BOSTON, Mass.—On Wednesday, April 9, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Joe Avellone released his jobs and economic development plan. The plan focuses on using the state education system to attract modern industries (like life sciences and smart manufacturing) and creating a pro-small business environment. Avellone, currently the Corporate Senior Vice President of biotech company PAREXEL International, spoke with SPARE CHANGE NEWS about his plan.
What are the key points of the plan?
In my plan I really focus on two key things. The first is to attract these new businesses using our state and community college system and our vocational schools. We have to be very proactive and strategic in doing that. The second thing is to make sure we have a business environment and support for small businesses that serve our communities. I’ve proposed a series of regional innovation centers which would support and [enable] entrepreneurs and others starting businesses to do so in those areas. This is playing off some of the incubators we now have in Boston: there’d be shared space to keep costs low, tie-in with a state university to help spark innovative thinking, business advisors, and a one-stop shop for permitting so there’s the ability to actually deal with the regulatory environment.
You propose developing a “strategic partnership” between our state education system and businesses—schools learn what skills their industries need, and then incorporate those skills into the curriculum. How would you set that up? How close would the relationship between schools and businesses be?
The system as a whole [needs] to reach out to these industries, target the ones that could expand in Massachusetts and understand their work skills. In Germany the university system tried to target us [PAREXEL], to learn about our industry and create programs. Then we created internships so there was a seamless pathway for students from the university into our company. This is what our state needs to reach out and do. And those relationships are really knowledge sharing relationships, they’re not anything else. If the work skills are there, businesses will expand. Right now in our state we have 110,000 jobs that are unfilled because of the skills gap.
What are these unfilled jobs?
These are really middle skills. They’re people who fill out middle management or mid-level engineering or mid-level laboratory skills. One example might be the lab techs necessary for biotech manufacturing. We have a lot of biotech companies but there’s very little biotech manufacturing—actually making the drugs—[because] people don’t have the work skills for that. [Also,] half of the jobs in the state that are based on science or technology don’t require anything after high school, but they do require the right kind of vocational training. And those are good middle-class jobs. So I think having the right kind of vocational training in high schools will make a difference.
Would the education be aimed at industries in general, or at specific companies?
That’s a good distinction to make. No, it’s the industry in general. We want to create labor communities that could work in many different kinds of companies. The example would be software. We didn’t cater to the software community [in the ‘90s], even though we had some big companies like Lotus here, and now they’re in California—the right kind of labor community was there.
You said you wanted to “streamline” regulations. Does that mean clearing up some red tape, or are you talking deregulation?
I think it’s clearing up red tape. When you can deregulate, I think it’s a good thing for business. Most regulations have a reason to get started. The problem for us is they get layered [on top of each other] and it gets confusing, almost impossible to navigate. I think somebody, like our [proposed] Regional Innovation Centers, should step in on behalf of small businesses and help them navigate the system.