Building a capable workforce

Business Roundtable highlights partnerships

INNOVATIVE PARTNERSHIPS between leading businesses and schools at every level across the state are helping to shape a future workforce that will give the Commonwealth a key competitive edge in the global economy.  Strengthening the talent of our workforce is the top priority cited by CEOs and senior executives at the Massachusetts Business Roundtable, which brings together business leaders from a wide variety of industry sectors across the Commonwealth to impact public policy and make Massachusetts a better place to live and work.

The talent imperative is driving employers in every sector to build new and creative partnerships that will impact workforce development in both the short- and long-term.  A recent survey of employers from across the Commonwealth found that 75 percent are having trouble finding workers with the skills necessary to fill open positions.  To address this, companies are implementing innovative solutions to close the gap between the talent produced by the educational system and the talent businesses need to grow their operations in Massachusetts.

A new Roundtable report, “Shaping the Future Workforce,” showcases more than two dozen high-value partnerships businesses have with public schools, community colleges, and universities. It highlights best practices and key drivers of success to engage and inspire the next generation of workers. Still others engage in philanthropic partnerships, devoting a significant amount of time on outreach and philanthropic efforts, and partnerships specifically focused on science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).

Despite the varied approaches, business leaders consistently cite five common drivers of success that apply to partnerships yielding the best outcomes. These themes offer a foundation for policy makers and educators to develop and scale future initiatives:

  • Adapting the goals of the program over time enables both businesses and educational institutions to evolve to meet changing needs, thus increasing the likelihood of the success;
  • Acknowledging and being responsive to the different needs of students is necessary to ensure the maximum number of students are able to complete the program;
  • Empirically measuring outcomes of these partnerships (i.e. completion rates, costs, attendance) allows for concrete analysis on the program’s impact;
Emphasizing low cost is incredibly important to maximize the number of students able to participate thus increasing the impact of the program; and,

  • Commitment by senior-level leadership is imperative and leads to a mutually beneficial partnership.

Despite these high-value partnerships, business leaders report a persistent gap exists between the skills that students are graduating with and the skills employers need in hiring, particularly in the science and technology fields. They also report that the state’s education and workforce system must focus more attention on producing well-rounded employees who can read, write, and communicate effectively; work collaboratively in teams; engage in civic life; and present themselves professionally.

To remain competitive, employers must be confident in their ability to find skilled and trained talent today and assured that the education and workforce pipeline is producing the workers of tomorrow.  That is why they are reaching out in increasingly unique and targeted ways to schools from pre-K through graduate school to ensure the pipeline is producing the talent they need.

While the Roundtable’s report on business and education partnerships is by no means an exhaustive list, it does provide a window on the key drivers of successful partnerships that policy makers, educational institutions, and businesses can use to shape a future workforce for Massachusetts that is second-to-none in the global economy.

Policy ­­makers and educational and business leaders must continually adapt and innovate new policies, programs, and partnerships to shape the future workforce for Massachusetts to succeed in the global economy.

Meet the Author

Tracy Pitcher

Chair, Massachusetts Business Roundtable education task force
Meet the Author
To view the Roundtable report, click here.

Tracy Pitcher is regional vice president for Comcast and chair of the Massachusetts Business Roundtable’s education task force; Marcy Reed is president of National Grid, Massachusetts, and chair of the Roundtable’s board of directors. The Massachusetts Business Roundtable is a non-partisan public policy organization consisting of businesses that employ more than 250,000 across the state.