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Ask a liberal to describe his ideal society, and you won’t have to wait long to hear about everyone attending a four-year college and being subsequently rewarded with a high-paying job in the professions, or the high-tech or service industries (and commuting to work via public public transit, of course). No place in the country is this closer to reality than Massachusetts, which is, unsurprisingly, where many of the people who peddle this vision get started on the path they think everyone else should take. Overall, it’s worked out reasonably well here: the Greater Boston Area may be expensive and the state may be highly regulated, but it out-preforms the nation on a number of economic metrics and is a growing leader in the technology, healthcare, biotech, and education industries; the I-495 corridor is awash in construction, development, and expansion much of it in the aforementioned glitzy industries. We’re not quite Scandinavia, but we try.
But according the Boston Globe, there seems to be a problem: we’re seriously short of people with vocational skills:
Most of the projected job openings in Massachusetts over the next seven years will not require a four-year college degree, but an already strained vocational education system will be unable to train enough people to fill those vacancies, according to a report to be released Monday. It warns that the state faces severe labor shortages in health care, manufacturing, and other key industries as an expanding economy and retiring baby boomers create some 1.2 million job openings by 2022.
Such shortages could undermine one of the state’s key competitive advantages — a skilled, productive workforce — making it harder to attract and retain companies, and slowing economic growth, the report, to be released by Northeastern University, finds.
“In the next two or three years, you’ll see serious shortages,” said Jack Healy, executive director of the Massachusetts Manufacturing Extension Partnership, a Worcester nonprofit that helps manufacturers stay in business. “We don’t have a pipeline that exists in this state that’s ready and capable of replacing those workers.”
The report estimates that three out of five openings will require less than a bachelor’s degree, although many will need vocational training, post-secondary certificates, and associate degrees. But the state’s vocational schools and community colleges — many with long waiting lists — don’t have the capacity to meet this demand, the report concluded.
As our own Rob Long and others have noted, a smart high school graduate willing to use his hands and/or get the right certification can have years of earnings under him while his peers are still accruing debt for degrees that may be over-valued. Vocational and technical education are hardly tickets to riches — nor is anything a guarantee in life — but they’re a means to solid, upstanding employment with a lot of opportunity… especially for those willing to root on occasion for the Patriots, Red Sox, Bruins, or Celtics.