Work Force Grant Will Allow AIM to Provide Free Training for Supervisors

Posted by Christopher Geehern on Oct 16, 2014 3:48:00 PM

Employers will be able to improve the skills of their key supervisors at no cost under a $200,000 grant awarded to Associated Industries of Massachusetts today by the state Workforce Training Fund Program (WTFP).

FourpeopleAIM’s supervisory/leadership training series was among 10 initiatives to win grants under the WTFP Regional Training Capacity Pilot Program.

The grants, announced this afternoon at UPS in Watertown, are designed to meet regional demands for training that may not have the scope or scale to merit a standard Workforce Training Grant. The awards will also help larger organizations that want to offer leadership education to limited populations of new hires, a leadership bench player or newly promoted supervisor.

“A large segment of leadership teams are comprised of home-grown, high potential people who have shown technical ability, but who have not had the chance to learn the human relations and decision making skills that are important to helping others succeed,” said Gary MacDonald, Executive Vice President of AIM.

“AIM’s Supervisory Skills program focuses on these complementary skill sets, resulting in better retention of talent, a more engaged and adaptive workforce, and improved productivity and bottom-line results.”

MacDonald said companies face a multitude of internal and external issues that can be resolved, minimized or avoided by good supervisory and leadership practices:

  • Retention and turnover
  • Legal compliance and understanding of obligations under the law
  • Hiring the right person
  • Effective communication practices
  • Delegation and prioritization
  • Identifying and solving problems
  • Becoming an agent for and a leader of organizational change
  • Generating ideas and innovation
  • Developing and working in teams with multicultural & multigenerational members
  • Increasing employee performance
  • Understanding leadership responsibilities and accountabilities.

AIM plans to run its Supervisory Skills program multiple times during 2015 in five locations – Bridgewater, Burlington, Fitchburg, Holyoke and Marlborough.  The program content is applicable to any industry.

The Regional Training Capacity Pilot Program awarded grants to other organizations for computer skills, English for Speakers of other Languages, Manufacturing Skills and Process Improvement. The 10 grants total a $2 million state investment in work force training.

"We are very interested in helping small businesses access the fund either individually or through collaborations with other businesses with similar needs.” said Nancy Snyder, President and CEO of Commonwealth Corporation, which administers the funds for the Office of Labor and Workforce Development.  “This program allows small businesses that may not otherwise apply for a grant on their own to quickly gain access to training on topics in highest demand.” 

AIM delivers hundreds of supervisory skills training sessions each year in seminar and private settings. The staff of 10 instructors averages several decades of management and human resources experience across a variety of industries.

“The grant provides employers with a unique opportunity to improve productivity, build leadership and address legal compliance concerns at no out-of-pocket cost,” said Lori Bourgoin, Vice President of Educational Programs at AIM.

“Nothing drives workforce engagement, productivity and retention more than front-line leadership.  Well trained supervisors determine whether employees support change or resist, grow into the business or tune out.”

Please contact Bourgoin ( at AIM for more information.


Topics: Associated Industries of Massachusetts, Management, Human Resources, Workforce Training

Online Tools Help Consumers, Employers Compare Health Care Costs

Posted by Kristen Lepore on Oct 14, 2014 6:29:35 AM

Consumers accustomed to going online to compare the cost of cars, furniture and vacations can now do the same with medical procedures in Massachusetts. That’s good news for employers who have long struggled to control health premiums by helping workers become informed consumers of health care.

20-Price-of-pills.smallAs of October 1, all health insurance plans in Massachusetts have Web tools that allow customers to access real-time health care cost and quality information.  The online tools also permit people to estimate their annual out-of-pocket costs and track their health-care expenses. 

The tolls were mandated under the 2012 Massachusetts health care cost control law.

Patients are now able to compare the costs and outcomes of more than a thousand procedures - from knee and shoulder replacements to imaging and laboratory work – at various hospitals and clinics in Massachusetts. The result  is that consumers can save money on their out-of-pocket medical costs while saving employers money on direct health care payments and future premium costs. 

