PREPARING FOR THE TRANSITION

Oct 30, 2014 by

Barnstable Patriot Column # 122
Written By: David Augustinho

PREPARING FOR THE TRANSITION

This is an election year. Usually there is a great deal of uncertainty surrounding elections. I don’t think that many people predicted that we would have a new State Representative for Barnstable in the last election, but that is exactly what occurred. You just never know what can happen.

This year’s governors race promises to be a close, hard fought battle between two experienced campaigners. Right now I think that the election result is too close to call. But there is one thing that we know for certain…we will have a new governor sworn in come January.
I am a member of the Workforce Solutions Group, a statewide organization formed several years ago to promote the workforce development system in Massachusetts. The Workforce Solutions Group has been successful in several areas in securing legislative support for programs like the Workforce Competitive Training Fund (WCTF), which is currently providing the Cape & Islands WIB with a $250,000 grant to train healthcare workers in several occupational areas.

The Workforce Solutions Group has already spent considerable time preparing for the change at the top in the Commonwealth. We have prepared a list of workforce development recommendations for the next Governor’s consideration.
This is the language of the recommendations:

Double the number of job-seekers who are able to obtain the skills for good jobs through training partnerships that meet business needs.
Increase the capacity of Adult Basic Education (ABE) and English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) programs, and ensure that they prepare MA residents for success in post-secondary education, workforce training or employment.
Double the number of young people in the state who are able to access summer and year-round jobs, structured career development opportunities, and vocational technical training.

Integrate our education, workforce and economic development systems so there are no dead ends and only seamless connections for businesses or individuals seeking opportunities to grow in the Commonwealth.

Improve job quality to address the rise in income inequality in the Commonwealth.

This is some of the reasoning used with the recommendations in support of the concepts:

The Commonwealth has made considerable strides in improving pathways to employment and economic self-sufficiency. The Workforce Competitiveness Trust Fund (WCTF), a national model for supporting sector-based training, has launched dozens of regional partnerships between employers and training providers, resulting in thousands of people employed in jobs. Community college reform measures will increase the completion rates of our community colleges and help graduates connect to jobs. Increased investments in jobs and training for at-risk youth will pay dividends for the state in the years to come.

Despite this progress, however, many working poor and vulnerable residents, including immigrants, low-skill youth and adults, disconnected young adults who are neither attending school nor working, and the long-term unemployed, have lost ground as the economy has changed.
From 2007-2012, the Massachusetts’ poverty rate has increased from 9.9% to 11.9%. Over 1 in every 7 children across the state is now living in poverty.

The correlation between education and wages has strengthened over the last twenty years. In 2012, the median hourly wage for a Massachusetts worker with a Bachelor’s degree or higher was almost twice the wage for a worker with a high school degree.

The wage gap has widened significantly. Between 1985 and 2012, the gap in hourly pay between high and low wage earners grew by about $9, from more than $15 an hour to more than $24 an hour (adjusted for inflation). This increase in wage inequality is largely the result of a lack of growth in wages at the bottom, which suggests that many Massachusetts workers have not shared in the benefits of the state’s economic growth in recent decades.

Some of these issues are not unique to Massachusetts. The wage gap is a national issue that has been documented extensively. But the solutions offered are unique to Massachusetts and take into account the conditions here.

I am happy to email the full document offering our recommendations to any interested readers. Just contact me at David@ciwib.org.

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