Secretary of Housing and Economic Development Jay Ash is one of three state secretaries involved in the Workforce Skills Cabinet project.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The state has brought together local leaders to develop a "blueprint" for regional workforce development.
Representatives from business, education, and community organizations met with Secretary of Housing and Economic Development Jay Ash on Tuesday for a four-hour planning session.
The session is part of seven Workforce Skills Cabinet meetings across the state with the hope to better align the education, the workforce, and economic development.
"We are here to help advanced the state's agenda relative to workforce development. We've spent a lot of time and have created initiatives and policies over the last two years to support workforce development statewide. The governor has charged myself, the Secretary of Labor and Workforce Development Ron Walker, the Secretary of Education Jim Peyser to now get down and compartmentalize and look at regions," Ash said.
The state administration broke the commonwealth into seven distinct regions all with their own unique strengths and weaknesses. The Berkshires are all one region.
Those involved in this region include 1Berkshire, Berkshire Community College, Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, Berkshire Regional Employment Board, Berkshire Taconic, General Dynamics, the United Way, Berkshire Taconic, and Berkshire Regional Planning Commission.
"We know this group is small. We purposefully kept it just through the three secretariats and we will be engaging other important contributors and stakeholders in this process including community-based organizations, employers, the media, our local politicians," said Heather Boulger, executive director of the Berkshire County Regional Employment.
"But we really wanted to have a core group of folks that start this discussion about how the three secretariats can work more closely together."
The exercises started at noon at 1Berkshire with a facilitator. Those representatives started with discussing how the Berkshires economy got to where it is now. From there, the group delved into data around the workforce supply and demand. The process will continue to unfold over the rest of the year as those involved analyze the data and attempt to find common ground to where to place a heightened focus.
"This blueprint is a way to signal, not only to our state team but to folks in the region and other regions, that here is where we believe all three systems have the ability to have greater impact and provide leverage that will advance developing new career pathways," Jennifer James from the Office of Labor and Workforce Development said.
James said the creation of the "power team" of local officials is hoped to build consensus on where the gaps in workforce development are in the Berkshires and find ways to match the needs of employers with the workforce. She hopes the planning efforts will conclude by December.
"The conversations we will have here are very important to help shape what our future actions are going to be around workforce. Hopefully, also, a lot of you all take a step back from what you've been doing and think a little bit about how you have been doing it and perhaps challenge you to consider other opportunities, consider gaps that may exist," Ash said.
The deep look at the current conditions is eyed to also bring the state officials closer together in decision making.
"This is the first time the three sectors — education, economic development, and workforce — have come together at a regional level to make joint decisions," Peyser said in a release announcing the series of workshops last month.
"The goal for this state-regional planning process is to bring together multiple local organizations to create consensus on high-demand industries and occupations, and then identify strategies that regional partners can collectively advance."
At the end, an action plan is hoped to be developed to guide the use of resources on the state level.
"We're looking for that equal voice from all three systems around a shared product or blueprint," James said.
Ash and Assistant Secretary Juan Vega both joined Tuesday's workshop, which is the sixth of seven across the state.
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