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Best Advice on Paid Sick Days Law - Sit Tight

Posted by Russ Sullivan on Nov 25, 2014 9:53:44 AM

Here’s some advice for employers wondering how to comply with the new Massachusetts Earned Sick Time law - sit tight, communicate with your employees, review your current policies, educate yourself on the new law and watch for further guidance. 

Health.EnergyMassachusetts voters approved a ballot question on November 4 mandating that employers with 11 or more workers provide 40 hours of paid sick time. Companies with fewer than 11 employees will be required to provide 40 hours of unpaid sick time.

Approval of the new law has touched off a scramble among employers to review existing policies governing paid time off. One area of particular concern is the law’s accrual, carryover, use and documentation provisions, which leave most employer plans noncompliant.  

Many employers want to get a jump on the July 1, 2015 implementation date for the law and develop compliant policies effective January 1.  It is easy to understand why - most time-off plans run on a calendar-year basis.  For budgeting and scheduling reasons, employers would like to manage one plan for all of 2015.

But hold on a moment. We currently lack many specifics and clarification is needed on matters such as:

  • the coordination of the law with existing attendance, discipline and other employment policies;
  • whether premium pay must  be applied to absences taken under the law;
  • the application of the law to seasonal employees;
  • whether to count seasonal employees and owners when determining whether an employer has 11 or more employees;
  • the coordination of accrual and use of Earned Sick Time in the second half of 2015 with the accrual and use of time off benefits in the first half of the year.

The Attorney General’s office will be responsible for issuing guidance on these and other matters.  AIM looks forward to communicating the concerns of employers to Attorney General Maura Healy and recommending regulations to allow employers to manage budgets while retaining the value provided by current policies.

The prudent strategy may be to approach 2015 as a transitional year.  No changes need to be made prior to July 1.  Sure, waiting until then will result in having two policies for this transitional year, but employers will also enjoy the benefit of clarity and be able to issue a policy that will remain in place in 2016 and beyond.

Employers should not wait until July to communicate with employees.  Workers should understand that the new law may impact current policies. A possible communication might look something like this:

As you know, Massachusetts voters passed the Earned Sick Time Law this November.  We will likely need to make some changes to our current time off-policies to comply with the new law.  It appears that the law will require us to modify how time off is accrued, used, carried over, documented and tracked.  The law may also require that we reclassify some of our existing time off benefits as earned sick time.  We will watch for guidance that may be provided by the commonwealth and announce changes to our policies sometime prior to July 1, 2015 when the law takes effect.  In the meantime, we will follow our existing policy.

AIM will continue to help employers - first with first with a free Webinar on Wednesday, December 3 at 10:00 am, then with a subsequent Webcast in Januaryto help companies identify critical decision points. The association will schedule detailed workshops around the state once the attorney general issues regulatory guidance.

Topics: Employment Law, Human Resources, Paid Sick Days

AIM Vice President to be Named Secretary of Administration and Finance

Posted by Christopher Geehern on Nov 24, 2014 6:14:00 AM

Governor-Elect Charlie Baker will today name Kristen Lepore, Vice President of Government Affairs at AIM, as the commonwealth’s new Secretary of Administration and Finance.

Lepore2014Lepore will essentially become chief financial officer of the commonwealth with broad authority to formulate the administration’s approach to the state budget and to oversee the day-to-day operations of the executive branch. She will assume responsibility for a sprawling group of agencies ranging from the Department of Revenue to the Division of Capital Access Management and Maintenance.

The appointment was reported last night by The Boston Globe and State House News Service. Baker is himself a former Administration and Finance secretary in the Weld Administration.

“Kristen Lepore is the perfect choice to be Secretary of Administration and Finance in the Baker Administration,” said Richard C. Lord, President and Chief Executive Officer of Associated Industries of Massachusetts.

Lord said Lepore has proven her ability to manage the complex process of developing the state budget, having served as director of fiscal policy at Administration and Finance during the administration of Governor Paul Cellucci. She also brings tremendous management discipline, Lord said, to one of the largest and most important organizations in state government.

“We at Associated Industries of Massachusetts feel a special sense of pride and excitement today that our vice president of government affairs has been selected to become the chief financial officer of the commonwealth. We wish Kristen well in her new role and look forward to working with her on keeping the commonwealth on a firm financial footing,” Lord said.

