Having trouble finding qualified applicants for job openings?
It's not just you – and it's going to get worse.
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.