Commentary by Marybeth Campbell

ADULT (CONTINUING EDUCATION/RETRAINING)

Marybeth Campbell, Executive Director, SkillWorks

SkillWorks Logo

There has been much talk lately about the ‘future of work’ and what we need to do to prepare for the changing nature of work.  The future is now. Today’s unprecedented tight labor market, anticipated attrition due to baby boomer retirements and historic economic growth has created a never before seen tension between the demand to fill jobs and the lack of supply ready to fill those jobs. What we require today is a next generation solution that can launch our untapped talent into new opportunities at a much faster, more direct rate while also supporting and leveraging the long term success of both workers and their employers via advancement, retention, and strong employment practices.   The good news is we don’t have to create that solution from scratch.

The opportunity and challenge to deepen and diversify our talent pool is equal parts on the employer, the jobseeker and our training and education institutions if we are to support and sustain a workforce that keeps us competitive as a world-wide hub for innovation. Our training and education programs must keep pace with our changing economy by building strong employer relationships and deeper internal business acumen. We need more access to internships for students from high school through post-secondary to expose young people to careers, develop job skills and create connections with potential employers.  Employers should consider opportunities to improve employment practices not just through higher wages and benefits that may attract talent, but by also tapping talent from sources that have been traditionally overlooked, such as young adults, immigrants and persons with disabilities.

Lastly, we need to support a more seamless, effective means for employers to find talent from traditional and nontraditional pipelines and there are many examples of how to build those effective practices right here in Massachusetts. The Boston Foundation and SkillWorks, a local workforce funder collaborative, are working together to make investments in our training and education infrastructure, especially in the nonprofits that have expertise in working with diverse but untapped talent sources. They have invested in programs like Year Up, Resilient Coders and Hack.Diversity that offer internships and job opportunities for young adults who might otherwise fall outside traditional hiring pipelines in our 4-year institutions. The Boston Private Industry Council and SkillWorks also launched TechHire Boston, an employer-led consortium of IT/Tech companies working together to increase the supply and diversify our talent pipeline for the IT/Tech sectors.

Statewide there are nonprofit programs such as UTEC in Lowell and ROCA in Chelsea working with youth and young adults, and robust career technical high schools across our state working on programs like healthcare and advanced manufacturing and much more.  Adult-based programs such as Jewish Vocational Services and BEST Hospitality Training Center in Boston work directly with employers to tap immigrant and refugee pipelines for the hospitality and other sectors. In Western, MA the Hampden County Sheriff’s Department has a strong program focused on re-entry pipelines. There are many nonprofit programs across the Commonwealth that have evidence based and impactful programs that, with greater more sustained resources, can elevate new streams of talent into employment.   

The response to the call for the future of work is to invest and expand now in programs that are responsive to employers, build capacity to meet labor needs and prepare a diverse set of jobseekers for jobs so we best position ourselves proactively against any and all opportunities presented to us today, tomorrow and for the future.

Marybeth Campbell is the Executive Director of SkillWorks and can be found at skill-works.org.