Lepore joined the AIM Government Affairs team in January 2012 and has led the association’s efforts to control the cost of health care and health insurance for employers. One of the highlights of her work came in 2012 when she helped to secure passage of Massachusetts’ landmark health cost-containment law, which limited increases in medical spending to the growth rate of the overall state economy.

Lepore previously served as deputy chief of staff to Governor Cellucci and as assistant executive director at Massport. She was appointed by President George Bush to serve as the New England regional representative for the U.S. Department of Education.

She holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from Suffolk University and a master’s degree in public administration from Suffolk’s Sawyer School of Management.

State law designates the Executive Office for Administration and Finance as the principal agency of the executive department of the government, charged with:

  • Developing, coordinating, administering and controlling the financial policies and programs of the commonwealth;
  • Supervising the organization and conduct of the business affairs of the departments, commissions, offices, boards, divisions, institutions and other agencies within the executive department of the government of the commonwealth; and
  • Developing new policies and programs which will improve the organization, structure, functions, economy, efficiency, procedures, services and administrative practices of all such departments, commissions, offices, boards, divisions, institutions and other agencies.

Administration and Finance includes:

  • The Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance;
  • The Department of Revenue
  • Human Resources
  • Information Technology
  • Fiscal affairs and operational services, which develop policy and standards to govern the conduct of commonwealth secretariats, departments, agencies, boards and commissions in each of these areas.
  • The Civil Service Commission
  • The municipal Personnel Advisory Board
  • The Massachusetts Office on Disability
  • The Retirement Law Commission
  • The Group Insurance Commission
  • The Department of Veterans’ Services

Lepore will remain at AIM through January and assume her new role when Governor-Elect Baker takes the oath of office.

 

Topics: Charlie Baker, Kristen Lepore

Employers Add 1,200 Jobs in October

Posted by Andre Mayer on Nov 20, 2014 1:45:27 PM

Massachusetts added 1,200 jobs in October, according to preliminary estimates from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics released today by the state’s Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development (detailed chart here). The unemployment rate remained unchanged at 6.0 percent, slightly above the national rate of 5.8 percent.

The October report for Massachusetts is notably weaker than the strong national report released two weeks ago. Together, they support a conclusion that the state’s economy is currently growing somewhat more slowly than the nation’s, but that a longer perspective shows Massachusetts keeping pace.  

Over the past year, Massachusetts has gained a net of 52,600 jobs, and the unemployment rate has declined by 1.2 percent. The annual figures are more indicative of trends than the monthly results, which tend to fluctuate. With the October report, we are finally free of the effects of the Market Basket imbroglio, in which thousands of employees were temporarily out of work – an event large enough to produce discernable ripples even in the national data.

Sectors with the largest year-over-year job gains include Education and Health Services (+16,000), Professional, Scientific and Business Services (+14,500), and Information (+7,900 – a 9.1 percent increase). Manufacturing basically held its own, shading off by 700 jobs, or 0.3%.

The figures cited above, except for the unemployment rate, derive from a survey of employers. The household survey shows considerably stronger job creation – a gain of 16,400 for the month and 100,600 for the year. The same pattern appears in the national data.

 

Topics: Massachusetts economy, Unemployment

Blueprint for the Next Century | Energy, Health

Posted by Christopher Geehern on Nov 20, 2014 8:39:01 AM

(Editor's note - AIM last week released the Blueprint for the Next Century, a long-term plan for economic growth and prosperity in Massachusetts. The AIM blog will this week publish one summary each day of the four recommendations contained in the Blueprint. We invite your responses in the Comments section.)

Moderate the substantial burden that health care and energy place on business growth.

Health.EnergyWhere We Stand | Health Insurance

Massachusetts has enjoyed unique success extending health insurance coverage since the passage of health care reform in 2006 - an impressive 97 percent of residents now have health insurance, by far the largest percentage of any state. But that success is threatened by relentless acceleration of health care costs and the resulting run-up in the cost to employers of providing health insurance to workers.

Where We Can Improve

  1. Establish a more aggressive benchmark for medical spending under the 2012 Massachusetts health-cost control law. The law currently benchmarks increases in health care spending to the growth rate of the overall economy. We can do better.

  2. Keep the small-group market size the way it is. The small-group market will expand in 2016 under Federal Health Care Reform from companies with 1-50 employees to companies with 1-100 employees. Forcing employers into the small group market will cause rate increases of at least 10 percent for the 51-100 companies.

