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Mayor's Office of Workforce Development releases new report exploring untapped potential among Boston's workforce

Study finds workers without bachelor's degrees can fill vacancies in high-demand industries.

At a time when more and more jobs require a bachelor's degree (BA), a new report released today by the Mayor's Office of Workforce Development suggests that many Boston workers without a four-year degree possess the necessary skills to fill these jobs - and could fill more with the help of credentialed education and training in high-demand industries.
The report, Untapped: Redefining Hiring in the New Economy, was commissioned by the Mayor's Office of Workforce Development (OWD) as part of ongoing efforts to improve job outcomes for non-college educated workers, who are disproportionately immigrants and people of color.
"Boston is fortunate to have both a highly educated workforce and many hard-working people who are eager to develop and share their skills," said Mayor Martin J. Walsh. "We cannot allow a bachelor's degree to become the fault line between the prosperous and the struggling. My administration will be working together with local employers, community colleges, and job training programs to enact proposals that ensure all workers can contribute to our economy."
While nearly 60 percent of Boston residents hold a bachelor's degree, the city's historically low 3.4 percent unemployment rate has left employers in need of more skilled workers to meet job demand.


In the report, researchers from Northeastern University's Dukakis Center for Urban and Regional Policy analyzed online job posting data for greater Boston compiled by Burning Glass Technologies. Alicia Sasser Modestino, Associate Director of the Dukakis Center, led the research.
"This report is one of the first to use new sources of online data to compare the actual skill sets that workers list on their resumes to what employers list when advertising a job - going beyond just the education or experience requirements," said Modestino.
The study found the following:
  • A growing number of non-BA workers are pursuing certificates or associate degrees, but not in high-paying fields such as information technology or engineering
  • Associate degree holders are equipped to fill some occupations that have been upskilled to require a BA, such as computer-related jobs, life science technicians, sales and related workers, and administrative assistants
  • A high degree of overlap is found between non-BA and BA workers when it comes to certain baseline skills - such as organizational, problem solving, and multitasking skills
  • The biggest skills gaps between non-BA and BA workers are seen in computer literacy and software skills
"Not all residents may have equal opportunity to afford the investment of time and money that a bachelor's degree requires," said OWD Director Trinh Nguyen. "But their skills can still be optimized for employers' needs. Our office is hard at work enacting Mayor Walsh's vision of a more equitable Boston by cultivating more public-private partnerships, ensuring employers have a diverse and competitive workforce, and developing more apprenticeships, industry-specific job training, and expanded tuition-free community college."
As part of the new Economic Development Center launched earlier this year, the Mayor's Office of Economic Development will kick off the "Jobs, Talent, and Career Series" with a panel discussion on the report's findings and recommendations. The panel discussion will be held 8:30 a.m.  - 10:30 a.m, March 27 at Wayfair Headquarters in Back Bay. The event will feature the report's lead author, Dr. Alicia Sasser Modestino of Northeastern University, as well as representatives from Google, Wayfair, Encore Boston Harbor, and Beth Israel Deaconess, who can speak to the success of this hiring model.
Based on its findings, the Untapped report makes a number of policy recommendations:
  1. Incorporate employer input in the development of credentials in high-demand fields
  2. Boost completion rates at community colleges, particularly in STEM programs
  3. Improve vocational career pathways
  4. Expand English for Speakers of other Languages (ESOL) services and occupational training for immigrants
"As Boston's economy continues to expand and we continue to pursue new employers, one of our best assets is our deep, homegrown talent pool," said John Barros, Chief of Economic Development. "In order to ensure all of our residents are benefiting from our robust economic climate and we are building a strong, sustainable business ecosystem, we are prioritizing alternative workforce development initiatives and collaborating with employers to build a more inclusive and productive workforce."


Mayor Walsh's 2019 legislative agenda continues his administration's work to create greater opportunity for all residents, and serves all people of Massachusetts through its focus on equity and opportunity, ensuring Boston and Massachusetts' growth benefits all communities in the Commonwealth.

Included in the legislative package is "An Act to Increase Access to Affordable Community College," which would replicate Boston's Tuition-Free Community College (TFCC) Initiative launched in June 2016, making it available statewide. TFCC was launched by Mayor Walsh and currently serves 295 students attending Bunker Hill Community College, Roxbury Community College and MassBay Community College. On Wednesday, Mayor Walsh announced that the Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology will be the first private college.

About the Office of Workforce Development

The Mayor's Office of Workforce Development (OWD) is an innovative agency within the Boston Planning & Development Agency that seeks to ensure the full participation of all Boston residents in the city's economic vitality and future. OWD funds and oversees programs that promote workforce development through education, jobs training, apprenticeships, financial coaching, career pathways, literacy initiatives, and the like. Please visit  OWD.Boston.Gov to learn more about OWD's work.

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