Earlier this spring, the Center for Social Policy hosted the 15th annual Sharing Skills-Building Connections Commonwealth Workforce Coalition Conference in Worcester. The Commonwealth Workforce Coalition is a program of the Center for Social Policy at the McCormack Graduate School. The statewide initiative offers research-based training and networking events to strengthen the capacity of Massachusetts’ job training and workforce system to produce better employment and earnings outcomes for both unemployed and underemployed residents.
Center for Social Policy director Susan Crandall welcomed the group of nearly 300 workforce development practitioners. She explained that the conference theme of Advancing Equity was chosen because the “Commonwealth Workforce Coalition is on the frontline of inclusion and helping workers advance.” The CWC has always had a strong emphasis on making sure everyone has what they need to be successful in their pursuit of employment, Crandall continued. She encouraged participants to soak in workshops on diversity and inclusion to “learn how to get even better at our craft” of job training and development.
Crandall then welcomed morning keynote speaker Secretary Rosalin Acosta of the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development. Secretary Acosta reminded attendees that not every community and every population is benefiting from Massachusetts’ strong economy. She noted that “now is the time to work on equity, both in access to employment and pay.” She also encouraged employers to cast a wider net when it comes to hiring and to be more intentional and thoughtful regarding diversity. She also highlighted the importance of the statewide cross-agency Learn to Earn initiative, which leverages Center for Social Policy research on cliff effects to develop solutions for workers balancing public supports, such as childcare, with their efforts to advance in the workforce.
The conference featured impactful workshops relevant to the conference theme of Advancing Equity by community partners around the state, including EMPath, Commonwealth Corporation, Jobs for the Future, Jewish Vocational Services, WayFinders, Holyoke Community College, several Workforce Investment Boards, and the UMass Boston Institute for Community Inclusion.
The Platinum Sponsor of the CWC conference was the Massachusetts Gaming Commission. MGC Commissioner Bruce Stebbins delivered remarks about MGC’s ongoing efforts to ensure diversity. He highlighted the “Build A Life That Works” campaign, a first-of-its-kind statewide recruitment initiative which aims to increase tradeswomen in the building trades to 20% by 2020.
MGM Springfield General Manager Alex Dixon delivered the luncheon keynote address. Dixon spoke about MGM’s extensive workforce development efforts and the 3,000 jobs—many that are entry-level with opportunities for growth–available when the resort opens. In addition, MGC’s Director of Workforce, Supplier, and Diversity Development Jill Griffin led a workshop detailing MGC’s work to maximize access to careers created by the state’s emerging expanded gaming industry.
Additional conference sponsors included Boston Private Bank, CEDAC (Founding Partner), CHAPA, SkillWorks, Massachusetts Housing Investment Corporation, Partners Healthcare, and the United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley.
“This kind of conference is exactly what the Center for Social Policy excels at,” noted David Cash, dean of the McCormack Graduate School, “leveraging its research expertise to convene the right people to address pressing issues of equity, job growth and economic development.”