maintain over many years in an effort to become efficient and competitive,” said Richard C. Lord, President and Chief Executive Officer of AIM and Chair of the WTFP Advisory Board.
“Our hope is that more employers will now come forward to seek training money, even if they have received grants in the past.
WTFP, the commonwealth’s flagship workforce training initiative, has provided $202 million to train approximately 290,000 Massachusetts workers at more than 3,700 companies since 2007. The program allows employers to apply for grants of up to $25,000 for technical assistance programs, or up to $250,000 for full training programs. Training programs may last up to two years.
The reduced waiting period between applications for general workforce training grants is effective for all companies that have previously won grants. The waiting period commences when grant final paperwork has been completed and approved by staff.
Grant awards will take into account:
- The role of Workforce Training Funds as money intended to supplement, not supplant, private investment in training;
- Performance on previous WTFP grants, including, but not limited to, training program completion, achievement of expected results, and grantee compliance;
- Duplication of training efforts previously funded through the Workforce Training Fund.
Employers fund the WTFP through a surcharge on their Unemployment Insurance tax payments. Companies are permitted to use grants from the fund to train workers in areas such as basic skills, English as a second language, supervisory/management skills, customer service and lean manufacturing.
Lord said expansion of the Express Grant program will allow thousands of employers to access training money for the first time through an expedited process. Applications for Express Grants are accepted on a rolling basis.
“The changes simplify the grant application process for a wide swath of companies that make up the core of the Massachusetts economy. The objective is to get money into the hands of employers to improve the skills of workers and make their enterprises globally competitive,” Lord said.
AIM has helped scores for companies develop successful Workforce Training Fund grant applications. Please contact Bill Baldino (firstname.lastname@example.org) for more information.
With the “skills gap” much in the news, the Workforce Investment Act of 1998 (WIA) is up for reauthorization – again. The law structures our nation’s workforce development system and was responsible for creating local employer-led workforce investment boards (WIBs) and one-stop career centers across the country.
Reauthorization was due in 2003, but never happened. The decade-long partisan deadlock, on an eminently negotiable issue of great concern to both employers and job seekers, stands as a symbol of what’s wrong in Washington.
The U.S. House of Representatives last Friday passed the Supporting Knowledge and Investing in Lifelong Skills (SKILLS) Act, a Republican bill that would consolidate or eliminate 35 federally-funded job training programs and increase employer influence in the workforce development system. (A Democratic alternative, introduced by Rep. John Tierney, D-MA, and two co-sponsors, was defeated on a party-line vote.)
The SKILLS Act, which would also freeze spending levels on the programs for seven years, prevailed by a 215-202 vote, reflecting something short of solid GOP support. It is unlikely to fare well in the Democratic-majority Senate.
Apart from the funding freeze, the SKILLS bill has two controversial aspects. First, Republicans argue that the program consolidation would make the system more effective and efficient. Democrats cannot deny this, but charge that elimination of categorical grants would mean abandonment of targeted services for such groups as veterans, ex-offenders and at-risk youth.
Second, Republicans want to increase employer representation on workforce investment boards from 51 percent to two-thirds, to make them responsive to actual employment opportunities. Democrats counter that this would “lock out” unions, community-based organizations, and community colleges from influence.
As someone who has been involved in workforce development issues for more than three decades (two-thirds of that time with AIM), and who serves on the board of a WIB, I have mixed feelings.
There is no doubt that program consolidation could be a good thing. A 2011 Government Accountability Office report found that there are 47 federally administered training programs (some not under WIA) and that almost every one duplicated others. President Obama wants to "cut through the maze of confusing the programs" to make the system more accessible to job-seekers.
Employers complain that categorical programs, targeting specific populations, force them to discriminate among people who are equal in the workplace. WIBs and training providers must sacrifice efficiency of service delivery to carefully balance their clientele, and are precluded from reallocating resources as needed. Those who seek training find the over-complex system discouraging. I do not doubt that (as the Republicans insist) groups in need would continue to receive services without categorical grants, and that the overall system would be improved.
