DOR deals with ‘silver tsunami’

State agency partners with Bunker Hill Community College to train its future employees

The Massachusetts Revenue Department, facing a “silver tsunami” of retiring workers, is creating its own employee pipeline.

Instead of posting a job and hoping for the best, the Revenue Department is partnering with Bunker Hill Community College to create two academic paths for students to follow to secure jobs with the agency upon graduation. One path, called a certificate program, caters to students who already have a background in the taxation field and typically have a bachelor’s or master’s degree. The other path offers an associate degree in business administration with a concentration in taxation. Both programs offer students internships at the Revenue Department followed by jobs if their training is successful.

“We are facing what we call the ‘silver tsunami,’ the retirement of the entire baby-boomer generation, and we are going to lose a third, roughly 500, of our employees over the next five years due to retirement,” said Amy Pitter, commissioner of the Revenue Department.

The program is expected to help the Revenue Department fill specialized and often technical midlevel jobs for which few existing graduates are trained. Bellevue University, a private, non-profit university in Nebraska, released a report on Wednesday with poll data indicating 64 percent of 35–44 year olds believe it would be more valuable for a degree program to focus on skills related to their career than on broadening their knowledge base.

The certificate program launched this fall and currently holds 18 students. The associate degree will be offered starting in the spring. The programs dovetail with efforts by Massachusetts community colleges to gear their training efforts to growing sectors of the economy and to develop strong ties between businesses and academic institutions. What’s unusual about the taxation program is that a state agency instead of a private business is involved.

Tewedaj Gebreselassie, a graduate of UMass Boston, can attest to this statistic. Gebreselassie applied to the Department of Revenue on two separate occasions upon her graduation. Both times she was turned down for a position due to lack of experience. When she heard about the Bunker Hill program, she quit her job and came back to school to pursue the job she had wanted with the department. “If you get an opportunity, take advantage of it,” said Gebreselassie, who now is taking two tax classes and is on track for a career with the department.

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The required classes for the program are taught by a rotating group of DOR employees who take the skills they’ve developed in the workplace and use them to train their coworkers of tomorrow. The approach ensures that the information students are being taught is up to date and up to industry standards.

Pitter said the program is a win-win for the students and DOR. “We are developing a new workforce and they want a career; these are exactly the kinds of students we are looking for.”