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Employers Give Mixed Grades to Community Colleges

Posted by Christopher Geehern on Feb 22, 2016 9:29:45 AM

Massachusetts employers give a mixed report card to the commonwealth’s community colleges, though more than a quarter of companies responding to a new AIM survey report having little or no contact with their local two-year institutions.

Education.jpgTwenty-six percent of the employers who responded to the survey, which was included in AIM’s monthly Business Confidence Index for February, rate the performance of their local community colleges as good. Another 25 percent rate that performance as fair, while 6 percent regard it as outstanding and 14 percent as poor.

Twenty-eight percent of employers say they do not have contact with community colleges. Most of those companies identify themselves as manufacturers looking for people with specific skills rather than college background.

“We are a learn-on-the job manufacturing company,” concluded one employer.

Other manufacturers appear to be turning to employer-driven training initiatives such as the Manufacturing Assistance Center Workforce Innovation Collaborative (MACWIC) to find qualified workers.

The survey results are based upon responses during February from 165 Massachusetts employers.

Katie Holahan, Vice President of Government Affairs at AIM, said that while the association encourages employers to use the resources available from community colleges, it’s not necessarily negative that many do not.

“Companies have diverse training and educational needs both for recruiting workers and product development. Community colleges provide those services for some companies but may not be a fit for everyone,” Holahan said.

Providing workers with the skills needed for the global economy is a cornerstone of AIM’s Blueprint for the Next Century economic plan for Massachusetts.  The document recommends expanding performance-based funding for community colleges and establishing five-year performance benchmarks on work-force development and civic learning for the entire system.

“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,” the Blueprint says.

Massachusetts’ 15 community colleges serve 184,000 students from the Berkshires to Cape Cod. The institutions also conduct training, retraining, certification, skills improvement, and program development for more than 3,191 organizations including local business and industry, nonprofits, unions, as well as state and federal agencies.  

AIM’s closely watched Business Confidence Index will be made public next week.

Topics: Education, Workforce Training, Community Colleges

UMass Students, Waters Corp. Solve Science Challenges

Posted by Bob Paine on Jan 6, 2016 9:58:52 AM

For the past three years, AIM member Waters Corporation has worked with a groundbreaking program at UMass Amherst that prepares science students for real-world problem-solving in their careers. As a developer of innovative analytical science solutions for more than 50 years, Waters recognizes the benefits of preparing undergraduates for the realities of work in the science sector.

iCons-1.jpgThe UMass Integrated Concentration in Science (iCons) program is designed to address the growing demand for workers with a solid science and technology education who can also grapple with practical problems and situations. While gaining deep knowledge in highly specialized science and technology fields remains essential, now more than ever, students must also be adept at teamwork, communication, leadership, and interdisciplinary systems thinking.

Companies like Waters identify and recruit employees armed with these essential skills. The iCons Program is an innovator in developing students who can meet this need and thrive in competitive, fast-paced tech industries.

Such initiatives are consistent with AIM’s Blueprint for the Next Century long-term economic plan, which identifies the ability of employers to hire qualified workers as the primary challenge facing the Massachusetts economy during the next decade.

According to UMass iCons Program Director Professor Scott Auerbach, iCons students form diverse student teams to tackle problems such as antibiotic resistance and climate change by working in classrooms, in research labs, and in collaboration with industry partners like Waters. Based on input from partner companies, Auerbach believes that iCons training gives students a competitive edge that enhances their careers and ultimately benefits the businesses they join.

Early on, the team at Waters saw the potential of this unique program and signed on as its first corporate partner. As a member of the UMass iCons Corporate Alliance, Waters has access to some of the best and brightest students at UMass for its internship program, and also works closely with the iCons leadership team to develop relevant classroom case studies. 

“Based on our experience, UMass iCons students work above and beyond their internship-level experience. These students fit easily into a team-based environment and address unique and challenging assignments not typically associated with undergraduate students,” said Daniel J. McCormick, Chief Technology Officer, Waters.

“Waters Corporation has benefited from the UMass iCons Program in ways that are measurable to our research and development programs.”

Topics: Skills Gap, Education, Training

AIM Next Century Honoree | Gloria Cordes Larson

Posted by Christopher Geehern on Nov 19, 2015 10:23:18 AM

Editor's Note - Bentley University President Gloria Cordes Larson was among three individuals and companies honored with Next Century awards at the AIM centennial gala on Monday.

Few individuals have left a more significant mark on the Massachusetts economy than Gloria Cordes Larson.  