On the question of employer representation on WIBs, my experience suggests that both sides are wrong. A change in the balance of WIBs would not “lock out” labor, CBOs and community colleges – all of which, by the way, make important contributions. On the other hand, WIBs are not, in my view, doing a bad job of identifying needs and opportunities. The problem is how to respond. While the workforce development system as a whole is moving towards greater engagement with real workplace needs – notable progress is being made, for example, in adult basic education, and the recent community college reforms are promising – stronger employer involvement on the program delivery side would make much more difference than WIB super-majorities. And, at least here in Massachusetts, it hasn't been easy to maintain even the currently required simple majority of employers on these boards
Reauthorization of the outdated Workforce Investment Act, with or without a clever acronym, would be a good thing. Consolidating programs to make the system more flexible, efficient and transparent would be a big step forward – for employers, service providers and job-seekers. Letting reauthorization stall (for another 10 years?) over partisan issues that do not even reflect the concerns of supposed constituent groups would be simply irresponsible.
Associated Industries of Massachusetts congratulates 20 member employers who won Workforce Training Fund Program (WTFP) grants from the commonwealth today.
The AIM-member employers were among 87 companies and training organizations that will share in more than $6.8 million to improve the skills of existing and newly hired employees. WTFP, the commonwealth’s flagship workforce training initiative, has provided $68.66 million to train approximately 90,000 Massachusetts workers at more than 2,750 companies since 2007.
"We are focused on addressing the skills gap issue in the commonwealth so that workers can compete in today’s ever-changing jobs market,” said Governor Deval Patrick. "The Workforce Training Fund focuses on the needs of both our businesses and workers, as Massachusetts continues to lead the nation in economic recovery.”
Richard C. Lord, President and Chief Executive Officer of AIM and Chair of the Workforce Training Fund Program Advisory Board, said employers have become more comfortable with the program since the Legislature and governor removed it from annual budget debates by placing it into a trust during Fiscal Year 2012.
“It’s great to see the Workforce Training Fund programs back in full operation, with assured funding,” Lord said. “Employers of all sizes across the state are seeking improved productivity, and these grant programs are proven resources for advancing workforce skills.”
WTFP allows employers to apply for grants of up to $25,000 for technical assistance programs, or up to $250,000 for full training programs. Training programs may last up to two years.
The grant winners announced today are located in 66 cities and towns across the commonwealth and will provide training to employees in a range of sectors, including financial services, manufacturing, engineering and hospitality. AIM members receiving grants were:
- Imperial Distributions Inc., Auburn, $183,000 awarded, 125 employees to be trained, 12 additional jobs are expected to be created as a result of training.
- The Phia Group LLC, Braintree, $152,813 awarded, 79 employees to be trained, 10 additional jobs are expected to be created as a result of training.
- NYPRO, Inc., Clinton, $150,060 awarded, 134 employees to be trained, 18 additional jobs are expected to be created as a result of training.
- Nye Lubricants Inc, Fairhaven, $145,200 awarded, 128 employees to be trained, 8 additional jobs are expected to be created as a result of training.
- Accutech Packaging, Inc., Foxboro, $102,220 awarded, 42 employees to be trained, 5 additional jobs expected to be created as a result of training.
- Iredale Mineral Cosmetics Ltd., Great Barrington, $228,400 awarded, 79 employees to be trained, 5 additional jobs are expected to be created as a result of training.
- Vacuum Technology Associates, Inc., Hingham, $48,760 awarded, 72 employees to be trained, 10 additional jobs are expected to be created as a result of training.
- James J. Dowd and Sons Insurance Agency, Inc, Holyoke, $49,980 awarded, 41 employees to be trained, no additional jobs are expected to be created as a result of training.
- Boyd Coatings Research, Hudson, $128,850 awarded, 90 employees to be trained, 3 additional jobs are expected to be created as a result of training.
- Fourstar Connections Inc., Hudson, $71,930 awarded, 21 employees to be trained, 5 additional jobs are expected to be created as a result of training.
- National Lumber, Mansfield, $79,250 awarded, 79 employees to be trained, 6 additional jobs are expected to be created as a result of training.
- Bixby International Corporation, Newburyport, $86,400 awarded, 56 employees to be trained, 4 additional jobs are expected to be created as a result of training.
- Fabrico, Oxford, $182,400 awarded, 177 employees to be trained, 20 additional jobs are expected to be created as a result of training.