Associated Industries of Massachusetts and the commonwealth’s health insurance companies are working together to help employers and their workers utilize the new health care cost and quality tools. AIM and the insurers have planned a series of free, informational Webinars that will explain how employers may compare cost and quality information for health care services and communicate the information to employees. 

Employers play an important role in helping to lower annual health care costs by encouraging employees to use lower-cost, high-quality health care providers.  Employees often don’t understand that the cost of an MRI varies greatly from one provider to the next – in some cases by thousands of dollars.

The first Webinar will be conducted with Harvard Pilgrim Health Care on Thursday, November 6 at 10 am. Webinars with other health plans will be scheduled during the next four months.

Click here to register for the Webinar.

Meawnile, the Web tools may be found here:

Aetna Health Insurance Member Payment Estimator

Aetna Health Insurance WellMatch (currently available for employers with 750 or more employees)

Blue Cross Blue Shield Find a Doctor

Celticare Health Cost Estimation Tool

Fallon Health Care SmartShopper

Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Now iKnow (HPHC members must log into their account to access the tool’s link)

Health New England (HNE members must log into their account to access the tool’s link)

Tufts Health Plan EmpowerME

Encourage your employees to use these resources. Your broker or health insurance representative can provide educational materials for your employees now and again during your open enrollment. It might take time for them to use the tools regularly but the results will be worth your effort so remind them often. 

Contact me at if you tried the tools and have feedback on them. 

Topics: Associated Industries of Massachusetts, Health Care Costs, Health Insurance

Workforce Shortage Threatens Economic Path of Massachusetts

Posted by Andre Mayer on Oct 13, 2014 12:03:00 PM

“The economy’s performance is much improved, and prospects are good that it will continue to improve,” Mark Zandi, Chief Economist at Moody’s Analytics, told the New England Economic Partnership’s Outlook Conference at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston last week.

ManufacturingWorkerSmallU.S. gross domestic product is expanding at an underlying rate of 3 percent annually, he said, though held lower in 2013-14 by fiscal drag from federal budget cuts and tax increases. His forecast shows growth accelerating in 2015-16 before being reined in by rising interest rates.

Zandi rejected the concept of a “new normal” pattern of slow growth like those prevailing in Japan and Europe. The U.S., having controlled unit labor costs better than other economies and achieved virtual energy independence, is now by his analysis the most competitive location in the world. Household debt burdens are lower overall, and public debt, though elevated, is stable and sustainable as long as health care costs are under control. The current slack in the workforce will be absorbed quickly; in fact, he warned, over the next 15 or 20 years, “our biggest problem is going to be a screaming lack of labor.”

Our own region will receive less of a lift than others from the rebound in construction, and will be hurt by constraints on energy delivery and by close economic ties to near-stagnant Europe. The most serious issue confronting Massachusetts and New England, however, is the workforce shortage, which is more immediate for us because of our slow population growth.

The Massachusetts forecast presented by Alan Clayton-Matthews of Northeastern University, a member of AIM’s Board of Economic Advisors, calls for “a modest acceleration though 2016 … followed by a demographic-induced slowdown.”  By the beginning of 2017, he predicted, the state’s workforce will stop expanding and begin to erode as baby boomer retirements outweigh new entrants; and labor constraints quickly slow the state’s economic growth to below the national rate even on a per-capita basis.

This is the kind of big issue, both immediate and long-term, affecting employers’ day-to-day operations and their public policy priorities, which AIM will address in developing The Blueprint for the Next Century, a plan to create jobs, prosperity and long-term economic growth in the commonwealth. We are seeking to identify creative and compelling ideas from employers like you to improve the Massachusetts economy.

Please join AIM's John Regan for a free online discussion next Wednesday, October 15, from 2-3 p.m. to discuss the steps that business, government and other institutions must take to ensure that the next generation of Massachusetts residents will be able to build lives for themselves and their families.

