By Shira Schoenberg | MassLive.com | December 10, 2012
Dozens of people walked around a recent Somerville job fair handing out resumes. There was Jim Lundy, 53, an English teacher with a Ph.D. and 30 years of experience. When he could not find a teaching job, he started a business that sells used blue jeans, but has been unsuccessful. There was Isabel Sendao, 38, who lost her job in marketing and sales a year and a half ago and is keeping current on the latest technology while interviewing for jobs. There was Sandy Carr, 51, who worked at non-profit and social service jobs for three decades. She was laid off when a medical billing firm went under and has been doing temporary and contract work until she can find something full-time.
“Job searching’s a constant thing to be doing these days,” Carr said.
At the same time, there are businesses in Massachusetts looking for workers. Denise Petersen, who works in human resources for B&E Precision Aircraft Components in Southwick, said her company is looking for computer numerically controlled machinists and burr hands, a type of skilled laborer. The company is competing with other local tool companies and having a hard time finding workers with the necessary skills. “As experienced or skilled workers leave, it’s getting more difficult to find people in those areas that have experience,” Petersen said.
The “skills gap” is a fact of life in the recovering economy. Jobs are opening up and workers are seeking them. But the unemployed workers do not always have the same skills that employers are looking for. In some cases, industries have shifted during the recession, some recovering faster than others. In other cases, the recession actually delayed the skills gap, as older workers pushed off retirement. With the recovery, some of those workers are preparing to leave.
Because those fields with job openings often require specialized education, the state, non-profit organizations and businesses have started numerous initiatives to train workers to meet the needs of specific companies and industries.
“In general, we’re facing a significant challenge in the next couple of years with the retirement of baby boomers,” said Eric Nakajima, assistant secretary for innovation policy at the Massachusetts Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development. “In industries across the state, there are a lot of workers 55 and older who will be exiting the labor market.” According to a report by Commonwealth Corporation and New England Public Policy Center of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, 20.5 percent of the workforce in Massachusetts in 2008 to 2010, and 22.4 percent in the Pioneer Valley, was over 55.
Nakajima said the recession temporarily halted baby boomers’ exodus from the workforce. “We anticipate as the economy improves, that’s going to get significantly worse over the next couple of years,” he said.
Nancy Snyder, president of the Commonwealth Corporation, a quasi public workforce development agency that studies the skills gap, said precision manufacturing and health care are the major areas in the Pioneer Valley where employers are struggling to find workers. According to the Commonwealth Corporation report, manufacturing accounted for 9.5 percent of the employment in the Pioneer Valley last year. Education and health services accounted for 33.2 percent.
Elsewhere in Massachusetts, technology, software and life sciences companies need more skilled employees. “One of the things we’ve found across the state is this issue of an aging workforce, and really not enough young workers to fill their jobs when they leave,” Snyder said.
Manufacturing in particular has undergone a change. The industry lost huge numbers of jobs during the recession but has remained fairly stable since 2009, according to a 2012 report by Northeastern University economist Barry Bluestone and others. However, the industry has shifted away from low-tech manufacturing such as textiles and toward high-tech areas like medical equipment and electronics. The manufacturing workforce is aging, which, combined with high turnover, led the study’s authors to conclude that there could be 100,000 job openings in manufacturing in the next decade.
One way the state is addressing the issue is through the Advanced Manufacturing Collaborative, a new group dedicated to expanding manufacturing in Massachusetts. Edward Leyden, president and CEO of Ben Franklin Design and Manufacturing in Agawam and a co-chair of the collaborative, said the skills gap is the biggest issue facing manufacturing. Leyden said there is still a perception that manufacturing is a “dirty, dying, smokestack trade,” when in reality it is a computer-oriented business requiring math and science skills. Additionally, he said the average age for a manufacturing worker is 53 – nearing retirement age. “Most of the shops are having a real hard time finding qualified workers,” Leyden said.
