Alicia Sasser Modestino reports in the Journal of the NEW ENGLAND BOARD OF HIGHER EDUCATION a very common concern that concerned that the region’s slower population growth and loss of residents to other parts of the country will lead to a shortage of skilled labor—particularly when the baby boom generation retires.
“Prior to the Great Recession, the concern was that an inadequate supply of skilled workers would hamper future economic growth by creating barriers for companies looking to locate or expand in New England. More recently, the worry is that the lack of skilled workers will make it difficult to fill jobs that are in high demand as the economy recovers—many of which are likely to require postsecondary education and training—thereby slowing the region’s recovery. That means having not only a sufficient number of skilled workers but also a workforce with the right mix of skills to fill the jobs that are likely to be generated by the region’s economy.” she writes.
“Given current labor market conditions, it seems hard to imagine that New England could possibly lack a sufficient number of skilled workers in the not-so-distant future.” But, “a potential mismatch between the level of skill among the population and the demand by employers over the next two decades may already be underway” according to her.
She adds: “Our simulations indicate that there is likely to be a potential mismatch between the level of education and skill among the population and that which will be demanded by employers in the coming decades—particularly among middle-skill jobs that require some postsecondary education but less than a bachelor’s degree. And although any potential mismatch is likely to be alleviated to some degree by a variety of market responses, the magnitude and nature of the problem suggests that there is still a role for public policy. In particular, rethinking how best to invest in our education and training programs that serve middle-skill workers—such as those based at our community colleges—seems warranted.”