Jobs Commission Assembling its Final Report

By Andy Metzger
STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE

STATE HOUSE, BOSTON, JUNE 14, 2012……Three years after it was ordered by Gov. Deval Patrick, the state’s Jobs Commission is putting together its report on the strengths and weaknesses of the Massachusetts economy.

Commission Chairman Sen. Karen Spilka (D-Ashland) told commission members on Thursday morning that Friday would be the “drop dead” deadline to turn in drafts to be added to the full report.

A draft of the analysis section of the report outlines characteristics that are intrinsic to Massachusetts, such as the weather and the high number of college graduates, and characteristics that could more easily be changed.

The draft recommendations include lowering business costs and encouraging purchases from Massachusetts companies, along with more investments in infrastructure, education and research.

“Overall we’re doing pretty well,” Spilka said. She went on to say, “There’s some of it clearly beyond our control.”

Draft subcommittee reports recommend a universal certification to identify people qualified for working in advanced manufacturing and aligning qualified job applicants with employers that are hiring. According to the minutes of a May 5 commission meeting in Boston, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center had 263 open positions.

“People are looking for work. There are jobs available,” said Spilka at Thursday’s meeting. “The connections just aren’t fully happening. Some areas of the state it’s happening better.”

At another commission meeting, in New Bedford on March 9, New Bedford Mayor Jonathan Mitchell said that to catch up with Greater Boston’s highly educated population, New Bedford should receive a “full scale” university, according to meeting minutes. The old whaling city along Buzzards Bay has other advantages, however. Mitchell said that for the past 11 years it has been the “number one” fishing port in the country.

The commission, which held its first meeting in early 2011, has held fact-finding meetings throughout the state. At a March 28 meeting in the State House, Eric Nakajima, senior innovation advisor in the Office of Housing and Economic Development, said the state’s 7,000 manufacturers have reported an increase in productivity, and today’s manufacturing jobs require more sophistication than they did a generation ago.

The state’s economy also faces several hurdles, according to a draft section of the report. There are not enough skilled workers to fill high-tech manufacturing jobs. The labor force is aging and losing numbers, while younger people have had trouble finding jobs. There are many different worker training programs, which can make it confusing for employers seeking to hire somebody, the draft report said.

Health care costs are higher in Massachusetts than elsewhere, and the state has not successfully communicated the “actual business climate and tax burden” to business leaders, the draft said.

The state’s climate is also a drawback in some ways, by increasing energy costs and creating a “negative impact” on tourism and agriculture, the draft report said.

A criminal record has been a major hindrance toward employment for some, though that might change as a criminal offender records information reform recently went into effect, according to people who testified at the May 5 hearing.

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