Employer Confidence Flat; Labor Shortage Remains a Concern

Posted by Christopher Geehern on Dec 5, 2017 9:20:02 AM

Employer confidence in Massachusetts remained essentially unchanged during November as companies apparently began to bump up against a persistent shortage of qualified workers.

BCI.November.2017.jpgThe Associated Industries of Massachusetts Business Confidence Index (BCI) lost 0.1 points off its 2017 high to 62.6, still 4.5 points better than in November 2016. The slight decline reflected a drop in confidence among non-manufacturing companies and a year-over-year decline in the index that measures employer hiring plans.

Analysts on the AIM Board of Economic Advisors (BEA) believe that Massachusetts may be suffering from too much of a good thing – a 3.7 percent unemployment rate that threatens to derail the ability of employers to find the workers they need to grow at a time when large number of baby boomers prepare to leave the work force.

“The concern is that Massachusetts could become a victim of its own success,” said Raymond G. Torto, Chair of AIM's Board of Economic Advisors (BEA) and Lecturer, Harvard Graduate School of Design.

“Employers feel optimistic about the state economy, the national economy and their own growth prospects, but they worry where the computer programmers, machinists and accountants needed to fuel that growth are going to come from and where they are going to live.”

Wage growth, however, remains muted. The AIM HR Practices Survey released yesterday shows that Massachusetts employers project average wage increases of 2.66 percent for 2018, down from 2.75 percent this year.

The AIM Index, based on a survey of Massachusetts employers, has appeared monthly since July 1991. It is calculated on a 100-point scale, with 50 as neutral; a reading above 50 is positive, while below 50 is negative. The Index reached its historic high of 68.5 on two occasions in 1997-98, and its all-time low of 33.3 in February 2009.

The Index has remained above 50 since October 2013.

Constituent Indicators

The constituent indicators that make up the overall Business Confidence Index were mixed during November.

The Massachusetts Index, assessing business conditions within the commonwealth, gained 0.1 points to 65.2, leaving it 5.4 points better than a year earlier.

The U.S. Index of national business conditions lost 0.3 points to 62.2, pausing after a yearlong rally. October marked the 92nd consecutive month in which employers have been more optimistic about the Massachusetts economy than the national economy.

The Current Index, which assesses overall business conditions at the time of the survey, decreased 0.2 points to 63.4 while the Future Index, measuring expectations for six months out, edged down 0.1 points. The Current Index has risen 6.5 points and the Future Index 2.6 points during the past year.
Operational Views

The Company Index, reflecting overall business conditions, rose 0.3 points to 62.3. The most significant operational result, however, came in the Employment Index, which lost 1.2 points and ended the month 0.8 points below its level of a year ago. Another unusual result was that manufacturing companies were more optimistic than non-manufacturing companies.

“The movement of the overall Business Confidence Index was small as the economy continued to grow and add jobs at a healthy pace. But the weakness in the Employment Index suggests that the expansion may finally be bumping into a pervasive shortage of skilled workers across multiple industries,” said Katherine A. Kiel, Ph.D., Professor of Economics, College of the Holy Cross, and a BEA member.

Political Fireworks

AIM President and CEO Richard C. Lord, also BEA member, said employers remain upbeat despite uncertainty surrounding the federal and state political landscape.

“The tax bill passed last week by the US Senate contains a significant reduction in both corporate rates and rates for pass-through businesses, two provisions that are widely popular among employers. At the same time, employers are concerned about provisions that could become problematic for Massachusetts, including limits on the deductibility of state and local taxes, and loss of the federal research-and-development credit,” Lord said.

“All this is taking place as activists continue to work to place three questions on the 2018 Massachusetts election ballot that would together impede economic growth for a generation: a surtax on incomes of more than $1 million, an expansive and bureaucratic paid family leave program and an increase in the minimum wage.”