Topics: Massachusetts economy, Economy, Workforce Shortage

Employers: I'm OK, You're Not OK

Posted by Andre Mayer on Oct 7, 2014 9:35:58 AM

I’m OK you’re not OK.

BCI.September.2014That seems to be the mindset of Massachusetts employers who remain confident about the prospects of their own companies, but far less so about the political leadership guiding the Massachusetts and national economies.

The Associated Industries of Massachusetts Business Confidence Index released this morning shows that employer sentiment steadied at 54.4 in September after slipping from 56.9 to 54.2 the previous month. Confidence remains well above its reading in September 2013 and has now increased in each of the first three quarters of 2014.

What stands out in the report, however, is the variation between what employers see inside the walls of their companies and what they see outside those walls.

The Company Index, which measures survey respondents’ confidence in the situations of their own operations, rose 1.5 points in September to 58.0, recouping an August decline. The Employment Index gained a point to 55.1, and the Sales Index added eight-tenths to 59.3.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Index of business conditions prevailing nationally was off 1.8 points at 47.0, and the Massachusetts Index of conditions within the Commonwealth declined 2.0 to 50.7.

“Economic growth has probably decelerated since the second-quarter rebound, but it is possible that these declines reflect political dissatisfaction, concerns about effective leadership and policy,” said Katherine A. Kiel, Professor of Economics at the College of the Holy Cross.

“If actual business conditions were driving the drop, we would expect to see that in the company indicators, which remain strong.”

Adds Michael Goodman, Associate Professor of Public Policy and Director of the Center for Policy Analysis at the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth, “These are good, solid numbers indicating that the commonwealth’s moderate expansion is continuing.

“Notably, respondents report plans to increase net job creation – 23 percent expect to add staff in the next six months and 11 percent anticipate reducing headcount – which is a very encouraging sign.”

If employers do have concerns about political leadership, the Business Confidence Index suggests they do not expect the November elections to address them. The Current Index, tracking employers’ assessment of existing business conditions, added half a point in September to 53.9, while the Future Index, measuring expectations for the next six months, shed two-tenths to 54.9.

Manufacturers and firms with 25 or fewer employees rated Massachusetts conditions negatively, while other employers were generally positive about the state.

AIM’s Business Confidence Index has been issued monthly since July 1991 under the oversight of the Board of Economic Advisors. Presented on a 100-point scale on which 50 is neutral, the Index attained a historical high of 68.5 in 1997 and 1998; its all-time low was 33.3 in February 2009. 

Richard C. Lord, President and CEO of AIM, said the contrast between lower scores for state and national conditions and higher ratings for company-specific factors underscores the need for political candidates to debate economic issues.

“I believe that employers – and indeed voters generally – would like to see a greater focus in this election cycle on substantive economic issues,” Lord went on.

“In the Massachusetts gubernatorial contest, for example, the candidates themselves are meeting with business leaders and offering economic policy proposals, but media coverage tends to be all about the ‘horserace’ aspect and the candidates’ personal images. Our nation and state face critical real-life economic decisions in the next few years, so we cannot afford to treat the upcoming elections for Congress, constitutional offices, and the legislature as sports events or celebrity showcases.”

Topics: AIM Business Confidence Index, Massachusetts employers, Economy

Manufacturers, Vocational Schools Get on the Same Page

Posted by Brian Gilmore on Oct 1, 2014 9:47:25 AM

A group of Massachusetts manufacturing companies is reporting significant progress in efforts to ensure that vocational high schools are teaching students the skills that employers need.

ManufacturingDay2014This spring, 14 of the 30 Massachusetts vocational schools offering machining technology accepted an invitation from the Manufacturing Advancement Center Workforce Initiative Collaborative (MACWIC) to test the proficiency of students enrolled in their machining programs.

Results of the testing are to be announced Monday in Northampton. By passing the Applied Manufacturing Technology Pathway Certification exam, students will earn a Level 1 MACWIC certificate in Basic Manufacturing Skills.