In mid-December, the collaborative will announce the first grant recipients for “AMP it Up!” a program that aims to engage parents, career counselors and teachers to inform students about manufacturing careers. Nakajima said the program has received 15 s. The collaborative will also soon announce new statewide programs focused on workforce training in manufacturing for existing and new workers. Leyden said company CEOs are already working with local vocational schools on improving training.
In his 2013 budget, Gov. Deval Patrick gave $750,000 to the Precision Manufacturing Regional Alliance Project, a collaboration between industry and state government in the Pioneer Valley that hopes to train 137 workers this year for local manufacturing jobs, according to Nakajima.
On Thursday, a precision manufacturing work force training program at Roger L. Putnam Technical Academy in Springfield drew the attention of Lt. Gov. Timothy Murray, who called it an “unbelievable program that invests in people and expands jobs.”
The program at Putnam is a partnership between Smith & Wesson and the school designed to quickly train people for precision manufacturing jobs. Currently there are 15 adults, either unemployed or under-employed, being taught by both Putnam and Smith & Wesson instructors.
Murray said the state is looking to replicate the program on the North Shore. “Every vocational technical school in the commonwealth should have a program like this,” he said.
Putnam Principal Gilbert Traverso said a similar program has been created with Lennox Saw to train workers in heating, ventilation and air-conditioning, and the school is working to add programs in other vocational fields in the future.
Manufacturing is not the only area where employers face a skills gap. In health care, Western Massachusetts employers had expected major nursing shortages by 2012, also due to an aging work force, said Patricia Samra, director of clinical work force planning at Baystate Medical Center, which is part of a regional nursing collaborative that includes schools and employers. The recession stopped some nurses from leaving, but as the economy improves, she anticipates that experienced workers will retire.
Samra said the hospital already does on-the-job training for medical assistants, and is working on developing a training program for pharmacy technicians. Last week, Baystate Medical Center kicked off a new residency program to train novice nurses to move into specialty areas such as critical care. The hospital has worked with the regional employment board and other area employers. “We’re trying to take advantage of more grant opportunities that help address those needs where we need to invest more in on-the-job training than we’re accustomed to,” Samra said.
The state also has been involved in a separate initiative involving information technology, partnering with 10 of Massachusetts’ community colleges to create and redesign IT programs that meet the needs of industry. Springfield Technical Community College, for example, is offering classes to train microcomputer specialists and PC/network technicians.
Michael Goodman, chairman of the Department of Public Policy at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth, said there are still many people unemployed in sectors that were hit hardest by the economy – such as construction and real estate development. Fields with openings tend to be white collar sectors such as innovation and high technology.
“Some employers can’t find people with skills they need. At the same time, we have people looking for work,” Goodman said. “There are opportunities in certain areas of the economy that are better than in others. Those areas disproportionately hire those with higher levels of skills and education.”
From Wire and Staff Reports | Gloucester Daily Times | December 2, 2012
Manufacturing in Massachusetts faces a threat to its survival as older manufacturing workers retire without younger workers in line to replace them, according to a new study.
During the next decade, approximately 100,000 manufacturing jobs will open up as older workers retire. Manufacturing firms will find it tough to replace them because younger workers are not attracted to the sector, according to Barry Bluestone, director of the Kitty and Michael Dukakis Center for Urban and Regional Policy at Northeastern University.
The outlook for manufacturing was discussed during the first meeting of the Advanced Manufacturing Collaborative – a group of executives, industry experts and state economic development officials organized to strengthen the sector.
The 100,000 figure – or 10,000 jobs a year – is based on flat growth in manufacturing, Bluestone said. The number of jobs could be higher. The report comes on the heels of other figures reported by the Times that show Gloucester has already been shedding higher-paying manufacturing jobs, while gaining in the retail and service sectors.
The numbers from the department and the North Shore Workforce Investment Board (WIB) show that, in 2007, an average 2,800 people worked in Gloucester manufacturing companies. But in 2011, according to year-long tracking data, that average had fallen to 2,350 —meaning that, over five years, Gloucester lost 420 manufacturing jobs, a 15 percent decrease.