Topics: Skills Gap, AIM Business Confidence Index, Massachusetts economy

Morgan Memorial Goodwill Earns 2016 Gould Education and Work Force Award

Posted by Christopher Geehern on Apr 27, 2016 1:02:37 PM

Most people know Goodwill for its retail stores that sell everything from gently used clothing to home furnishings.

Not enough people know that those stores are the face of a sophisticated job-training and placement organization that helps thousands of people of all abilities break into the employment market and contribute to the Massachusetts economy.

Goodwill.jpgThis job training and placement work over many decades has earned Morgan Memorial Goodwill Industries of Boston the 2016 John Gould Education and Workforce Development Award from Associated Industries of Massachusetts. The award will be presented before 750 Bay State business leaders at the AIM Annual Meeting May 13 at the Westin Waterfront hotel in Boston.

Morgan Memorial Goodwill Industries helps more than 8,200 people prepare for jobs each year – 7,700 people through Boston Career Link, the one-stop career center it operates, and another 560 people through its job training, including the First Step Job Readiness Program and the Human Services Employment Ladder Program. Goodwill’s mission is to help individuals with barriers to self-sufficiency to achieve independence and dignity through work.

“Morgan Memorial Goodwill Industries plays a central role in matching qualified job candidates with companies across industries such as retail, health care and banking that require large numbers of entry-level employees,” said Richard C. Lord, President and Chief Executive Officer of AIM.

“The work done at Goodwill not only provides hard-working people a pathway into the job market, but also meets the need of employers to address the most prevalent challenge they face in a growing economy – finding good employees.”

Goodwill collaborates with hundreds of employers to promote and facilitate the hiring of the individuals it serves. The organization’s business partners include Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Citizens Bank, Northeastern University, Stacy’s Pita Chip Company, and the TJX Companies. Many of those employers participate in on-site recruitment events, industry briefings, and career fairs at Boston Career Link, which connect businesses to qualified job seekers.

The Human Services Employment Ladder Program prepares individuals for entry level positions in the burgeoning human services field. The program’s business advisory council is made up of eleven employers, including Pine Street Inn, Vinfen, and Walnut Street Center.

“Morgan Memorial Goodwill Industries and all our partners are honored to be recognized with the 18th annual John Gould award from AIM,” said Joanne Hilferty, who has served as president and chief executive officer since 1995.

“It’s fitting that Goodwill receive this award from a business association, since our collaborations with hundreds of Massachusetts employers brings trained, dedicated employees to the workforce, and helps people move to economic self-sufficiency. The award honors every staff member, partner and participant whose hard work makes all this happen.”

The Gould Award was established in 1998 to recognize the contributions of individuals, employers, and institutions to the quality of public education and the advancement, employability, and productivity of residents of the commonwealth. In 2000, the award was named after John Gould, upon his retirement as President and CEO of AIM, to recognize his work to improve the quality of public education and workforce training activities in Massachusetts.   

Goodwill’s headquarters and the Career Link one-stop center are in Boston. The organization also operates  job training centers in Boston and Salem;  a distribution center in Boston;  and stores in Boston, South Boston, Allston/Brighton, Cambridge, Worcester, Somerville, Quincy, South Attleboro, and Hyannis. The organization employs 375 people.

Register for the 2016 AIM Annual Meeting

Topics: Skills Gap, Education, Workforce Training

Verizon Executive Heads New Workforce Board

Posted by Christopher Geehern on Feb 29, 2016 7:09:32 AM

A Verizon executive who last year co-chaired the Associated Industries of Massachusetts centennial will lead a new state panel charged with improving the Massachusetts work-force development system.

Cupelo.jpgVerizon New England Region President Donna Cupelo will chair the Massachusetts Workforce Development Board, created by Governor Charlie Baker in December to improve the accountability of the state’s One-Stop Career Centers and regional workforce boards. The board will also include three members of the AIM Board of Directors and several representatives of AIM-member employers.