MACWIC designed the Applied Manufacturing Technology Pathway Certification to create a standard instruction and evaluation process to help employers evaluate the skills of a job applicant. The first of the five levels of instruction includes shop math, blueprint reading, metrology and quality inspection, safety and work readiness.

Completion of levels one and two of the Pathway can lead to a pre-apprentice certificate, while completion of all five levels can lead to an associate’s degree in manufacturing technology.

The ultimate objective is for vocational schools to adopt all or a portion of the MACWIC machining curriculum. The Pathway is also designed for use in incumbent and dislocated worker training programs.    

The Massachusetts Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MassMEP) and Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) are giving Massachusetts vocational high schools that validate their Machine Tool Technology programs against the MAWIC credential access to the Pathway curriculum and online programing to support certificate instruction. The total value of the grant is $2.5 million.

The MACWIC program has been endorsed by AIM and received the association’s Gould Education & Workforce Development Award in 2013. 

Massachusetts Vocational Schools with Machine Tool Technology Programs participating in the curriculum, testing, and online programing include:

  • Assabet Valley Regional Technical High School, Marlborough
  • Bay Path Regional Vocational School, Charlton
  • Blackstone Valley Regional Vocational Technical High School, Upton
  • C.H. McCann Regional Technology School, North Adams
  • Franklin County Regional Technical High School, Montague
  • Greater Lowell Regional Technical High School, Tyngsboro
  • Essex (North Shore Regional) Technical High School, Middleton
  • Putnam Vocational Technical High School, Springfield
  • Shawsheen Valley Regional Vocational Technical High School, Billerica
  • Smith Vocational & Agricultural High School, Northampton
  • Somerville High School, Somerville
  • Taconic High School, Pittsfield
  • Whittier Regional Vocational High School, Haverhill
  • Worcester Technical High School, Worcester

Several AIM member companies will assist MACWIC during the next year in efforts to secure participation in the certificate program by the remaining 16 vocational and technical schools that offer machining technology.  

Topics: Skills Gap, Manufacturing, Massachusetts Manufacturing

Bureaucratic Self-Preservation at TURA

Posted by Bob Rio on Sep 29, 2014 9:55:00 AM

The Massachusetts Toxics Use Reduction Act (TURA) has in many ways lived up to its name – fees established under the law have prompted scores of companies to reduce or eliminate their use of chemicals, cutting overall payments into the program. Unfortunately, the people who run TURA have taken that as a cue to jack up fees to a level that may drive many of the remaining companies out of state.

InnovationSmallThe TUR Administrative Council voted 4-2 a week ago to begin the regulatory process to raise TURA fees nearly 50 percent for many companies, with total overall fees collected increasing 42 percent, (some of the smaller companies get less of an increase).

The two members to vote against the proposal were Timothee Rodrique, Chief Engineer, Division of Fire Safety and Tim Wilkerson, Regulatory Ombudsman, Director of Economic Policy Development. The proposal will now proceed through the normal process for regulation changes, including public comment.

Enacted in 1989 and amended most recently in 2006, TURA requires Massachusetts companies that use large quantities of listed chemicals to evaluate and plan for pollution prevention opportunities, implement them if practical, and annually measure and report the results.

AIM opposes the proposal to increase fees:

  • The universe of filers under the TURA program is only 468 companies. Forcing those companies to pay more to fund programs from which they derive no benefit is anti-business and acts more as a tax than a fee.  
  • Mmany companies left on the list either manufacture or distribute listed chemicals, or use these chemicals in a way for which there is no substitute. These companies thus pay a tax for merely operating – and employing workers – here in Massachusetts. No other state levies such a fee.    

  • The fee is even applicable if a company uses these chemicals for public safety or pollution control.

AIM was also concerned with the lack of analysis related to the impact these fees would have on users and the lack of notification to the impacted parties.  