Over the past year, manufacturers like Gloucester Engineering, Bomco Industries and the Varian Division of Applied Materials have all added jobs in Gloucester — but over the last five years, the number of retail jobs have grown in the city by almost 30 percent — or 365 jobs — according to the WIB, while accommodations and food service jobs rose by 20 percent over the last five years, adding 214 jobs.
Part of the Advanced Manufacturing Collaborative’s mission will be to reverse the trend by encouraging more young people to look at manufacturing jobs.
Many people are stuck in an “old cognitive map,” Bluestone said, thinking of manufacturing as old smokestack businesses that lack appeal for younger workers.
“This is a problem we have,” he said. “We are so focused on going to college and getting a degree in finance and health sciences, we forget there are 10,000 jobs a year in manufacturing.”
In a survey of manufacturers, approximately two-thirds said they expect to expand their businesses in the near future, something that could prove difficult if they cannot find workers, Bluestone said.
Massachusetts is not alone in facing the problem of finding skilled manufacturing workers. Companies in other states experience the same difficulty, Bluestone said, while the number of manufacturing workers grow in countries like China and India.
Massachusetts workers need to recognize that manufacturing provides opportunities for good-paying, stable jobs, particularly for people without bachelor’s degrees, Bluestone said.
Lt. Gov. Timothy Murray told the group he wants to see manufacturing return as the third largest employment sector in the state.
“I think that is doable,” Murray said last week. “The question is are we ready for it? Are we training and educating people.”
Across the state, manufacturing jobs totaled 250,656 in the first quarter of 2012; health care and social assistance jobs topped the list with 515,047 and the retail trade came in second with 343,312 jobs; Professional and technical services jobs totaled 260,791 and accommodation and food services had 252,280 jobs, according to figures from the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development.
The Advanced Manufacturing Collaborative was created by the Legislature as part of the economic development law signed in August as a formalized way to pull together experts to boost manufacturing and give the industry a way to voice concerns. Prior to passage of the law, many in the group met informally for some time to collaborate and address concerns of manufacturers.
In addition to Bluestone, the collaborative includes a large group of business, state and university officials, including Eric Nakajima, assistant secretary of innovation policy for the Executive Office of Economic Development; Brian Gilmore, executive vice president of government affairs at the Associated Industries of Massachusetts; Marty Jones, chief executive of MassDevelopment; Susan Windham Bannister, president and CEO of the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center; Ken Hill from Raytheon Corp., and Nancy Snyder and Marybeth Campbell from the Commonwealth Corporation.
Bay State gears up to fill 100,000 projected job openings
By Marie Szaniszlo | The Boston Herald | November 27, 2012
State officials and industry leaders today will hold the first meeting of the Advanced Manufacturing Collaborative to draw attention to a sector whose work force is aging and projected to have 100,000 job openings over the next decade.
While some analysts have predicted the decline of industry as a major economic player, manufacturing is Massachusetts’ fifth-largest private sector, accounting for some 7,500 companies and 250,000 jobs, said Northeastern University Professor Barry Bluestone, who serves on the collaborative’s board.
“A lot of people don’t know that Massachusetts manufactures things,” said Mitch Tyson, the collaborative’s industry co-chairman and former CEO of PRI Automation. “The reality is so much of high-tech products in the state are made here. All manufacturing jobs have not moved to China.”
But while productivity in the sector has increased by about 8.7 percent annually since 2007 in Massachusetts, the manufacturing work force is aging and expected to have 100,000 job openings by 2022, said Bluestone, who co-authored a report on the industry this year.
Of 700 Bay State manufacturing companies surveyed for that report, 70 percent said they expect to increase employment over the next five years alone, Bluestone said.
The collaborative, which met informally for more than two years before it was formally established in August as part of the jobs bill Gov. Deval Patrick signed, has been working with vocational school and community college leaders to better align their curriculum with companies’ needs and to tout manufacturing careers through promotional campaigns like “AMP it up!”