  3. Maintain the current definition of a full-time employee. The Massachusetts definition was 35 hours per week, while federal reform requires coverage for employees working 30 or more hours per week.  Employers will respond by reducing the number of hours employees can work.  We have already heard from employers who are being forced to do this because of the significant and unaffordable increases in their health insurance costs.
     
  4. Repeal the Medical Device Tax under federal health reformThe 2.3 percent excise tax on the sale of medical services is damaging to a key sector of the Massachusetts economy, costing the commonwealth’s largest medical device companies more than $400 million this year alone.

  5. Continue efforts to make cost and quality information about health care procedures and services available to consumers before treatment.  Refine and improve the information and encourage consumers to use it to make informed decisions about their health care. It’s a process that will persuade higher cost providers to lower prices. 

Where We Stand | Energy

Average electric rates in Massachusetts are the third highest in the nation for industrial ratepayers at 12.63 cents per kilowatt hour, according to the United States Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration.  Electricity costs have reached crisis stage as a persistent shortage of natural gas for generating plants is driving power prices to record levels for the winter of 2014-2015.

Where We Can Improve

  1. Support the development of pipelines to transport natural gas into the commonwealth and the development of infrastructure to permit the purchase of hydroelectric power from Canada.

  2. Environmentalists have been fighting against more natural gas coming into the state for years, which partly explains why pipeline capacity hasn't expanded. They also say consumers can conserve a lot more energy, but Massachusetts is already at the forefront on energy efficiency efforts. The state was just ranked first in the nation for energy efficiency for the fourth year in a row by the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy.

  3. Reorganize the Massachusetts Department of Public utilities to the structure that was in place before 2007.

    Remove DPU from under Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, where it has become a political agency, and restore its status as an independent agency under the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development.

    Increase the number of DPU commissioners from three to five, one of whom must be experienced in commercial and industrial ratepayer issues and one of whom must be experienced in residential ratepayer issues.
  4. Cap all “green programs” or require analysis of such programs that takes into account cost to the ratepayer, not just benefit to the “green” industry.

    Make sure that any “green” programs are competitively bid and cover the lowest-cost requirements first. These bids should be technology neutral with no specific carve-outs for “favored” technology.

    Reduce/eliminate cross subsidization of “green” programs by eliminating net metering and other programs.
  5. Disallow utilities from adding “green” programs to distribution costs, a practice that results in customers paying twice for programs.
     
  6. Change energy efficiency programs to align changing models with new paradigm.

    Allow municipal electric light companies access to Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative funds to institute energy-efficiency programs.

    Allow companies to keep a larger share of their energy efficiency money, provided they use it for energy efficiency purposes.

Topics: Health Care Costs, Energy, Blueprint for the Next Century

Blueprint for the Next Century | Regulation

Posted by Christopher Geehern on Nov 19, 2014 9:16:00 AM

(Editor's note - AIM last week released the Blueprint for the Next Century, a long-term plan for economic growth and prosperity in Massachusetts. The AIM blog will this week publish one summary each day of the four recommendations contained in the Blueprint. We invite your responses in the Comments section.)

Establish a world-class state regulatory system that ensures the health and welfare of society in a manner that meets the highest standards for efficiency, predictability, transparency and responsiveness.

RegulationWhere We Stand

Massachusetts employers acknowledge the need for effective and well-managed regulation that ensures the health and welfare of society without weakening the financial underpinnings of the job market. But the employer community believes that Massachusetts regulations and the regulators who enforce them often stray from the primary objective of protecting society and into a mindset of “punishing” businesses.

Where We Can Improve

  1. The governor should appoint an independent ombudsperson to review comments, suggestions and complaints from employers about ineffective state regulations and/or the manner in which those regulations are enforced. The ombudsperson would have the authority to determine which regulations and/or enforcement issues represent real impediments to growth and recommend changes to the Legislature or the executive branch.

    Associated Industries of Massachusetts, as the statewide business association, will establish a phone/internet hotline, or perhaps a mobile app, through which employers might report regulations they believe are not efficiently achieving their objectives. AIM would pass these communications to the ombudsperson.

  2. Encourage regulators and employers to adopt “smart partnerships” to ensure that government-business interactions solve problems instead of propping up bureaucracies.

    State Senator Daniel Wolf from the Cape and Islands, founder of Cape Air in Hyannis, recalls an example of creative problem solving that took place many years before he entered public service.  The Federal Aviation Administration required (and requires) Cape Air to scrupulously wash all aircraft. The airline did so, but then faced fines from the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection because there was some runoff into drains on the airport tarmac. After good-faith negotiations, the DEP and Cape Air reached an agreement: Cape Air paid for a state-of-the-art clean wash bay for Barnstable Municipal Airport, and DEP significantly reduced the fine. This was a win for the company and a win for the citizens of the commonwealth. And, it represents a great example of a “smarter partnership.”