Her unique intelligence and energy has defined a career dedicated to the public interest - as a cabinet secretary, as a respected lawyer, as a senior Federal Trade Commission official, as chair of the authority that built the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center and now, as president of Bentley University.

One of her greatest achievements was leading Massachusetts through a period of breathtaking economic growth from 1993 through 1996.

Topics: Associated Industries of Massachusetts, Massachusetts economy, Education

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

New Test Accelerates Progress on Education

Posted by Brian Gilmore on May 2, 2014 11:59:00 AM

School committees in Massachusetts have an opportunity this month to accelerate progress towards key education reforms sought by employers.

How? By choosing to adopt the new assessment developed by the Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) in place of the increasingly outdated MCAS instrument at the high school level. The new evaluation system was field-tested across the state earlier this year.

EducationAIM supports the efforts of state education officials to extend standards-based reform with an assessment system that will facilitate better evaluation of schools and educators, target support to students' individual needs, and benchmark to interstate and international standards.

PARCC differs from MCAS by enabling schools to assess student achievement on a yearly basis, and to carry it beyond the tenth- grade level where MCAS ends. It will also facilitate interstate comparison of educational effectiveness.

Through its participation and leadership in the PARCC consortium, Massachusetts has joined with other states to create uniform standards developed at the initiative of governors and state education leaders. Working together, the cooperating states are putting in place a system superior to any could have achieved on their own, at much less cost. 

As a result, we can begin to achieve the goals for our schools identified in a recent survey of Massachusetts employers co-sponsored by AIM: national and global standards, a culture of continuous improvement, sound preparation for both further education and the modern workplace, and a comprehensive assessment system as promised in the Education Reform Act of 1993.

The future of our economy depends on our ability and willingness to build on two decades of successful K-12 public school reform to maintain the national leadership and global competitiveness of our education system. We urge members of the employer community who serve, or have influence, on district school committees to support a timely transition to the PARCC assessment.

Topics: Education Reform, Education

What is a Job Applicant's College Degree Worth?

Posted by Andre Mayer on Apr 10, 2014 11:09:00 AM

How can an employer judge what a job applicant’s college degree is worth?

How, for that matter, can the college itself tell how good its educational programs are, and how to improve them?

The public colleges and universities of Massachusetts, which received mixed grades for job preparation on a recent employer survey co-sponsored by AIM, are working to answer those questions.

FreelandIt's an undertaking of vital importance to the economic future of the commonwealth, Higher Education Commissioner Richard M. Freeland (right) told AIM’s Public Affairs Council last Friday, because by 2020 some 72 percent of jobs in the state will require a college education, and the public system has become the dominant source resident graduates.

Massachusetts has undertaken an ambitious effort to measure what college students have learned and what they can do. The idea is to apply those measurements across institutions and states to compare the effectiveness of college programs, and eventually of individual instructors.

Unlike the input-heavy accreditation process, or exit exams for basic academic skills, the new approach will evaluate actual student coursework. After being tested last year on six Massachusetts campuses, the model is being extended to nine other states, with backing from major national education organizations. Such an assessment and accountability system will be especially valuable for institutions that cannot be judged by admissions numbers or research grants.

The initiative is part of the Board of Higher Education’s Vision Project, intended to move Massachusetts public higher education to a position of leadership among state systems in seven areas: college participation, college completion, student learning, workforce alignment, preparing citizens, research, and closing achievement gaps.

Presenting the project's year-two report, "Within Our Sights," Freeland was candid about how far the public higher education system has to go, but also noted areas of continuing success  in the areas of participation and research. Partial restoration in the Fiscal Year 2014 state budget of overall system funding, which suffered severe cuts during the fiscal crisis (to the extent that, for example, 80 percent of community college courses are currently taught by adjunct faculty, to the detriment of student support and advising) is important in itself, and includes a key initiative to base community college funding more heavily on performance.  A pilot project at Bridgewater State University demonstrated that intensive support services can close achievement gaps between students of differing backgrounds.

AIM member-employers are deeply concerned with the preparation of the state's future workforce – and with their own ability to assess that preparation. As taxpayers, we all want to see state resources used effectively and efficiently. As citizens (and parents) we value education and the opportunity it brings. We commend the constructive candor of the Board of Higher Education, and the efforts of the commissioner working with campus administrators and faculty to move the system forward.

AIM looks forward to reporting to employers on the progress of the measurement initiative.