“The Workforce Development Board will allow us to reimagine how we create skill-building programs across the state,” Baker said while swearing in board members last Thursday.

“Our administration is focused on driving economic growth and creating new job opportunities by designing programs that meet the demands of businesses in each region, and give workers the skills they need to fill job openings.”

The primary task of the board will be to ensure that the commonwealth’s far-flung training programs develop the skills demanded by employers.  The board will also recommend strategies to promote workforce participation of women, people of color, veterans, and persons with disabilities across industry sectors.

The Workforce Development Board reconstitutes the former Workforce Investment Board by reducing its membership from 65 to 33 members and ensuring the makeup of the board complies with federal requirements under the federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA). The board will consist of 17 business representatives and seven work force representatives – including four representatives from community-based organizations and two from labor, one of which is chosen by the National Association of Government Employees (NAGE).

Executive Branch representatives from the Executive Offices of Labor and Workforce Development, Health and Human Services, Housing and Economic Development and Education will also serve in addition to the governor’s designee, two state legislators and two local government representatives.

WIOA was signed into law by the President on July 22, 2014 replacing the Workforce Investment Act of 1998, with the goal to transform the nation’s workforce system and to invest in a skilled workforce.

In addition to Cupelo, AIM members serving on the board include:

  • Joanne Berwald, an AIM director and vice president of human resources at Mestek Inc., a global HVAC manufacturer in Westfield.
  • Anne Broholm, also an AIM director and chief executive officer of AHEAD, LLC, which provides a variety of products to the golf industry.
  • Gerard E. Burke is the president and CEO of Hillcrest Educational Centers Inc., a role he has held since 1992.
  • Susan Mailman is the owner and president of Coghlin Electrical Contractors, Inc., a fourth generation family-owned electrical, telecommunications, and networking business located in Worcester.
  • Joanne M. Pokaski is director of workforce development at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston.
  • Elizabeth Williams, an AIM director and president and CEO of Roxbury Technology Corp., a Boston-based company that remanufactures recycled inkjet and laser toner printer cartridges.

"Finding employees with the requisite skills to succeed in the global economy is the dominant concern of Massachusetts employers in 2016. We're delighted that Donna Cupelo will chair the new Workforce Development Board with the able collaboration of so many gifted employers," said Richard C. Lord, President and Chief Executive Officer of Associated Industries of Massachusetts.

Topics: Skills Gap, Workforce Training

Video Blog | Economic Growth, Health Costs, Talent Development

Posted by Christopher Geehern on Jan 22, 2016 3:02:53 AM

The 2016 Associated Industries of Massachusetts Economic Outlook Forum featured a panel of experts looking at prospects for the Massachusetts economy. The panel, moderated by WBZ radio Business Editor Jeff Brown, included Jay Ash, Secretary of Housing and Economic Development; Martha Sullivan, President and CEO of Sensata Technologies in Attleboro; and Dr. Howard Grant, President and CEO of Lahey Health in Burlington.


Topics: Skills Gap, Health Care Costs, Massachusetts economy, AIM Executive Forum

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

Manufacturers, Vocational Schools Get on the Same Page

Posted by Brian Gilmore on Oct 1, 2014 9:47:25 AM

A group of Massachusetts manufacturing companies is reporting significant progress in efforts to ensure that vocational high schools are teaching students the skills that employers need.

ManufacturingDay2014This spring, 14 of the 30 Massachusetts vocational schools offering machining technology accepted an invitation from the Manufacturing Advancement Center Workforce Initiative Collaborative (MACWIC) to test the proficiency of students enrolled in their machining programs.

Results of the testing are to be announced Monday in Northampton. By passing the Applied Manufacturing Technology Pathway Certification exam, students will earn a Level 1 MACWIC certificate in Basic Manufacturing Skills.

