Baker warm to job training programs

STATE HOUSE, BOSTON, NOV. 13, 2014…..Celebrating his 58th birthday on Thursday, Governor-elect Charlie Baker pledged to be “relentless” in office as he addressed a non-profit homelessness prevention group about helping people receive on-the-job training as a stepping stone to self-sufficiency.

“Relentless most of the time is the difference between success and failure in almost everything in life,” Baker said, addressing the New Directions luncheon for COMPASS, a non-profit focused on helping homeless families become economically self-sufficient.

Using his work at Harvard Pilgrim Health Care as an example, Baker offered a simplistic version of his management style, which he described being about “doing more of the things that work and less of the things that don’t.”

Baker talked about other states that have incorporated on-the-job training into their unemployment assistance programs, and suggested Massachusetts would do well to try a similar approach. On the campaign trail, the Republican’s economic development plan included a recommendation to better coordinate between the Department of Unemployment Assistance and the Department of Career Services.

“We talked about the idea of creating some more on-the-job training opportunities as part of a larger strategy to help people find their way to work. A number of states have built on-the-job training initiatives as part of their unemployment assistance programs and have worked pretty well,” Baker told reporters after the event.

Asked if he would pursue such a strategy, Baker said, “I think we should pursue it on a demo basis and see how it goes, yeah.”

Under such a proposal, employers would receive a subsidy during the employee training period funded through UI funds that the worker would no longer need.

“I think proven models that have been demonstrated to work either at the local level or in other states we should be open to all of those, especially when it comes to helping people match people who are looking for work with people who are looking for people to work,” Baker said.

The governor-elect also noted that while working under former Gov. William Weld the number of homeless families sheltered in hotels and motels was cut from 1,200 to zero in 18 months, and he said achieving similar results would be a “pretty high priority” for his administration.

“The time that families spend in hotels and motels is lost time. For many kids, that’s just a lost year educationally,” Baker said.

At the end of the luncheon, COMPASS leaders presented Baker with a giant birthday cake shaped like the State House, baked by Montilio’s in Brockton. Baker posed for photos and took a few selfies with the cake before having an aide load it into an SUV to bring home.

At one point in the program, COMPASS Executive Director Jodi Wilinsky Hill recognized Sal Lupoli, owner of Salvatore’s Restaurants, as a business partner who offers job training programs to people in COMPASS. Hill noted that Lupoli is so averse to hearing her tell sad stories that he often greets her by saying, “Whatever you want, sweetheart.”

Baker, who got in trouble during the campaign for calling a female FOX News reporter sweetheart, took note.

“And Sal, who it turns out calls people sweetheart and gets away with it. Very impressive,” he joked.

Baker, who also announced the leaders of his transition team on Thursday, said he planned to be watching the rollout of the state’s new Connector health exchange website over the weekend closely, and said even if it works he will continue to press the federal government for “flexibility” around implementing the Affordable Care Act.

“I think I’m going to be looking for the same thing everyone’s looking for which is to see if the thing works or not,” Baker said.

He also declined to say whether might pursue a settlement with the Child Welfare League of America after Attorney General Martha Coakley’s decision to fight a lawsuit against the Department of Children and Families became a major point of contention between her and Baker during their campaigns.

Baker said he was not “intimately familiar” with the status of the case, which is under appeal, but said he would meet with the Child Welfare League.

“I’m going to wait until we hire some folks and put a team together before we make a decision on that going forward,” Baker said of the lawsuit.

Copyright 2014 State House News Service

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