Topics: Education, Workforce Training

Employers See Disconnect Between Schools, Economy

Posted by Andre Mayer on Mar 24, 2014 12:23:00 PM

Twenty years of school reform have made Massachusetts a leader in public education, yet 69 percent of the state's employers report difficulty hiring employees with the skills demanded by the modern workplace, a newly-released survey finds.

EducationOnly 20 percent of business leaders gave the K-12 education system a grade of A or B for job market preparation. 

The survey was part of a broader study conducted by MassINC Polling Group for the Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education (MBAE), with support from AIM and the Massachusetts Business Roundtable. The survey included CEO interviews and focus groups with senior executives and HR administrators. Many AIM member employers participated in the study.

The majority of employers surveyed said the public schools need significant change – 52 percent called for moderate change and 32 percent for major change, while only 10 percent chose minor or no change. The priorities for business in school reform include effectiveness of teachers (63 percent), partnerships between companies and higher education (55 percent), availability of technology in the schools (52 percent), and access for all students to computer science (49 percent).

The need for more partnerships to give students hands-on experience and awareness of career opportunities is a recurring theme that gave the study its title: "Let's get together."

The employer study was released by MBAE in tandem with another 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. The New Opportunity concludes that districts, schools and instruction must be transformed if students are to compete successfully in the global economy and if Massachusetts is to remain a hub of innovation. 

 The report calls for a new approach to education reform, one that moves away from state mandates and compliance to one that drives authority and accountability down to the schools and creates conditions in which schools continuously advance their own performance.

MBAE, AIM's longtime partner in education reform, plans to launch a campaign to build support for meaningful changes outlined in the report.

Richard C. Lord, president and CEO of AIM, endorsed the findings and urged employers to become engaged in the campaign to improve educational outcomes.

“High quality public schools are the bedrock of our knowledge-based economy. The job of sustaining Massachusetts’ global leadership in innovation belongs to everyone, and that will require a thoughtful, long-range plan to maintain our competitive advantages, including our education system.”

Topics: Education Reform, Massachusetts economy, Education, Workforce Training

GED is G-O-N-E in Massachusetts

Posted by Andre Mayer on Feb 5, 2014 9:01:00 AM

Massachusetts employers accustomed to hiring people with the General Education Development (GED) high school equivalency certificate should be aware that the GED has been replaced in the Bay State.

GEDTaking the place of the GED in Massachusetts and at least 10 other states is the new HiSET exam administer by Educational Testing Service (ETS). Those who pass the test qualify for the Massachusetts High School Equivalency Certificate, a meaningful academic credential available to adults over 18 years old and to 16- and 17-year-olds who are no longer enrolled in school. Each year some 11,000 Massachusetts residents seek the certificate, which is well known to employers and colleges.

What happened? The American Council on Education, which created the GED in 1942, turned it over to a joint venture with Pearson LLC, which introduced an entirely new, computer-based version that was more complex and more expensive. ETS, in association with Iowa Testing Programs, launched a competing assessment, as did CTB/McGraw Hill LLC.

States made their individual choices (some support more than one test) based largely on their delivery systems and funding mechanisms. Massachusetts, which utilizes a network of independent local testing centers and requires test-takers to pay fees, contracted with ETS for three years (2014-2016).

HiSET includes assessments in language arts, writing, mathematics, social studies, and science. To ensure that the test measures academic knowledge and proficiency equivalent to those of a high-school graduate, it is aligned with essential components of the College and Career Readiness Standards for Adult Education and the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for schools, and is moving towards full alignment. HiSET is offered in English and Spanish.

Employers should be aware that job applicants coming from other states may have taken different tests. In the northeast, New Hampshire, Maine, and New Jersey, like Massachusetts, use HiSET; Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Vermont chose the new GED; and New York went with CTB/McGraw Hill. Each of the competing tests represents a step forward in rigor beyond the old GED.

The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and adult education providers across the state are scrambling to implement HiSET on a tight schedule. General information about the assessment may be found at http://hiset.ets.org/. Specific information about the Massachusetts program will appear at http://www.doe.mass.edu/acls/ as it becomes available.

Topics: Hiring, Education, Human Resources

Massachusetts is Number One in Education. Is That Enough?

Posted by Brian Gilmore on Nov 7, 2013 9:24:00 AM

Ask any Massachusetts employer about the challenges facing his or her business and you are bound to hear some variation of: “I can’t find people with the skills and education needed to work in my company.”