- Randolph Engineering, Randolph, $32,640 awarded, 48 employees to be trained, 3 additional jobs are expected to be created as a result of training.
- Ionsense, Inc., Saugus, $16,800 awarded, 8 employees to be trained, 3 additional jobs are expected to be created as a result of training.
- Ranor, Inc., Westminster, $73,692 awarded, 140 employees to be trained, 5 additional jobs are expected to be created as a result of training.
- Janis Research Company, Inc., Wilmington, $131,470 awarded, 77 employees to be trained, 1 additional job is expected to be created as a result of training.
- United Tool & Die Company, Inc., Wilmington, $48,290 awarded, 16 employees to be trained, 5 additional jobs are expected to be created as a result of training.
- Warner Babcock Institute for Green Chemistry, LLC, Wilmington, $63,225 awarded, 33 employees to be trained, 5 additional jobs are expected to be created as a result of training.
- Curtis Industries, Worcester, $103,350 awarded, 82 employees to be trained, 8 additional jobs are expected to be created as a result of training.
At a time when manufacturing employers are struggling to find skilled workers, a unique initiative from the Massachusetts Manufacturing Extension Partnership is about to graduate its second class of 12 CNC machine operators trained at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI).
The Massachusetts More Skilled Workers Program is funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment & Training Administration. The training takes place within a 280-hour instruction program that includes:
- 80 hours of foundational manufacturing skills;
- 100 hours of advanced CNC skills training at WPI;
- 40 hours of MasterCAM;
- 30 hours of career readiness;
- 20 hours of Math Boot Camp instruction; and
- the OSHA 30-hour General Industry course.
Employers who hire the graduates are eligible for a $10-per-hour wage reimbursement for 18 weeks ($7,200) to offset the cost of on-the-job training. Most candidates also qualify for the state’s Hiring Incentive Training Grant ($2,000) for training veterans or residents unemployed for six months or more.
The training course is part of a larger credentialing system developed by Bay State employers to identify skills that are critical for success in high-value manufacturing. The 280 hours of instruction satisfy three steps of a five-step system, called the Applied Manufacturing Technology Certification Pathway, that can lead to an associate’s degree in manufacturing technology. The Massachusetts Association of Vocational Administrators has incorporated the credentialing model into the vocational technical educational frameworks that underlie the Manufacturing, Engineering and Technology curriculum.
The employers behind the new credentialing system work under the name of the Manufacturing Advancement Center Workforce Innovation Collaborative. MACWIC is an alliance of next-generation manufacturers seeking to identify workforce-related business needs and to drive solutions, especially skills training.
And MACWIC members are developing the skills of current, as well as future, manufacturing workers. The organization has created a Manufacturing Skills Academy Network made up of member companies, partners, and individuals committed to developing manufacturing talent. Staffed by member companies, the initiative allows workers to keep pace with rapidly changing technology and maintain Massachusetts' global competitiveness.
Employers who wish to review resumes for each of the participants in the current CNC class on line can go to StemPower.
Manufacturing often calls to mind global companies like Raytheon, General Electric and EMC.
But 98.5 percent of Massachusetts manufacturers are classified by the Federal government as Small Manufacturing Enterprises (SMEs). About 7,000 of the almost 8,000 manufacturers in the Bay State employ fewer than 100 people. Some 5,200 manufacturers (69 percent) employ fewer than 20, and 2,590 (34 percent) have no more than five employees.
These smaller companies, like the giants, survive and thrive in a national and global marketplace. Their success, measured by indicators such as the high volume of Massachusetts products exported to international markets, reflects great credit on the thousands of small manufacturers operating in the commonwealth and on their ability to maintain a competitive edge.
Remaining competitive is, however, becoming more challenging. In a survey of small manufacturers by the Center for Urban and Regional Policy at Northeastern University about changes in customer expectations over the past 10 years, 62 percent of employers cited increased pressure for lower prices, 60 percent saw demand for improved service and timely deliveries, and 55 percent said customers are seeking better product quality.
Price, service and quality are simultaneously the top three requirements and the top three challenges across all manufacturing sectors. Manufacturers both large and small still find quality problems at the shipping docks. As to price, there are still too many small manufacturers that understate their cost of quality, writing down off-spec products at material costs and not at value added costs. Indeed, there are still companies that throw away more value than they make.
