Tapping the workforce potential of our Gateway Cities

Regis and Northern Essex Community College team up to train tomorrow's workers

WITH A SERIOUS labor shortage looming, the drumbeat for demand-driven education and training is growing louder by the day. As a Commonwealth, we must take a fresh approach to addressing this critical challenge, the result of an aging workforce preparing to retire, and a need to increase the supply, diversity, and skills of those entering the workforce, particularly in health care. With our launch earlier this year of Regis North, a partnership between Regis and Northern Essex Community College (NECC), we look to tap the human capital assets in one of the Commonwealth’s most challenged Gateway Cities—Lawrence—to develop our next generation workforce.

The unusual collaboration between a private Catholic university in Weston and a public two-year college in Lawrence goes to where students live and work in order to achieve a common goal with the most impact.  A fully-accredited satellite of Regis, Regis North, will combine the experienced faculty and nationally recognized nursing and public health curriculum of a university with the state-of-the-art library, laboratories, and associate degree health programs of a community college to create new, targeted educational and professional opportunities for residents of Lawrence and the Merrimack Valley.

Yet, while the race is on for colleges to attract more students, offer more STEM programs, and keep costs affordable, achievement of those goals alone may still not be enough to prepare the students we want to serve for the decades ahead. Initiatives such as our partnership in Lawrence are examples of where higher education can directly contribute to the common good in a specific region, enhancing the overall quality and strength of its workforce to spark economic opportunities

Access to associate and bachelor degree opportunities that connect the city’s ethnically diverse population to well-paying careers in the health sciences can help Lawrence take a major step forward.

Regis North’s bachelor’s degree completion programs come as more employers require health care professionals to have a higher level of degree-certified skills than was required in the past. Increasingly, a bachelor’s degree is critical to closing the skills gap, advancing career prospects, and the chance to earn higher wages and win promotions.

For example, in the effort to improve health care quality, more hospitals are seeking certification by the American Nurses Credentialing Center’s (ANCC) Magnet Recognition Program–considered to be a gold standard in nursing practice. In order to achieve Magnet status, a certain percentage of a hospital’s nursing staff is required to have a bachelor’s degree. Job prospects for nurses with such training are excellent — placement rates for our graduates of 90 percent and above reflect industry demand.

Meet the Author

Meet the Author

With Hispanic and Asian workers a growing share of the US population, Massachusetts’s Gateway Cities have great untapped potential for addressing our future workforce needs. Taking a new and collaborative approach in reaching these populations by expanding access to secondary and post-secondary learning in Lawrence and other Gateway Cities, enables us to capitalize on these human assets.

Antoinette Hays, PhD, RN, is president of Regis, a leading Catholic university in Weston and Lawrence. Lane Glenn, PhD, is president of Northern Essex Community College in Haverhill and Lawrence.