At a time when there are more job openings than job seekers in New England and throughout the United States, Massachusetts must summon all its creativity and innovation to solve the structural shortage of qualified workers, AIM President Rick Lord and a group of experts said today.
“There are 6.9 million job openings throughout the United States this morning. There are 6.2 million unemployed people throughout the United States looking for work. Closer to home, there are 51,000 more jobs available in the six New England states than people to fill them,” Lord told an audience of 300 employers during his final State of Massachusetts Business Address.
“The good news is that we live in a commonwealth known for creative solutions to seemingly intractable problems. A state that has produced everything from the game of basketball to the microwave oven to Facebook should certainly be a leader in ensuring that all its citizens share in the economic possibilities that lie ahead.”
Lord offered several recommendations to help Massachusetts employers find the people they need to fuel economic growth:
- Overhauling the work-force development system to ensure that people of all ages are being taught the skills that employers demand.
- Ensuring that the public schools provide the basic skills that allow students to compete for jobs that were not even envisioned 20 years ago.
- Supporting and expanding vocational education.
- Resolving the immigration issue that has restricted the availability of skilled foreign workers in Massachusetts and other education and technology driven economies.
- Expanding opportunity to the full diversity of the Massachusetts population. Lord noted that the unemployment rate among people of color exceeds 6 percent in Massachusetts and among Latinos is 5.6 percent.
- Encouraging collaboration among employers, schools, community colleges, universities and training providers to establish a consistent and logical path from learning to employment.
Lord highlighted several examples of such collaborations, including an initiative by Prime Motor Group to provide scholarships and employment opportunities to automotive technology students at the Benjamin Franklin School of Technology in Boston.
Robin LeClaire, President of Lampin Corporation in Uxbridge, said the 35-person manufacturing company is working on multiple fronts to attract and train people to replace a workforce heavily tilted toward 40 and 50-somethings. The company speaks frequently to middle- and high-school students to let them know that manufacturing offers a rewarding career path to young people who don’t wish to attend college or who cannot afford to do so in the traditional manner.
“They don’t know that there are jobs other than those that require going to college,” said LeClaire.
“We tell them that when they come to Lampin, we’ll pay for them to go to college.”
Massachusetts Secretary of Labor and Work Force Development Rosalin Acosta said it is “astonishing” that the state economy added 185,000 people during 2018 amid a 3.4 percent unemployment rate. She warned, however, that the future work force – people 19 years of age or under – has virtually flattened.
“Where are we going to get all the people employers need, and how are we going to get the right people with the right skills,” Acosta said.
She told the audience that the Baker Administration is focusing its job-training resources on three key areas - manufacturing, health care and information technology.
University of Massachusetts Amherst Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy said the commonwealth’s formidable lineup of colleges and universities are using internships and other experiential learning to ensure that students have the ability to meet the evolving needs of employers.
“Employers now look for employees who are more job ready that when we went to college,” Subbaswamy said.