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Report: Closing Skills Gap is Key to Economic Growth in Mass.


A recently released report in Massachusetts analyzed and made recommendations on how to address the growing skills gap in education and workforce.

The report is titled Closing the Massachusetts Skills Gap: Recommendations and Action Steps, and is published by the Commonwealth Corporation, a quasi-public organization within the state’s Executive Office of Labor of Workforce Development.

Massachusetts has one of the most educated workforces in the country; 41.2 percent hold at least a four-year degree. The national average for a workforce with a bachelor’s degree or higher is 29.6 percent..

However, 40 percent of employees have a high school diploma or less. Nancy Snyder, President of the Commonwealth Corporation, said that gap in education directly correlates with the gap in available opportunities for employment.

"Skills make a big difference in terms of being able to access jobs in this economy," said Snyder. "The increase in hiring, who were employed - all of that increase was among people with a college degree. In some cases it might have been an Associate's degree in certain parts of the state including the Pioneer Valley, but the largest increase was among people with Bacherlor's Degrees or higher."

The workforce in Massachusetts is also aging. Snyder says that it’s important that opportunities be improved for younger workers.

"I think part of the challenge for younger workers is getting early work experience," said Snyder, "because employers increasingly these days are looking for the perfect candidate.

The report also revealed that the state’s immigrant population has been growing swiftly over the past decade, at a pace of 2.3 percent annually. This translates to a 22.7 percent increase overall. Immigrants account for  nearly all of the population growth in the Bay State. The Berkshires and Cape and Islands regions, which had the lowest amount of new immigrants, also had the highest rates of population decline.

The report recommends that schools bolster English as a second language courses, and also that schools look for partnerships with local industry to understand labor market trends. Adult basic education also remains in demand.

Secretary of the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development, Joanna Goldstein, said that state government can play a role in equipping younger, less experienced job seekers with the skills needed to match an economy that is increasingly reliant on highly-trained, well-educated workers.

"I would say it's a combination of private-public partnerships as well as public-public partnerships," said Goldstein. "We're working together so we can provide the skill sets and then have employers interested in employing these folks."

The full report can be found online here:


Lucas Willard is a news reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011. He produces and hosts The Best of Our Knowledge and WAMC Listening Party.
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