Measuring Job Readiness Skills

Massachusetts state officials have seen an improvement in Greater Lowell’s employment outlook. According to Massachusetts Office of Labor and Workforce Development, the labor-market region that includes Lowell, Chelmsford, and Billerica posted a jobless rate of 8.1 percent last month, down from 9 percent in the same month a year ago.

In the last year, the region has added 2,800 jobs, representing a 2.4 percent year-over-year job growth rate (exceeding the state’s growth rate of 2.1 percent). Barbara O’Neil, director of the Greater Lowell Workforce Investment Board, said 162 previously unemployed individuals who were assisted by the Career Center of Lowell reported in July that they had landed jobs. Additionally, the number of new client intakes at the Career Center of Lowell declined from 9,600 in July 2010 to 8,100 last month.

These improvements are surely an indicator of a gradually improving economy, but the workplace and its demands are changing. New England’s growing service and technology sectors demand of their employees middle-level occupation skills, and without a sufficiently skilled workforce, local economic recovery may stall.

Adding to our challenge, ACT released a report this morning that underscores this reality for workforce developers and training providers:

“that a significant segment of today’s labor force does not have the requisite skills demanded by employers.”

Simply stating that a skills gap exists would merely replicate research that has already be done. What makes this report potentially influential for workforce development service providers like IINE is that it proposes a methodology that seeks more precise measures of “skill,” measures that will help service providers design the most effective curricula possible.

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