BBJ: More jobs than trained workers in Mass.?
As originally appearing in The Boston Business Journal

by Sarah Coffey, Financial Reporter

There’s more skilled jobs in the state in areas like engineering, biotechnology, health care than there are workers, so community colleges are stepping up to become de facto training grounds for local companies, a group of industry analysts says.

And if those vacancies aren’t filled, companies who need workers with specific skill-sets may take their business elsewhere, New England Council CEO Jim Brett said at a round table discussion held Thursday at Deloitte & Touche in Boston’s Back Bay.

“We get very, very concerned that if those vacancies are not occupied, some of those companies may not stay here. Not only just here in New England, but in the United States, so that’s a real problem we need to address, the skills gap,” Brett said.

There’s also many positions that may not require a four-year college degree but may need a certificate from a community college or some other type of training, such as those in health care or manufacturing, that need workers, Brett said. “Those positions are going to be created in this economy. We don’t have the people with the skills yet to fill those. They call them the middle-skilled, and there are thousand of those positions,” he said.

Massachusetts community colleges, vocational education and career centers are working with businesses to try to address their needs, Northeast Supply Chain & Manufacturing Principal Michael Reopel said. Mid-market companies with $50 million to $100 million in annual revenue have a lot of staff shortages because they can’t afford to bring in people with no experience and train them, he said. In Massachusetts, technical skills are are needed, such as sophisticated equipment operators who don’t need four-year degrees, he said.

“Finally the New England states are waking up that there’s a skills marketplace, and it’s going to be dominated by community colleges and the superior vocational technical schools. I think that’s the sense of optimism,” said Reopel, who is also a Deloitte consultant.

Larger companies such as Raytheon and Verizon have the resources to train workers in-house, Massachusetts Business Roundtable Executive Director J.D. Chesloff said. But companies with under $1 billion a year in sales mostly rely on local colleges to train future workers. In some places the curriculum concentrates on liberal arts and other areas, which doesn’t provide companies with the employee training they need, he said.

The state is working to change that, with schools like Worcester Vocational Technical School leading the way by determining the needs of local businesses and training students accordingly, he said.

“What we’re finding more and more is (businesses) are aligning directly with a community college or a voc-tech school and helping design curriculum,” Chesloff said.

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