Hoping to boost the Massachusetts economy over the long term, Gov. Charlie Baker on Thursday established a panel on bridging the so-called workforce skills gap.
Formed by executive order, the Workforce Skills Cabinet "is charged with creating and implementing a strategy to develop workforce skills to meet the varying needs of employers in the Commonwealth’s regions, today and in the future," according to a release from the governor's office.
"A talented workforce and growing economy are inseparable and Massachusetts has an opportunity to capitalize on both by ensuring our workers have the skills to meet the needs of employers in the 21st century economy,” Baker said in the release.
The governor's announcement comes after the state's strongest year for job growth in more than a decade. Massachusetts added an estimated 60,900 jobs in 2014, the most since the tech boom heyday of 2000.
But last year's jobs figures are not adjusted for population changes, and the state's 2014 gains came amid broader growth, as the U.S. economy also had its strongest 12 months for jobs in 15 years.
Additionally, some parts of Massachusetts are lagging others, a trend noted by Baker on the campaign trail last year and after the latest state jobs report. "Our Administration is committed to ... focusing on meaningful steps to improve employment opportunities for everyone everywhere, especially ... those living in regions of our state still waiting for economic recovery,” he said in a statement in January.
There is some economic debate about the extent of a workforce skills gap.
Many employers, in Massachusetts and nationwide, say they're having a tough time filling positions in an increasingly technological economy.
Others, though, say the evidence is more anecdotal, pointing to broad-based stagnation of wages as counter-evidence. (The thought being: More employers would raise pay if they were seeing a labor scarcity.)
The governor's workforce cabinet will be headed by his new labor secretary, Ron Walker, and will also include his education and housing and economic development secretaries.
“Governor Baker and I know we need to better connect business to the entire workforce development system which includes workforce investment boards, career centers, community colleges and vo-tech schools,” Walker said in the release.
As noted by The Boston Globe, former Gov. Deval Patrick also "moved to build stronger ties between industry and the community college system."