    The governor should engage willing employers who are global leaders in productivity and process improvement to streamline the operation of state government agencies. General Electric, an AIM member, provided just such a service for the New York State Highway Department at the request of Governor Andrew Cuomo. GE Capital used its expertise in lean process to help the Highway Department reduce the processing time for curb-cut requests from 70 days to three days.

    Empower front-line regulators with the authority to approve creative solutions such as the one developed with Cape Air.

  3. Initiate a comprehensive review to identify regulations that are outdated, redundant, ineffective, inefficient or unnecessary.

  4. Eliminate current state regulations that exceed federal standards.

  5. Adopt an immediate moratorium on any state law or regulation that exceeds or duplicates a federal law or regulation.

  6. Enact broad regulatory reform at the Massachusetts Department of Revenue:

    Ensure that taxpayer returns remain confidentially held by the DOR.

    Ban DOR from lobbying the Legislature and other elected officials.

    Reform the DOR’s audit practices to ensure timely resolution of disputes and increase the use the mediation.

    Reform the Appellate Tax Board to ensure fair, equitable and timely resolution of tax disputes.

    Eliminate the practice and use of contingent auditors.

    Improve the DOR’s electronic filing system, which is one of the most challenging and complicated in the country.

  7. The state should work with cities and towns to establish a set of efficiency and fairness standards for local issues such as inspections, fees and permitting.

    Associated Industries of Massachusetts, perhaps in conjunction with the Massachusetts Municipal Association, will develop an annual rating of the business climate in cities and towns and recognize the top 10 municipalities for business.

    The commonwealth and its municipalities should move toward regionalization of functions such as inspections and permitting to improve efficiency.

 

 

Topics: Regulation, Taxes, Blueprint for the Next Century

Blueprint for the Next Century | A Uniformly Strong Business Climate

Posted by Christopher Geehern on Nov 18, 2014 7:17:46 AM

(Editor's note - AIM last week released the Blueprint for the Next Century, a long-term plan for economic growth and prosperity in Massachusetts. The AIM blog will this week publish one summary each day of the four recommendations contained in the Blueprint. We invite your responses in the Comments section.)

Create a competitive economic structure across all industries, geographic regions and populations rather than picking winners and losers.

BusinessClimateWhere We Stand

Effective governments build business climates that encourage employers in all industries to invest, expand and create economic opportunity. These governments resist the temptation to spend public resources on the high-profile industry of the moment and instead ensure that long-term business costs, regulation, education, training and responsiveness help everyone—from the multinational high-tech company to the small entrepreneur.

A stable and predictable business climate is particularly important to capital-intensive sectors of the economy like manufacturing. No sector creates more economic value than manufacturing in Massachusetts. Manufacturing productivity surged 8.7 percent from 2007-2011, far faster than the overall growth rate of 1.7 percent. Each Massachusetts manufacturing worker adds an average of $178,625 to gross state product versus $114,568 for all private-sectors workers.

Manufacturing remains a key area of interest for Associated Industries of Massachusetts, which has represented the interests of such companies since 1915.

Where We Can Improve

Business Climate

  1. Structure economic development incentives around the business requirements of employers rather than the preconceived notions of which geographic regions would benefit most from job growth. Incentives to locate in Gateway Cities are important, but no more important than the needs of companies that might grow in Massachusetts, but are unable to locate near older industrial cities.
  2. Extend economic development incentives to companies in all industries, in all regions, rather than limiting benefits to biotechnology, clean technology or other selected sectors.
  3. Use economic development to encourage projects that benefit the highest number and variety of wage earners.
  4. Build flexibility into economic development incentives so the commonwealth will have the opportunity to respond to new challenges as they arise.
  5. Let business needs drive the process.

