Congress last week mustered rare and overwhelming bipartisan support to pass legislation that will streamline the sprawling federal workforce training system by eliminating 15 programs. The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act is designed to ensure that American workers attain skills for 21st- century jobs, to improve existing federal job training programs and to connect businesses with the skilled employees they need.
It marks the first time in more than a decade that the nation’s workforce training programs have been updated, though it remains unclear how the changes will play out on the state level. The measure attracted unanimous support from the Massachusetts Congressional delegation.
Many Americans are not equipped with the necessary skills and education needed for high-demand careers in the knowledge economy. Experts project that the number of workers needed to filled highly skilled jobs will fall short by 11 million nationally in the next decade.
Massachusetts faces a similar shortage. Northeastern University Economist Barry Bluestone estimates that that 100,000 skilled manufacturing jobs in Massachusetts will open up in the next decade as older workers retire. The number of young people graduating from Massachusetts high schools, meanwhile, is projected to fall by 9 percent by 2020.
What has been lacking in the face of a developing skills crisis is a coordinated solution.
The Federal legislation makes changes to encourage accountable state job-training strategies. States will now be required to produce a single strategic plan describing how they will provide training, employment services, adult education and vocational rehabilitation through a coordinated, comprehensive system.
We couldn’t agree more. A well-thought out unified plan on how to solve this problem is sorely needed.
AIM is developing its own strategic plan for Massachusetts. The Blueprint for the Next Century is a plan to create jobs, prosperity and economic growth in the coming decades. The document will outline problems and solutions to help jumpstart the Massachusetts economy, including how to solve the shortage of skilled workers.
We look forward to sharing our plan with state and congressional leaders.