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From the Desk of Jack Healy

Skilled Leadership Needed For Improvements in Manufacturing Collaboration

Jack Healy – The voice of manufacturing in Massachusetts
Jack Healy –
A Voice for Manufacturing in Massachusetts

By Jack Healy, President and CEO, MassMEP
[email protected]

A recent manufacturing study of five underperforming counties in Massachusetts found that workforce issues were the most significant barrier to growth of the respondent’s enterprise. 82% of the respondents seeking to grow their companies faced challenges finding skilled labor:





The majority of surveyed manufacturers saw younger workers exhibit a "lack of interest" because of other opportunities in the market; 23 respondents believe that there is a stigma attached to working in manufacturing. The reality of this stigma was reinforced by Secretary of Labor and Workforce Development Ronald Walker in a presentation to a group of manufacturers and vocational educators, at the MACWIC / HTEC Conference in Worcester MA. Walker stated:

"Unfortunately while most Americans consider manufacturing one of the most important domestic industries for maintaining a strong national economy, they still rank it low as a career choice."

The Secretary held up the 2015 skills gap survey by Deloitte and the Manufacturing Institute that indicated only 37% of the respondents would encourage their children to pursue a manufacturing career. Walker went on to discuss the need to overcome this negative image of our industry and the need for manufacturers to rebrand themselves by demonstrating that manufacturing offers career paths for challenging, well-paid jobs.

One of the first acts that Massachusetts Governor Baker undertook upon entering office was to address the state’s skills deficit by forming the Workforce Skills Cabinet. The administration’s overall support for manufacturing was once again articulated on September 25, 2015, when Governor Baker, House Speaker Robert DeLeo, and Senate President Stanley Rosenberg gathered with a group of business leaders, cabinet secretaries, and legislators to kick off the month of October as "Manufacturing Month in Massachusetts." This kick off was, in turn, supported by a series of events around the state where manufacturers hosted students, teachers, parents, and job seekers at open houses and conferences, such as the MACWIC Haas Technical Conference where Secretary Walker spoke before a group of manufacturers and technical educators at Worcester Technical H.S.  

Secretary Walker addresses the audience at the MACWIC Haas Technical Conference
at Worcester Technical High School.

The Secretary made it clear that he did not have to tell anyone in the audience how hard it is to find skilled workers for manufacturing jobs. He emphasized that, unfortunately, it is only going to get harder if "we the state and the manufacturing industry don’t do more together." He cited as an example the industry-led Manufacturing Advancement Center’s Workforce Innovation Coalition (MACWIC) as a necessary collaboration, stating: "The Massachusetts Advancement Center Workforce Innovation Collaborative (MACWIC) started with a partnership between MassMEP, Quinsigamond Community College, Worcester Technical High School, and Worcester Polytechnic Institute. I understand it has since expanded to partner with other vocational schools and colleges in the region.

"MACWIC engaged employers to articulate their educational and training needs while aligning vocational schools and colleges around those needs. MACWIC has created those career pathways that we need to develop across the state."

The Secretary also noted that a similar collaboration has taken place in the Springfield area where the Workforce Investment Board joined forces with Springfield Community College and local manufacturers, including Smith and Wesson, to create a skills training program to develop a college level advanced manufacturing training program.

Secretary Walker concluded his remarks at the conference by describing the way that the Workforce Skills Cabinet Secretary Jay Ash, Housing and Economic Development Secretary Jim Peyser, Education Department, and his office have transformed the way the state responds to businesses needs and resources for talented workers. Secretary Walker stated:

"We are changing the way we work and how we respond in unison to companies’ hiring needs at the state and local level. Previously, it was only economic development that would talk to a company. There was no conversation about collective support for companies, or talk among the different secretariats around developing talent pipelines in regions. Now the three of us work in close contact to develop ways to foster collaboration between manufacturers, community colleges, technical high schools, and regional workforce boards to create regionally specific pipelines of skilled workers.

"We want to make sure residents are getting the skills they need to fill the jobs that are available in different parts of the state, particularly in manufacturing. The Baker administration is making strategic investments so that our students graduate highly skilled and prepared to compete in the manufacturing industry."

Such a commitment of support by the state is certainly necessary if our manufacturing community is to continue to grow as it has over the last decade. The 2012 Economic Census (Annual Survey of Manufactures) indicated that the mean value added per production employee grew 64% from the prior 2002 Census to $199,500 per employee per year. This is an indication of both the level of growth and complexity of today’s manufacturing economy. The collaboration of the manufacturing community with educators as well as with the state is essential since no one group can correct the workforce issues facing us by themselves.

Anyone interested in or in need of assistance in establishing a MACWIC type organization in your local area should contact Ted Bauer at 508-831-7020.


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