April 24, 2013
Massachusetts looks at ways to bridge workers’ ‘skills gap’

Work must be done to close the growing gap between the skills and education of the Massachusetts workforce and the labor market demands of employers, according to a new report published by the Commonwealth Corporation.

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“The Massachusetts workforce is among the most educated in the nation, but it is also getting older, and we need to ensure a pipeline of qualified workers to keep our economy moving forward,” said Labor and Workforce Development Secretary Joanne Goldstein. “We are committed to working with employers to develop innovative strategies to bridge the skills gap, providing benefits for both their workers and their bottom line.”

In the Commonwealth, 41.2 percent of the workforce holds a Bachelor’s degree or higher, compared with 29.6 percent nationally, and less than 40 percent have a high school degree or less, 5.2 percent lower than the nation as a whole. During the past decade, the number of Massachusetts residents between the ages of 55 and 64 grew by 42.6 percent, while all other age groups besides teenagers declined.

While unemployment in Massachusetts has remained below national levels during the past decade, those with a high school degree represent 50.5 per¬cent of the unemployed. and young workers between the ages of 16 and 34 represent 45.4 percent of that group.

Commonwealth Corporation CEO/President Nancy Snyder said “Since early work experience generates important work readiness skills, and a lack of work history leads to a weak connection to the labor market over a worker’s lifetime, creating strategies to increase youth employment must be a priority.”

The report offers several recommendations that would help bridge the skills gap:

  • Improving employment outcomes for young workers through work experi-ences, internships, and coaching for high school and post-secondary students and training for businesses on ways to be flexible, creatively adaptive, and nimble.
  • Providing adult basic education and English language programs to better align them with post-secondary institutions, forge stronger partnerships between industry and schools. and help teachers better understand industry shifts.
  • Aligning education programs with skill needs by developing education and training that is closely linked to industry, can respond quickly to changing needs, and is offered in flexible and accelerated models that meet the needs of working adults.
  • Crafting more effective and accessible educational models that support ongoing skill development and lifelong learning by providing existing workers with opportunities to develop their skills and ac¬quire credentials and advancing innovations in knowledge and skill transfer for companies and industries with older workforces.

The full report is available online at http://www.commcorp.org/resources/documents/statewide%20final_4-22.pdf.

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