Workforce readiness in western Massachusetts

HOLYOKE, Mass. (WWLP) – Getting a job after school can be difficult, especially if you never learned the skills employers are looking for.

Dozens of business and education leaders gathered at the Log Cabin Wednesday, for the Rennie Center for Education Research and Policy’s Status of Education event.

The event was a chance to discuss workforce readiness in western Massachusetts, and the disconnect between the lessons taught in schools, and the skills needed in the workplace.

According to the Massachusetts Business Alliance, 75% of employers have trouble finding qualified job candidates. That’s an issue the state is now working to change, by making sure students are ready for the workforce as soon as they leave school.

Holyoke Superintendent Steve Zrike told 22News in Holyoke, they’ve been focused on a more personalized learning approach. “The more personal we can make it, the more targeted to their individual interests, their talents, their motivations, and their academic and social needs, I think the greater impact we’ll have on their success.”

Zrike also said the skills they’re teaching students aren’t all academic. “There are also what are traditionally called the “soft skills,” the ability to collaborate, the ability to persevere,” he said.

The Executive Director of the Rennie Center explained that while employers are looking for academic abilities, they’re also looking for employees who will show up on time, have a good attitude, and work well with their peers. “If you think about it, it’s combining what we learn in school, with real life experiences. It’s not just academic learning, but a whole range of skills and competencies that employers expect employees to have when they enter the workforce,” he said.