White House Business Council and 20 High Tech Start-up Execs Roundtable at UMass Boston VDC.
On Thursday, July 28, Jane Oates, Assistant Secretary of Employment and Training, and Joanne Goldstein, Secretary of Labor and Workforce Development for Massachusetts, along with other government officials, met with 20 high tech and life science executives from the greater Boston area.
The purpose of the roundtable discussion was for the Administration to get feedback from local start-ups on how the government can best support the employment and training needs of high tech and life science start-ups as well as understand the Administration’s resources and programs designed to help local businesses create jobs and compete.
To net out a very open and constructive two hour conversation:
We have a shortage of mid level employees that are trained and qualified to work in high tech start-ups. The skills required are cross functional in nature and workers need a broader overall skill set that encompasses technology and business knowledge. A Sales person may be responsible for internet marketing, CRM, SEO, cold calling, demos, and closing, as well as have a strong understanding of technology. And a Software Developer may have responsibility for managing the lab, QA, scripting, fixing existing code, and writing new code. Students are not graduating from college with this multi function knowledge. And laid off workers from other industries do not have these skill sets. Searching for employees in high tech start-ups is extremely time consuming and the majority of hires come from stealing from other start-ups.
Suggestions from this roundtable included:
Create a consortium of high tech/life science start-ups to provide the domain expertise required to create high tech/life science workforce development certification programs to be delivered in the Community Colleges and Public Universities. Program would include intern experience. Targets for enrollment would include, students, x – military, and laid off workforce from other industries.
Government support to help fund the cost of hiring and training interns and new employees in order to train them in the skills required to work in a high tech start-up.
Create a State/Nationwide Database of laid off high tech workforce for instant access to high tech start-up opportunities in their area. Database can be expanded to all candidates seeking opportunities in high tech start-ups.
Lowering the barriers to entry in order for a start-up to receive an SBA loan.
Expand H1 Visas. Obviously a topic with many pros and cons and would require more debate and definition, as is true with all other suggestions above.
A very positive dialog with strong interest from the State, Fed, high tech execs, and UMass Boston to continue this dialog on an ongoing and more formal basis.