For Immediate Release - June 26, 2012

Metro South-West: Challenge Creating New Skilled Workers

Region is One of the Oldest and Most Educated in the State

BOSTON – Tuesday, June 26, 2012 – The Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development (EOLWD) today announced that the residents and the workforce of Metro South/West have remarkably high levels of education, but looking forward, the region faces the demographic challenges of an aging population, according to a new study released today. The report, entitled Labor Market Trends in the Metro South/West Region, is the first in a series of a joint project of EOLWD’s Commonwealth Corporation and the New England Public Policy Center of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.

“Companies are already facing the challenges of an aging workforce. As the baby boomers retire, they will create a significant talent and succession gap,” said Joanne Goldstein, Secretary of Labor and Workforce Development. “Some companies have developed innovative strategies that benefit both their workers and their bottom line. We must build on opportunities to meet these challenges.”

The Metro South/West region is composed of 43 cities and towns in Norfolk and Middlesex Counties. Some of the larger cities and towns are Newton, Framingham, Waltham, Brookline, Marlborough, Natick, and Franklin. The boundaries are the same as the workforce investment board’s boundaries. It is one of the oldest regions in the state, and Massachusetts is one of the oldest states in the country. In 2008-2010, more than half (55 percent) of the Metro South/West region’s working-age population was 45 years of age or older. In fact, one-third of the working-age population is 55 years or older. Only 25 percent of the region’s working-age population is under 35 years old.

At the same time, the education levels in Metro South/West are extraordinarily high. Over the past decade, the share of people with a Bachelor’s Degree or higher continued to increase. By 2008-2010, more than half of the working-age residents in Metro South/West (53.9 percent) had a Bachelor’s Degree or higher, compared with 35.6 percent of Massachusetts residents and 25.3 percent of U.S. residents.

The high levels of education have benefitted the region. Over the last decade, the region has fared better than most other regional labor markets in the state. The recovery from the Great Recession has been somewhat stronger in the region than in the state as a whole. A strong base in certain industries, such as Professional & Business Services, and the high levels of education of the workforce have helped to move the region ahead.

“Looking forward, the region faces the challenge of replacing older workers as they retire from the labor market. The coming wave of retirements will likely create attractive employment opportunities for younger labor force participants, but only to the extent they manage to acquire the needed degrees and skills,” said Yolanda Kodrzycki, Vice President and Director of the New England Public Policy Center at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.

The region’s higher education institutions have a critical role to play in influencing the region’s future supply of workers. The number of students completing advanced degrees (Certificates, Associate’s Degrees, and Bachelor’s Degrees) at institutions located in Metro South/West has grown over the last decade but at a slower rate than comparable institutions in the state and the country. This slow growth rate suggests that the region will have to attract additional people into the region, either as residents or commuters, in order to meet the skill needs of the region’s employers.

“Developing and sustaining partnerships with our region’s employers, training providers, and educational institutions is a high priority for Partnerships for a Skilled Workforce. The collective effort is essential if the demand for a highly skilled workforce is met,” said Sylvia Beville, Executive Director of Partnerships for a Skilled Workforce.

“Across the state, our young people are struggling to gain a foothold in the labor market. Creating strategies to increase youth employment must be a priority. Early work experience generates important work readiness skills, and a lack of work history leads to a weak connection to the labor market over a worker’s lifetime,” said Nancy Snyder, President of Commonwealth Corporation.

The full report and appendices are available online today at: http://www.bostonfed.org/economic/neppc/.

About Commonwealth Corporation: Commonwealth Corporation strengthens the skills of youth and adults by investing in innovative partnerships with industry, education, and workforce organizations. We seek to meet the immediate and emerging needs of businesses and workers so that they can thrive in our dynamic economy. Commonwealth Corporation is a Massachusetts quasi-public corporation within the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development.

About the New England Public Policy Center at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston: The Federal Reserve Bank of Boston has a decades-long tradition of supporting the New England public policy community. In 2005, the Bank established the New England Public Policy Center to reinvigorate and institutionalize that support. The Center promotes better public policy in New England by conducting and disseminating objective, high-quality research and analysis of strategically identified regional economic and policy issues and, when appropriate, works with regional and Bank partners to advance identified policy options.