January 2011 marks the tenth anniversary of MassINC’s New Skills for a New Economy report. The report’s main finding that 1.1 million workers in Massachusetts—a third of the state’s workforce —lacked skills essential to the “new economy” was broadcast far and wide. In one fell swoop, an issue that previously generated very little attention was pushed to the top of the public agenda. Ten years later, however, many of the problems identified in the 2001 report remain.
Despite our best efforts, too many adults still lack the skills needed to succeed in the state’s economy. Long waiting lists for programs remain and too many adults are struggling in post-secondary education. We accomplished incremental progress toward improving our adult education and workforce development programs. But we did not achieve significant reform. And while the issue has largely fallen off the public agenda, recent reports indicate that the economic and labor market trends that spurred the 2001 study have only intensified. In fact, the state’s economic recovery may well stall because we don’t have enough skilled workers. We can’t afford to let that happen.
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-Jerry Rubin and John Schneider