Manufacturing

  1. Massachusetts must solve the long-term electricity cost crisis that threatens the survival of manufacturing in the commonwealth. (Health Care and Energy Section)
  2. Employers, government and citizens must together elevate the role of vocational education and its potential to provide people the skills they need to realize their economic objectives. (Work Force Section)
  3. We should replicate partnerships such as the $9.7 million Berkshire Innovation Center in Pittsfield. A membership cooperative led by companies such as Crane & Company and General Dynamics, the 20,000-square-foot center will include tools for precision analysis and microscopy, rapid 3D prototype printing and other operations crucial to expanding productivity for smaller companies.
  4. The Massachusetts Advanced Manufacturing Collaborative should work to re-establish the once close connection between the innovation sectors of the economy and the commonwealth’s base of advanced manufacturers. Medical researchers, clean-tech entrepreneurs, nanotechnology developers and others need access to the unparalleled engineering and manufacturing expertise of Bay State companies to make their ideas tangible.  Allow innovation to drive downstream benefits in other sectors of the economy.
  5. Organize a “Trade Mission to Massachusetts” that would expose innovators from Greater Boston to potential partners and manufacturers in other parts of the commonwealth. It’s a way to encourage an exchange of ideas and the formation of long-term connections.
  6. Government and the private sector must help Massachusetts manufacturing companies expand markets overseas, especially as U.S. government spending on defense and health care declines.
  7. Ramp up the frequency and variety of trade missions. These missions make practical connections for employers and raise the visibility of exporting as a key issue.
  8. Support appropriate free trade agreements between the United States and important trading partners (T-TIP between the US and the European Union; and the Trans-Pacific Partnership), as well as initiatives such as trade promotion authority, re-authorization of the Export-Import Bank and immigration reform.
  9. Improve the current structure for encouraging foreign direct investment in Massachusetts.
  10. Establish an online portal to facilitate connections between Massachusetts companies and collaborators, partners and investors overseas.

Business Formation

Business formation and entrepreneurship represent the source of regeneration for an economy. It is particularly important in Massachusetts, which ranks among the highest in the U.S. for patent creation and venture capital investment.

  1. Government should remove impediments to the e-service economy (Uber etc.) by changing the independent contractor law.
  2. Support Best Return on America’s Investment Now, or BRAIN Act, which would create a visa for foreigners who receive an advanced degree in science, technology, engineering and math.
  3. Exempt businesses earning less than $500,000 from the corporate income tax.
  4. Reduce fees for starting and maintaining a business (LLCs have $500 initial filing fee and $500 annual filing fee; reduce to $125).
  5. Encourage the development of the Maker Economy and creative production facilities such as Industry City in Brooklyn.  The maker movement is the umbrella term for independent inventors, designers and tinkerers who combine crafts, manufacturing, open-source learning and personal technology like 3-D printers. The creations, born in cluttered local workshops and bedroom offices, are meant to appeal to consumers looking for locally-sourced, high-quality products instead of generic, mass-produced, made-in-China merchandise.

Topics: Massachusetts economy, Economy, Blueprint for the Next Century

State Safety Officials Narrow Hoisting Regulations

Posted by Christopher Geehern on Nov 17, 2014 2:45:00 PM

The Massachusetts Department of Public Safety has narrowed the scope of its controversial year-old hoisting regulations after agreeing with Associated Industries of Massachusetts that federal rules pre-empt some of the state requirements.

ForkliftThe change means companies that operate industrial lift trucks and forklifts solely on their own property are no longer subject to the state regulations if the area where the equipment is used is not accessible to the public.

AIM objected to the regulations because they were costly and duplicated federal rules enforced by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. The state rules forced some employers to comply by reassigning long-term employees who had operated hoisting equipment for years to other jobs.

“The Department of Public Safety (DPS) deserves tremendous credit for an intelligent approach to regulation,” said Robert Rio Vice President of Government Affairs at AIM.

AIM and lawyers representing forklift manufacturers and technicians, prepared a legal memo to DPS outlining the case for pre-emption, citing several similar major national cases. DPS reviewed the memo and, following several discussions, agreed with AIM’s position and released the guidance making the hoisting regulations consistent with pre-emption law. 

Only industrial lift trucks and forklifts are exempt. Operators of other equipment subject to the law must still be licensed, even if the hoisting devices are used in areas where the public is not allowed. 

The exemption does not apply if the public has access to any property in which the equipment is operated. That includes warehouse type stores, where aisles are blocked off for forklift activity, but the public is otherwise allowed to walk freely.

There is also a new exemption for technicians preforming repair.      

Employers should refer to DPS administrative rulings and FAQ prior to making any changes to their forklift licensing requirements.

“Efficient regulation is a cornerstone of AIM’s new Blueprint for the next Century economic plan,” Rio said.

