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MA Workforce Groups Focus on Unemployed Young Adults

Tuesday, December 11, 2012


With nearly 1 in 7 young adults out of work, Commonwealth Corporation is focusing its efforts on programs to develop skills among 18- to 24-year-olds and get them on the job.

The organization joins with businesses, educators and training providers across the Bay State to develop workforce strategies and help close the skills gap between unemployed and underemployed workers and the state's ever-evolving economy.

Commonwealth Corporation also administers the state's Workforce Competitiveness Trust Fund (WCTF), which supports development initiatives in key industry sectors in Massachusetts. A total of $5 million is available through the WCTF for 2013, with a maximum grant level of $350,000. A request for proposals will remain open until January 9th.

"The competitiveness trust fund is really intended to do two things," said Nancy Snyder, president of Commonwealth Corporation. "One is to fund training and placement of people who are either unemployed, underemployed, or young workers who aren't in school and aren't working."

That training happens through a partnership that includes two or more businesses, an educational partner and one or more workforce partners, such as the state's 16 Workforce Investment Boards.

"It's a pretty broad range of industries, but what really is important is that there are businesses in the region who are hiring workers in that industry and are willing to partner."

The second aim of the competitiveness trust fund is to have those organizations develop a plan for how they are going to address workforce challenges in their area.

Previous rounds of WCTF grant awards have focused on incumbent worker training. In Worcester, a partnership based at Worcester Technical High School brought the region's workforce board, career center and a number of businesses together to upgrade the skills of people already working in the Central Mass manufacturing industry so they could keep pace with technological advancements.

This time around, said Snyder, the grants will focus more on so-called "pipeline programs" that are designed to bring more people into the workforce.

"We're asking peopel to propose to serve either adults who are unemployed or underemployed or young adults 18 to 24 who are not in school and not working," she said. "We're very much focused on that disconnected young adult population."

Young adult unemployment has skyrocketed in the Commonwealth over the past decade to nearly 14 percent, according to a recent report from the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center. The report also found that nearly 134,000 young adults fell into the category of disconnected youth in 2011, an increase of almost 50 percent from the 92,000 reported in 2000.

Worcester's Executive Office of Economic Development is asking the City Council to seek a $350,000 grant with a match of 30 percent for another project to further develop the area's manufacturing workforce.

"The Local Workforce Investment Boards and their partners recognize that while demand for a more technically oriented and skilled workforce has grown the supply of such workers has not," said Timothy McGourthy, the City's chief development officer.

In particular, McGourthy said a need exists for workers that can fill jobs that require more than a high school diploma but less than a 4-year degree equivalent. A WCTF grant could help close that so-called "middle skills gap."

"The Massachusetts Competitiveness Trust Fund and the Patrick Administration clearly recognize the importance of investing in job-related training that will result in (a) more productive and job ready workforce," he said.


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