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Jobs and Workforce Summit draws diverse crowd to Devens


By Jon Bishop

DEVENS — The fifth annual Massachusetts Jobs and Workforce Summit, held at the Devens Common Center Wednesday, brought together business leaders, educators, politicians and government officials to talk about one thing — getting people employed.

All stressed the importance of sharing ideas, of skilled labor and manufacturing, and making sure people get proper education and training.

Kathie Mainzer, director of the Workforce Solutions Group, said this is one of the few times various leaders can come together.

They took full advantage of it.

In the morning, U.S. Rep. Joe Kennedy III discussed how Massachusetts is a leader because of its citizens.

“Our people are our competitive edge,” he said, also noting that “workforce development is the ultimate tool to (fight) social injustice.”

Gubernatorial candidates Martha Coakley and Charlie Baker expressed similar sentiments.

“We can do much more with the resources we have,” said Democrat Coakley, whose economic plan will use $400 million from state capital funds for 10-year targeted infrastructure investments and $100 million for targeted regional economic developments.

She stressed the importance of closing gaps between the employed and unemployed, and that the state must be pragmatic and set up metrics when exploring economic solutions. If elected, she said, she would find out what works.

“I won’t fix something if it’s not broken,” she said.

Baker said solving the labor challenge is “one of the greatest challenges we’re going to face.”

The Republican said there should be tighter connections between career and workforce-development services and unemployment services, also noting that “there are a lot of employment opportunities out there.”

People would need to match skill sets, he said. And he, like other speakers, discussed the resurgence of on-the-job training, something that is a “very old concept” and has been successful. Massachusetts should also “be a lot more aggressive” about helping teenagers who have dropped out of school or are thinking of doing so.

He also said he won’t break things that work.

Chris Kealey, deputy director of the Massachusetts Business Roundtable, called the summit a “tremendous success,” noting that it drew more than 275 people.

“We heard some really rich ideas,” he said.

Marty Jones, president and CEO of MassDevelopment, said there is “value (in) getting people together in a room.”

The summit brought out a great mix of people, all of whom wanted to find ways to land skilled workers, she said.

“I think it was a great day,” she said.

Attendees had the opportunity to check out panels on municipal job creation, wage equity for women and workforce-development financing. They also had the chance to network with one another.

Edith Coleman Chears does workforce-development education at Roxbury Community College, and she said the summit was amazing.

“I’m impressed that at a gathering like this” there are government, business and educational leaders, she said. “That is going to affect change.”

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