Proper quality management leads to lower costs, increased productivity and a better competitive position. Large companies are developing systems to manage this important aspect of their operations and pushing responsibility down the supply chain. Demand by large manufacturers that their suppliers have a certified quality management system in place is nothing new. What is new are the demands for the suppliers to take on more responsibility and accountability in the design of the products they are supplying in addition to establishing systems for traceability of their products or components. As a result, today’s small manufacturers are finding it difficult to have the arm’s-length transactions of the past, where they just made a part to print and ship.
ISO 9001 certification provides the framework of methods that allow any organization, regardless of size, to fulfill the requirements of today’s manufacturing environment. Not only does an established ISO 9001 system provide a framework for Quality Management, but its “Plan-Do-Check-Act” process provides the user with a built-in continuous improvement process that is often absent in the average operations of a small manufacturing enterprise.
AIM and the Massachusetts Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MassMEP) have teamed up to create a training collaborative that will help companies to become “one in a million” by obtaining ISO 9001 training at fraction of the usual cost and in a minimum amount of time. The AIM/MassMEP ISO Collaborative is a workshop-based program that focuses on providing systems, documentation and training in a classroom as well as on-site consultation for companies wanting or needing to comply with the ISO 9001:2008 Standard.
Four to eight companies work together to establish and/or upgrade their quality management systems via seven off-site, one-day training workshops held over a period of seven months – one workshop per month – and five to seven on-site consulting days (based on company size). In addition, a Gap Assessment of each participating company is provided to set the benchmark criteria for ISO 9001: 2008 certification.
The fee to participate in the AIM/MassMEP ISO Collaborative is based on the firm’s size and ranges from $11,000-$22,000. AIM members, thanks to a grant from MassDevelopment, are eligible to receive a 10 percent discount on the fee from MassMEP. Participants in the collaborative may also be eligible to receive partial funding from the state’s Workforce Training Fund.
For more information, contact MassMEP at 508-831-7215 or AIM at 617-262-1180 ext. 322
The Massachusetts Workforce Training Fund Program (WTFP) has emerged from a period of financial uncertainty with a new structure that officials believe will eliminate the complexity that has at times frustrated employers looking to train employees.
The commonwealth’s flagship program for training workers is fully funded at $21 million and now rests in a trust that should insulate the program from annual Beacon Hill budget battles. A supplemental budget passed by the Legislature and signed by Governor Deval Patrick in October will ensure that companies that were awarded grants and were awaiting funds before the creation of the trust will receive the money to begin their training initiatives.
WTFP has provided $193.2 million in grants since its inception to some 2,500 Massachusetts employers to train 277,351 workers. In 2011, the fund provided grants worth $11.4 million to 138 Massachusetts companies that will use the money to train 13,000 workers and create 1,700 jobs.
Employers fund the WTFP through a surcharge on their unemployment insurance tax payments. Companies are permitted to use grants from the fund to train workers in areas such as basic skills, English as a second language, supervisory/management skills, customer service and lean manufacturing.
The new trust fund structure will permit collection and disbursement of funds as needed by businesses, rather than on a government appropriation cycle.
“To start, the grants are available on a rolling basis,” said Nancy Snyder, President and CEO of the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development's Commonwealth Corporation.
"Businesses can apply when they are ready rather than in accordance with an application deadline. We also revised forms and policies to make it easy for small businesses to jointly apply for a grant.”
Richard C. Lord, President of AIM and Chair of the Workforce Training Fund Advisory Council, emphasized that the committee will now award grants on a monthly basis rather than on the previous schedule of three times a year.
“The objective is to improve the efficiency of getting training funds into the hands of employers who will use them to raise the skills of Massachusetts workers,” Lord said.
Bill Baldino of the AIM Employer’s Resource Group, who has helped scores of employers win training grants, said the economic chaos of the past four years has magnified the need for Massachusetts companies to train their workers.
“The global economy is becoming more competitive, not less,” Baldino said.
“The most successful companies in Massachusetts understand that an efficient, innovative and well-trained work force is essential to their future.”
AIM members interested in applying for a Workforce Training Grant may contact Baldino (email@example.com) for assistance or additional information.