AIM has at times supported regulatory fee increases, but only when those hikes are connected to a benefit the payers are receiving. Here, the program is continuing to collect fees only because many of the remaining companies are caught in an endless cycle of reporting. The overall fee income is declining because a shrinking number of companies use these chemicals, which under normal conditions would be considered a success. Here it just means more fee increases for the remaining companies to maintain the program

As the regulatory process continues we urge those who will be impact to make comments and call their elected officials to make the point that the fee increases should be reasonable and connected to a service provided.  

Topics: Regulation, Environment

Beacon Hill Earns Solid Grades for 2013-2014

Posted by John Regan on Sep 23, 2014 9:16:46 AM

AIM.ScorecardClasses may have just begun for students throughout Massachusetts, but the report card is already out for Beacon Hill now that the formal portion of the 2013-2014 legislative session is over.

Associated Industries of Massachusetts today released its biennial Legislative Scorecard, the commonwealth’s most widely read review of the votes taken by members of the Massachusetts House and Senate on issues important to the business community.

AIM departed from its normal scorecard practice for the 2013-2014 legislative session because the complexity of the lawmaking process and the sometimes arcane rules of each chamber make it nearly impossible to render a fair judgment on the votes taken by individual legislators. We have instead graded the entire Legislature on its body of work during the past two years.

Download the Scorecard

Topics: Deval Patrick, massachsetts legislature, Beacon Hill

The Governor's Race - By the Numbers

Posted by Christopher Geehern on Sep 19, 2014 9:37:27 AM

Democrat Martha Coakley must win the female vote by at least 10 points and lose the independent vote by fewer than 22 points to become governor, while Republican Charlie Baker must win independents by more than 22 points and also attract 17 percent of Democrats, Suffolk University pollster David Paleologos said today.

paleologos.good.smallThe director of the university’s Political Research Center told the Associated Industries of Massachusetts Executive Forum that the race for Massachusetts governor will be affected by gender demographics, the performance of three third-party candidates, a rising population of independent voters, and widespread apathy among the electorate.

Paleologos based many of his observations on the nationally recognized polling that Suffolk did for the 2010 Coakley-Scott Brown Senate race and the subsequent 2012 race between Brown and Elizabeth Warren. With woman expected to make up 53 percent of those expected to vote in the 2014 gubernatorial election, Coakley must do better than the 5 percent gap she posted over Brown with female voters in 2010.

Meanwhile, registered independents have gone from 44 percent of the electorate in 1990 to 54 percent today, according to Paloeologos, while the percentage of registered Democrats has dropped from 43 percent to 35 percent during the same period. Brown beat both Coakley and Warren by double digits among independent voters.

“Martha coakley will win women on election day. The question is by how many and what will the difference be between what she wins women by and what she loses men by?” Paleologos told more than 250 business executes at the Forum.

He later added, “Charlie Baker will win independents on election day. The question is by how many?”

The growing prominence of independents may also allow third-party candidates Jeff McCormick, Evan Falchuck and Scott Lively to swing the balance of a close race for governor, Paleologos said. Third-party candidate drew 5.2 percent of the vote in the 2002 gubernatorial election, and that percentage rose to 9.5 percent by 2010.

The election is likely to be played out against a backdrop of low turnout, perhaps approaching 50 percent. The ballot question on casino gaming may drive some voters, Paleologos said, but he also noted that 53 percent of state senators and 61 percent of state representatives are running unopposed.

Topics: AIM Executive Forum, Election 2014

AIM, MindEdge Announce E-Learning Initiative

Posted by Rick Lord on Sep 15, 2014 9:16:06 AM

Thousands of Massachusetts employers will gain access to state-of-the-art online professional development courses under an alliance announced today by Associated Industries of Massachusetts (AIM) and Waltham-based MindeEdge Inc.

AIM_MindEdgeAIM, the largest employer association in Massachusetts, will expand its existing lineup of human resources, legal compliance and management education courses with interactive e-learning offerings from MindEdge in areas such as project management, sustainability and finance. AIM and MindEdge will also collaborate on new courses important to employers such as LEAN management.