Education ReformThe gap between the knowledge required by globally competitive Bay State employers and the knowledge offered by job seekers remains a major impediment to economic growth across Massachusetts. It is a gap that has persisted throughout the Great Recession, ranging from software companies that could hire dozens of programmers tomorrow but cannot find them, to precision manufacturers starved for young workers with the mathematical and mechanical skills to do high-tolerance machining.

The need to match educational achievement to a voraciously competitive global knowledge economy was the primary reason that Associated Industries of Massachusetts and other business groups supported the landmark 1993 Massachusetts Educational Reform Act.

The overhaul raised the overall performance of Massachusetts public schools with a unique combination of measurable student testing, transparency, results-based management, and increased funding. Massachusetts students score the highest in the nation on both the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) and the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMMS) tests.

But our state's first-in-the-nation status for student achievement hides some troubling truths about the condition of public education in the commonwealth, a recent publication by our education partner the Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education (MBAE) points out.

  • Despite the overall gains in student achievement in K-12 public education since passage of the 1993 reform, we have not closed achievement gaps affecting minority and low-income students.
  • We have reached a point of slower improvement, especially in our Gateway Cities – while other states and nations continue to move forward.
  • While Massachusetts eighth graders scored highest in the U.S. on an international test in math and science, only 19 percent did well enough to be considered advanced in math, compared to nearly 50 percent of eighth-graders in Taiwan, South Korea, and Singapore.
  • Just 14 percent of students in Massachusetts took the Advanced Placement (AP) exam in Math, and only 9 percent scored high enough to earn college credit; the same percentage of students took an AP exam in a science, and 8 percent scored a three or above.      
  • Sixty-five percent of students who enter our community colleges require at least one remedial course – a burden of some $57 million a year in instructional costs and lost earnings that could be saved if all students graduated from high school ready for college.

These troubling issues and the accelerating educational demands of employers are again prompting AIM, Massachusetts lawmakers and the business community to take a look at the commonwealth’s public education system. Two decades after the Education Reform 1.0, we are seeking employer perspectives on how well the schools are preparing the work force of tomorrow.

  • What has education reform has meant for the employer community?
  •  Have gains in student achievement produced better, prepared, more productive employees?
  •  Is our state’s workforce still a major competitive advantage?
  •  Do continuing “achievement gaps” cast a shadow on our economic future?
  •  What should be included on an education reform agenda for the next generation?  

AIM is working with MBAE and other groups to collect employer opinions on education issues. The survey results will be used to develop a set of education priorities for the business community to focus on in the months ahead. Please click the link below and share your views with us today.

Take the Education Survey

Topics: Issues, Massachusetts economy, Education

Why Employers Back a Study of Extended Mandatory School Age

Posted by Andre Mayer on Oct 10, 2013 1:25:00 PM

As our economy slowly recovers from the recent, very severe recession, long-term changes in employment patterns are becoming evident. Lower educational attainment means not just lower pay, but a much higher chance of being unemployed. Unemployment among young entrants to the workforce is especially high – in fact, there has probably never been less opportunity for youth workers.

EducationAIM's employer members of course value a strong work ethic, but they are equally concerned about the education and skills that prospective employees bring to the workplace. They know that in the 21st-century economy, dropping out of school to go to work is likely to be a bad decision. Legal requirements aside, the messages society sends to young people are important – and we are sending the wrong message.

School attendance is currently compulsory in Massachusetts for ages 6-16, but some 32 states now mandate school attendance to age 17 or 18, and nine require attendance from age 5. With “pre-school” increasingly recognized as integral to the education process and high school graduation becoming a near-necessity for career success, our state – with its pre-eminent knowledge-based economy – should examine the desirability and cost implications of extending its requirements.

That is why Associated Industries of Massachusetts supports a bill, H. 341, a resolution authorizing and directing the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education to conduct such a study. The measure is sponsored by Senator Garrett Bradley.

We do not believe that this study requirement will be an onerous task. Other states have adopted extended requirements, in some cases quite recently. As Massachusetts is in this case a follower rather than a leader, the board will be able to draw on experience elsewhere to estimate the impacts of similar changes in our state.

We do not advance our resolution in preference to more decisive action as proposed by Representative Bradley, or to a more comprehensive approach as proposed by Senator Chang-Diaz. We observe, however, that these proposals have not succeeded in past sessions, largely because of concerns about their cost implications; and we urge that at the very least the Legislature take this simple step towards a better understanding of what those costs might be.

Topics: Issues, Education, Economy

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