“Public Safety Commissioner Thomas G. Gatzunis, legal counsel Beth McLaughlin, and Tim Wilkerson, Regulatory Ombudsman Director at the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development, have created a model for smart partnerships between business and government.” 

Topics: Hoisting, Safety, Manufacturing

Blueprint for the Next Century | Work Force

Posted by Christopher Geehern on Nov 17, 2014 10:28:00 AM


(Editor's note - AIM last week released the Blueprint for the Next Century, a long-term plan for economic growth and prosperity in Massachusetts. The AIM blog will this week publish one summary each day of the four recommendations contained in the Blueprint. We invite your responses in the Comments section.)

Government and business must develop the best system in the world for educating and training workers with the skills needed to allow Massachusetts companies to succeed in a rapidly changing global economy.

Work_ForceWhere We Stand

What if you created an economy and no one came? Massachusetts employers almost unanimously name the shortage of qualified workers as the central impediment to the future of the economy. The worker shortage crosses almost every industry, from manufacturers in the Pioneer Valley to software companies in Boston’s Innovation District to research and engineering firms on the North Shore.

Where We Can Improve

  1. Take advantage of the opportunity provided by the Work Force Innovation and Opportunity Act of 2014 to align the commonwealth’s work-force training programs with the needs of employers and job seekers. The act requires Massachusetts to develop a four-year strategy – in the form of a single, unified strategic plan for core programs—for preparing an educated and skilled work force and meeting the hiring needs of employers. Massachusetts policymakers should rationalize the distribution and control of federal work-force training money to maximize results.

    Develop as part of the review a strategy to consolidate educational and work-force development systems that remain Balkanized in Massachusetts and widely inconsistent in terms of outcomes.

  2. The governor should convene the Massachusetts High Demand Career Initiative, a broad consultation among business, education, government, labor and the general public to address the range of long-term issues embedded in the skilled-worker shortage. The initiative would send an unmistakable signal about the commonwealth’s determination to be the global leader in work-force skills.

  3. Employers, government and citizens must together elevate the role of vocational education and its potential to provide people the skills they need to realize their economic dreams.

    The commonwealth should work with private employers, led by AIM, to initiate a multi-year marketing and communications initiative to promote the value offered by vocational education and skills training. The initiative must address the ingrained cultural bias among parents and the general public that vocational education is for students who cannot succeed in college-preparatory high schools. The message should be that college is not the only pathway to success.

    Conduct a detailed inventory of the work-force needs and compensation opportunities in each region of the commonwealth; compare the findings to the programs offered at the state’s 15 community colleges, 39 vocational high schools and traditional high schools that offer vocational programs.

    Develop a strategy to ensure consistent excellence among vocational schools. Some of these schools are among the best in the country, but municipal officials say others are dumping grounds for school systems seeking to boost the MCAS scores of their traditional high schools.

    Distribute educational aid in a manner than eliminates the waiting lists that exist at half of the commonwealth’s vocational high schools.

    Encourage acceptance of the Manufacturing Assistance Center Workforce Innovation Collaborative curriculum by vocational schools and community colleges around the state.

    Encourage more industry-driven, demand-based training partnerships in developing fields, such as the aviation technology programs currently being developed on Cape Cod and in the City of Westfield.

    Allow vocational schools to work with community colleges to grant associates degrees.

  4. In skill areas not currently served by vocational education, employers, government and educators should create a system in which public schools provide students with strong, fundamental math, science and communication skills while businesses develop programs to teach specific job skills.

    Evaluate high schools based not only on the number of graduating students who attend college, but on the number who graduate and obtain gainful employment.

    Establish a statewide recognition program to honor schools with the best record of graduating skilled workers.

    Replicate the example of Tech Foundry in Springfield, which provides information technology training to students in Springfield after school, on week-ends and during school vacations. Students work with business mentors to determine the IT skills that employers need and then earn skill badges and later intern with employers. The initiative is funded by foundations and the private sector.

    Replicate the similarly successful model of organizations such as Girls Who Code, which work to inspire, educate and equip girls in a manner that will create gender parity in the computing field.

    Implement the recommendations of the Massachusetts Computer Action Network to integrate curriculum in the public schools that will prepare students for careers in computer science and other technical fields.

  5. Expand performance-based funding for Massachusetts community college and public four-year institutions.

    Support the recent recommendations of the Massachusetts Higher Education Commission establishing five-year performance benchmarks on work-force development and civic learning for the entire system.