MACWIC designed the Applied Manufacturing Technology Pathway Certification to create a standard instruction and evaluation process to help employers evaluate the skills of a job applicant. The first of the five levels of instruction includes shop math, blueprint reading, metrology and quality inspection, safety and work readiness.

Completion of levels one and two of the Pathway can lead to a pre-apprentice certificate, while completion of all five levels can lead to an associate’s degree in manufacturing technology.

The ultimate objective is for vocational schools to adopt all or a portion of the MACWIC machining curriculum. The Pathway is also designed for use in incumbent and dislocated worker training programs.    

The Massachusetts Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MassMEP) and Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) are giving Massachusetts vocational high schools that validate their Machine Tool Technology programs against the MAWIC credential access to the Pathway curriculum and online programing to support certificate instruction. The total value of the grant is $2.5 million.

The MACWIC program has been endorsed by AIM and received the association’s Gould Education & Workforce Development Award in 2013. 

Massachusetts Vocational Schools with Machine Tool Technology Programs participating in the curriculum, testing, and online programing include:

  • Assabet Valley Regional Technical High School, Marlborough
  • Bay Path Regional Vocational School, Charlton
  • Blackstone Valley Regional Vocational Technical High School, Upton
  • C.H. McCann Regional Technology School, North Adams
  • Franklin County Regional Technical High School, Montague
  • Greater Lowell Regional Technical High School, Tyngsboro
  • Essex (North Shore Regional) Technical High School, Middleton
  • Putnam Vocational Technical High School, Springfield
  • Shawsheen Valley Regional Vocational Technical High School, Billerica
  • Smith Vocational & Agricultural High School, Northampton
  • Somerville High School, Somerville
  • Taconic High School, Pittsfield
  • Whittier Regional Vocational High School, Haverhill
  • Worcester Technical High School, Worcester

Several AIM member companies will assist MACWIC during the next year in efforts to secure participation in the certificate program by the remaining 16 vocational and technical schools that offer machining technology.  

Topics: Skills Gap, Manufacturing, Massachusetts Manufacturing

Generational Transition Creates Skills Gap for Massachusetts

Posted by Andre Mayer on Apr 24, 2013 3:08:00 PM

Companies are expanding the concept of "succession planning" beyond top executive positions to their entire workforces – and Massachusetts should be thinking along the same lines, Yolanda Kodrzycki, Director of the New England Public Policy Center (NEPPC) at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, told an audience representing employers, government and education on Wednesday morning.

Skills gapOur state's incumbent workforce, Kodrzycki noted, is the twelfth-oldest in the country, but outside Greater Boston, a magnet for young people, it is fourth-oldest, behind only Maine, Vermont, and New Hampshire. The ongoing generational transition is complicated by deficiencies in the skills pipeline and by limited opportunities for young people to gain work experience.

Kodrycki spoke at the release of a report, "Closing the Massachusetts Skills Gap," that completes an 18-month project examining labor demand and supply regionally and statewide. Commonwealth Corporation, a quasi-public workforce agency, commissioned the analysis from NEPPC; Eastern Bank supported the report's production. For employer s concerned about workforce issues, the statewide report and the eight regional reports offer a mine of information and insights. 

Speakers at the release event included the state secretaries of Labor and Workforce Development and Education, Nancy Snyder of Commonwealth Corporation, Wanda McClain of Brigham & Women's Hospital, and Nancy Stager of Eastern Bank.

Recommendations to address the skills gap are proposed by Commonwealth Corporation fall under four headings:

  • Improve employment outcomes for young workers (teens through post-secondary) through work experiences, internships, coaching, and more flexible hiring practices
  • Expand the scale and intensity of Adult Basic Education and English language programs, with more cooperation between employers and educational programs.
  • Align education with persistent and emerging skill needs, again stressing links between industry and training providers.
  • Craft more effective and accessible educational models that support ongoing skill development and lifelong learning, such as the newly streamlined Workforce Training Fund Program.


Topics: Skills Gap, Massachusetts economy, Training

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