“We need to find ways to attract employees and train them,” Bluestone said.
Manufacturing companies in Massachusetts pay an average of $27,000 per year for unskilled, entry-level workers and $52,000 per year for skilled production workers, Bluestone said.
“There’s lots of room for people to have secure, good-paying jobs in this industry,” said Eric Nakajima, assistant secretary for innovation policy.
By Barry Bluestone and Jerry Sargent | The Boston Herald | October 27, 2012
If you follow our state’s economic news, you’ve probably heard repeatedly how our innovative technology industries — mobile s, cloud computing, biotech, medical devices — are fueling our recovery. Indeed, these sectors are thriving. So much so that you’ve probably also heard about the so-called “skills gap” — the lack of qualified professionals necessary to fill the growing number of high-quality jobs.
But lost beneath the tech headlines is another thriving sector facing the same challenge: manufacturing.
That’s right, the sector many gave up for dead when the mills closed last century is alive and well, employing a quarter of a million workers and growing. Quickly.
So quickly that a survey released earlier this month by the Dukakis Center for Urban and Regional Policy at Northeastern University revealed these sobering facts:
- Forty-three percent of the firms surveyed expressed substantial difficulty in recruiting skilled craftsmen;
- Nearly a quarter worry about their ability to hire research-and-development manufacturing specialists;
- Retiring workers could create another huge shortfall — as many as 100,000 experienced workers may leave the workforce over the next decade.
Further widening the gap are the demands of today’s technology-driven, precision assembly plants, which require ever more highly trained workers.
If you’re a CEO like Mike Tamasi, who worked at his father’s AccuRounds plant as a boy and now runs this precision turning, milling and grinding business, one of your toughest jobs is finding the right workers.
His solution: He works directly with the often underused vocational schools (in Tamasi’s case, nearby Southeastern Regional Vocational Technical High School) and community colleges, such as Bristol Community College in Attleboro, to develop internships, mentoring programs and curricula.
Collaboration is key, but by no means assured. According to our study, only one in eight Massachusetts firms recognizes the state’s community colleges as a vital talent pipeline. Nonetheless, the study shows rays of hope on collaboration issues. Just under a third of the firms agreed more should be done to incorporate industry standards in the curricula of vocational schools and community colleges. Close to a third supported the creation of a community college certificate in manufacturing technology and 28 percent said managers and workers should serve as mentors and advisers in these schools.
But more needs to be done to foster collaboration and to celebrate manufacturing. Indeed, the survey also revealed growing support among company owners for a statewide marketing campaign promoting manufacturing careers to young people.
What this report reveals is that reports of manufacturing’s death in the Bay State have been greatly exaggerated. Firms that “build things” have survived and are now prospering by bringing innovation to the factory floor and by focusing on specialty products that require precision and sophistication. In order to keep our newfound momentum in this sector, we’ll need more cooperation among executives, educators and policymakers. Our competitors around the world are moving. So must we.
Barry Bluestone is director of the Dukakis Center at Northeastern University. Jerry Sargent is the president of RBS Citizens and Citizens Bank, Massachusetts, which helped fund the study.
By Susan Petroni | Framingham Patch | October 19, 2012
Massachusetts is expected to see 100,000 manufacturing jobs over the next decade or about 10,000 manufacturing jobs per year said Northeastern University Professor and economist Barry Bluestone at the MetroWest Chamber of Commerce Exec-Connect luncheon Thursday.
Speaking before 70 MetroWest business and government leaders at the Sheraton Hotel, Bluestone said manufacturing is the sixth largest employer in the Commonwealth, and nationally is leading the recovery out of this recession.
Bluestone oversaw a study on the state of the manufacturing in Massachusetts whch was conducted by the University’s Dukakis Center for Urban and Regional Policy.
The study showed the Massachusetts has always been at the forefront of manufacturing even when Detroit was the auto king; and the Commonwealth is expected to continue that trend, after hitting bottom a few years ago, in regards to job loss.