  6. Global companies with a significant presence in Massachusetts should establish partnerships that harness the intellectual capital of the region’s colleges and universities. State government should consider modest financial incentives to encourage such partnerships.

    One such model is the new joint research facility established by Raytheon Company with the University of Massachusetts in Lowell. The project is focused on the advancement of innovative technologies in a collaborative, state-of-the-art institute. Raytheon is committing between $3 million and $5 million over the next 10 years.

    The State of New York provides financial incentives to companies that establish or training partnerships with public or private colleges and universities. Such incentives are notable in that they are not geared to one-time efforts to attract a single employer, but rather to sustained efforts that build a cooperative infrastructure between employers and higher education.
  1. Employers must establish a consistent level of engagement with educational institutions and training providers to ensure a pool of skilled potential employees.

    More employers must create internship programs and Massachusetts must encourage such programs. The companies that are most successful in attracting talent are almost always those that have invested in creating on-the-job educational opportunities for students in the workplace.

    Replicate partnerships such as the manufacturing skills training program developed in Springfield by Springfield Technical Community College, Holyoke Community College and the University of Massachusetts with private support from companies such as Smith & Wesson, MassMutual and Suffolk Construction.

    Employers in the information technology field must engage with public and private four-year colleges to ensure that these institutions are teaching up-to-date skills. Many employers complain that while community colleges turn out graduates with appropriate skills, a significant number of graduates of four-year colleges come to the workplace with outdated skills.

  2. Massachusetts should conduct a comprehensive best-practices audit to determine the best approaches to work-force training being used on in other states and countries. South Carolina, for example, has developed a successful manufacturing apprenticeship program in which promising young people are paid both for working and for their classroom studies. The program is based on those prevalent in Germany and is being driven by German companies such as BMW, which operate plants in South Carolina.

  3. Emphasize the role that returning veterans can play in filling needs for employees. Hiding in plain sight here in Massachusetts and throughout the country are millions of men and women who have technical skills forged in an arena where split-second decisions mean the difference between life and death. Post 9-11 era military veterans represent a massive untapped source of talented people who already know the value of showing up for work on time, teamwork and accomplishing a mission.

    Encourage employer support for hiring programs such as New England Tech Vets (www.newenglandtechvets.org) or Helmets to Hardhats (www.helmetstohardhats.org), a union initiative to connect veterans with building and construction careers.

“My job is to prepare students for jobs that have not yet been created using technology that has not yet been invented.”
School Principal

Topics: Blueprint for the Next Century

Baker Pledges Regulatory Review, Action on Health Costs

Posted by Christopher Geehern on Nov 14, 2014 9:41:00 AM

Massachusetts Governor-Elect Charlie Baker today pledged to create a business climate in which employers and citizens have confidence that they “can get stuff done here.”

Introduced to a standing ovation from more than 550 business leaders at the AIM Executive Forum, Baker said he would initiate a thorough review of state regulations and move aggressively to control the cost of health care in Massachusetts.

He recalled visiting a family-owned manufacturing company in Northboro that elected to expand and create new jobs in Franklin, Tennessee, rather than in Massachusetts. Permitting the expansion would have taken three years in the Bay State, but the mayor of Franklin asked the company owners “Would you like to start digging tomorrow?”

“The big missed opportunity for us is not attracting new business but hanging onto the businesses that have decided they want to grow,” Baker said.

Baker2014“What I hear is ‘Boy there a lot of really smart, creative, talented people in Massachusetts, but it sure is a complicated place to get stuff done. That message is, in many cases, the difference between having the next facility built across the street or in Franklin, Tennessee,” Baker said.

He told the audience that he was part of the last major Massachusetts regulatory review, conducted under Governor William Weld, when the code of state regulations turned on its side proved to be as tall as a life-sized cardboard cutout of Celtics forward Kevin McHale.

“I actually think regulatory review is like cleaning your basement – you should probably do it every 10 years, whether you need it or not,” he quipped.

Baker referenced several times the AIM’s new Blueprint for the Next Century, a long-term plan for economic growth and prosperity the association has developed in observance of its 100th anniversary in 2015. Richard C. Lord, President and Chief Executive Officer of AIM, presented the governor-elect with the first printed copy of the Blueprint as the conclusion of his remarks.

Baker, who won election to the corner office on November 4, drew his largest round of applause when he said his administration would be a partner to small business. He said he will establish a Small-Business Council so he can “talk directly as admin to small business what their needs and concerns are so we can respond aggressively.”

