Western Massachusetts needs teamwork to meet challenges of future workforce opportunities (Point of View)
The Sunday Republican, in an April 3 editorial, “Workforce needs a way forward,” commented in response to the Commission’s report on the future of work. Baystate Health, a leader in healthcare and workforce innovation, and Tech Foundry, Western Massachusetts’ training-focused workforce development organization in the information technology sector, support many of the report’s recommendations.
We also recognize the urgency of the task ahead: giving residents the tools and resources to succeed in a rapidly changing economy; drive post-pandemic recovery by ensuring organizations have qualified candidates for their positions; and, through training and education, to ensure that Massachusetts residents can take advantage of these opportunities.
One of the exciting aspects of the report’s recommendations is that the Western Massachusetts workforce development ecosystem is significantly “ahead of the game” in implementing many of the best practices. of the report.
As noted by The Republican, creating job training programs that connect workers to new technologies is a key strategy to help Massachusetts residents access opportunities in the post-COVID economy. Additionally, the integration of employer and partnership feedback allows for the creation of relevant, stackable credentials and accessible career paths. Tech Foundry has used these strategies since its inception in 2014 and remains committed to working with current and new partners to include new opportunities in skill building and career growth.
Integration of social, emotional and family stability to ensure worker success: Two-generation and whole-family approaches to workforce development are being used successfully by organizations like SpringfieldWorks, an initiative of the Western Massachusetts Economic Development Council and its partners, to help residents succeed. Additionally, Baystate’s investments in employee wellness and wellness are designed to help parents and caregivers achieve this goal. Likewise, Tech Foundry incorporates one-on-one coaching throughout our training and internships to support the same goals.
Investment in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Efforts: Bringing a DEI lens to workforce development is a priority for many local organizations, and the results can be seen in the growing diversity of participants, staff, and board members. For Tech Foundry, DEI’s efforts include a particular focus on digital equity for BIPOC communities, through outreach, training, and professional support. As increasing workplace automation will disproportionately displace women, black and Hispanic workers, retraining and upskilling these Commonwealth residents will ensure more opportunities in an increasingly tech-driven economy. . Equally important, defined career paths in technology or healthcare can also counter the growing pay gap, which has ‘urgent racial equity implications’ in the Commonwealth, the Commission’s report concluded. on the future of work.
The impact of the digital divide: The circumstance in which some Massachusetts residents lack access to the devices, internet connectivity, or skills needed to effectively use technology for work, education, and personal relationships, was very evident during the pandemic. Addressing this unfair imbalance is part of the goal of Tech Foundry, as well as that of the Western Massachusetts Alliance for Digital Equity, a regional coalition of rural, suburban and urban communities in which Baystate Health, Office of Public Health is the sponsor. . With better connectivity and technical knowledge, our neighbors across the state can effectively search for jobs, participate in online education and training, connect with friends and family, and access “mid-skill” jobs. which require technical knowledge.
While 413 should be proud of the initiatives already underway in our region, now is the time to amplify our region’s collaborative work to innovate, train residents, and connect more people to gainful employment while helping our employers to develop and retain the workforce for today – and the future. From the “boots on the ground” perspective shared by Baystate Health and Tech Foundry, there is a lot to be done to seize the opportunity of our current moment. Specifically, we urge our policymakers, legislators, business leaders and community leaders to take action on the following:
- Increase funding so that successful workforce development programs can double, triple or even quadruple the number of people we serve through training, coaching and post-employment support, as well as to ongoing career guidance. Award multi-year grants so organizations can focus on results. With 30,000 to 40,000 residents who will need training every year for the next decade, our entire community has “skin in the game” to support tomorrow’s workforce in areas priorities such as health, technology, education and advanced manufacturing;
- Collect, assess and publish data, using streamlined programs to minimize administrative time in favor of focusing staff on programs: One of the most encouraging aspects of Future of Work’s recommendations is to increase transparency around program effectiveness and results. This should include statistics on long-term job retention by training participants, as well as identifying best practices on how to help workers persevere and progress in their careers over time; and
- Expand and expand existing programs such as the Hire Now program so employers onboard non-traditional candidates. Consider funding, tax credits and other incentives to create new initiatives to encourage hiring managers to participate meaningfully in workforce development partnerships. This could include advising on the curriculum, hosting interns, and coaching and mentoring interns, apprentices and staff.
The Baker administration, along with the legislature and committee members, invested a great deal of time and research in producing the Future of Work report. Now is the time for everyone in the Commonwealth to “roll up our sleeves” to seize the opportunities ahead. Baystate Health and Tech Foundry staff, boards and partners stand ready to expand our programs to retrain, upskill and educate the people of Western Massachusetts in partnership with local and state entities, stakeholders and residents of the region.
Tricia Canavan is CEO of Tech Foundry; to learn more about Tech Foundry and its work, go online to: thetechfoundry.org.
Frank Robinson is vice president of public health and community relations for Baystate Health; To learn more about Baystate Health’s public health initiatives, visit online at: baystatehealth.org/about-us/community-programs.