AIM spent a great deal of time seeking an online learning solution that reflects the excellence and high standards our member employers have come to expect from our in-person seminars and on-site training and education. MindEdge was founded in 1998 by Harvard and MIT educators and the company continues to innovate in the rapidly changing landscape of online education.

The 4,500 member employers of AIM are delighted to be working with such a world-class company located right here in Massachusetts.

“Employers in growing numbers are going online for employee training and education, but AIM wanted to be certain that the online courses we offered to members were effective and met the learning objectives of busy employers. We have done that with MindEdge,” said Gary MacDonald, Executive Vice President of the AIM Employers Resource Group.

All of the courses are mobile-enabled, meaning that employers and their workers will have the option to access information via a desktop, laptop, tablet or smartphone.

MindEdge specializes in higher education and professional development content and technology solutions. The company’s webtexts feature narrative, interactive learning case studies and simulations, as well as adaptive learning technology to maximize learner mastery of the content.

The MindEdge platform also includes a learning-management system that allows company training managers to monitor the progress of employees taking each course.

The alliance will provide the 4,500 member employers of AIM access to online courses in areas such as:

  • Communication
  • Creativity and Innovation
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Finance
  • Human Resource Management
  • International Trade
  • Leadership
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • Nonprofit Management
  • Project Management
  • Sustainable Management

“We’re pleased to join AIM in offering online learning that is both convenient and effective for Massachusetts employers,” said Jefferson Flanders, CEO and President of MindEdge.

“AIM is acknowledged to be the leading provider of management and human resources training and education to Massachusetts companies. MindEdge will seek to extend that commitment to quality into the online world.”

Associated Industries of Massachusetts (AIM) improves the financial performance of member companies through a unique combination of lobbying, management and human-resource services that allow employers to control the environment both inside and outside their businesses. AIM provides management and HR services that increase workforce productivity and improve the recruitment, retention and training of talented people.

MindEdge, a learning company based in Waltham, provides leadership, management, communication, and educational solutions for organizations to help them meet their objectives.

Topics: Associated Industries of Massachusetts, Education, Training

Massachusetts Schools Pull 'F' in Technology

Posted by Andre Mayer on Sep 11, 2014 2:55:07 PM

“Leaders & Laggards,” the state-by-state report card on K-12 education released today by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, gives Massachusetts strong grades – with one very disturbing “F.”

Education“A” grades for academic achievement, return on investment, and credibility of student assessments are what we have come to expect, confirming the success of the Education Reform Act of 1993. The “B”s for progress since 2007, school choice, and data quality are similarly in line with expectations, as is the “D” for pension funding (an issue that affects virtually the entire public sector in our state).

In three categories, our “A”s are products of the grading curve – we may perform well compared to other states, but we must do better. Achievement for low-income and especially for minority students still lags badly. The international competitiveness of our results, however favorable by domestic standards, doesn’t look as good globally (which is what should count). As for postsecondary and workforce readiness, a survey sponsored by AIM and the Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education (MBAE) found widespread employer dissatisfaction with the preparation of our high school graduates.  

The most startling and disturbing grade on the Bay State’s report card is an “F” in technology.

“Massachusetts receives a very poor grade employing technology to provide quality instruction and personalized learning,” says the report.Students do not have access to high-quality digital learning options.” A “B-” fin the 21st-century teaching force category is a related issue, because the value of educational technology depends upon the ability of teachers to use it effectively. These scores are disappointing and dangerous for a state with a technology-based economy, including a significant and expanding ed-tech sector.

Employer concerns about the adequacy of schools in a fast-changing world were echoed in a recent report, The New Opportunity to Lead: A Vision for Education in Massachusetts in the Next 20 Years, [full report; executive summary] prepared by a partnership of international education experts for MBAE, AIM’s longtime partner on education issues.

In response to that call for a commitment to innovation and a culture of continuous improvement in our schools, MBAE is seeking to create “information age schools for an information age economy,” combining technology and connections to higher education and business to promote student-centered learning along with expended freedom and flexibility.

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