Topics: AIM Executive Forum, Charlie Baker

Where are the Workers for the New Economy?

Posted by Christopher Geehern on Nov 14, 2014 8:59:30 AM

(Second of two parts)

Eric Fogg, Bill Bither and Jacob Lauzier carry all the promise and challenge of the Massachusetts economy when they arrive for work each day in a nondescript office in the college town of Northampton.

BlueprintNextCentury-1The entrepreneurs are hard at work on a venture called MachineMetrics, a cloud software solution that improves the productivity of manufacturing facilities by collecting, analyzing and visualizing data from machines, parts and people. The two have already signed up high-profile regional manufacturers like Savage Arms in Westfield and Valley Steel Stamp in Greenfield as customers.

It’s an almost mystical handshake from the future of the economy to the present, from one generation to another, acknowledging the seminal role that both must play to ensure prosperity for the people of Massachusetts in the next century.

“We need to persuade software entrepreneurs looking to create the next app or something in the software industry that there is a tremendous amount of opportunity in manufacturing. We need young entrepreneurs to connect with manufacturing companies and work on new ideas,” said Fogg, who spent 16 years in precision machining and owned his own shop.

MachineMetrics is the kind of company that may ultimately determine the ability of Massachusetts to build upon an economy that  in many ways remains a paradox—an international center of technology, innovation, medical research, financial services and higher learning near Greater Boston but a more traditional, amorphous economy outside of Route 128. Fogg, Bither and innovators like them hold the unique promise of joining the “eds and meds” economy of the 617 area code with existing industries struggling to create jobs for residents in the rest of the state.

It is a promise that will be played out against a vibrant and unforgiving global economy in which investment, resources, jobs, people and capital flow at blinding speed to the most competitive environments. States, regions and nations no longer have the luxury of taking their job bases for granted – failure to nurture the business climate not only impedes the growth of existing companies, but also leads to a silent and corrosive flow of job expansions to other locations that provide employers with the best opportunities for success.

The challenges that MachineMetrics faces are emblematic of those facing the commonwealth as a whole:

  • Will the advanced manufacturing companies to which they want to sell their idea survive in the relentlessly high-cost, high-regulation environment of Massachusetts?
  • Will machinemetrics find the skilled, educated and motivated people it needs to grow and to develop new iterations of the company’s software?
  • Will young companies located in western Massachusetts and other areas outside the Cambridge/Boston innovation beltway develop the critical mass needed to extend opportunity throughout the state?
  • Will the machinemetrics platform make manufacturers so efficient that they will be able to increase business without creating new jobs?
  • Will government regulators encourage the growth of companies like machinemetrics, or will they set up bureaucratic impediments like the ones that recently convinced a neighboring software company in Amherst to move to Texas?
  • Will the government research money that built Massachusetts into a world class center of high education, medical science, biotechnology and defense technology continue to flow or slow to a trickle?

Massachusetts employers share a remarkable consensus about the answers to these fundamental questions. It is a consensus that forms the foundation of the Blueprint for the Next Century, a long-term plan for economic growth and prosperity in the commonwealth. Associated Industries of Massachusetts, the statewide employer association, is publishing the Blueprint on the occasion of its 100th anniversary in 2015.

The employers of the commonwealth respectfully propose the following initiatives to ensure the future of the Massachusetts economy:

  1. Develop the best system in the world for educating and training workers with the skills needed to allow Massachusetts companies to succeed in a rapidly changing global economy.
  2. Support business formation and expansion by creating a uniformly competitive economic structure across all industries, geographic regions and populations, rather than picking winners and losers.
  3. Establish a world-class state regulatory system that ensures the health and welfare of society in a manner that meets the highest standards of efficiency, predictability, transparency and responsiveness.
  4. Moderate the immense long-term burden that health care and energy costs place on business growth.

The Blueprint for the Next Century charts a course that will provide every citizen with the opportunity to build a life, prosper, support a family and share in the economic fortunes of Massachusetts. It is a call to action that embraces the dictum of Theodore Roosevelt, who said “We should not forget that it will be just as important to our descendants to be prosperous in their time as it is to us to be prosperous in our time.”

AIM stands for jobs, economic opportunity, fiscal predictability, business formation, innovation, education and a government that acknowledges that the private sector has the unique ability and responsibility to create the common wealth for the people of Massachusetts.

Topics: Regulation, Health Care Costs, Energy, Workforce Shortage, Blueprint for the Next Century

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