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Boston Workforce Development Initiative

Contact:
Lew Finfer 617.470.2912, Organizing & Leadership Training Center
Don Gillis 617.720.3434, Massachusetts Workforce Board Association
Mary Lassen 617.536.5651, ext. 130, The Women's Union
Harneen Chernow 781.324.8230, Massachusetts AFL-CIO
Mary Jo Meisner 617.338.1700, The Boston Foundation

MASSACHUSETTS LEGISLATURE APPROVES JOB TRAINING FUNDS

Veto Override Provides Funding to Train Up to 1,500 People for Better Jobs

Boston, MA, February 12, 2004

When the Massachusetts legislature voted to override Governor Romney's veto of funds for job training, it represented a major victory in the fight to provide both good jobs for the people of Massachusetts and the workforce our businesses need to compete in a global economy, according to a spokesperson for the Boston Workforce Development Initiative. This action helps make available $6 million for a wide variety of industry, union, and community-based programs to enable residents of the state to learn the skills needed for better-paying jobs.

The Boston Workforce Development Initiative, which advocated strongly for the job-training legislation, is a five-year partnership to address the gap between the needs of employers for more skilled workers and of workers for jobs that pay a family-supporting wage. "The initiative aims to improve the ability of Boston's workforce development system to help low-income individuals achieve family-supporting incomes," said Mary Lassen, President of The Women's Union, a partner in the initiative. "The job-training funds are critical to creating and sustaining the building blocks critical to that system's success."

As a result of the veto, an estimated 1,500 people will be able to participate in extensive job training programs. This training will prepare them for jobs that pay enough to support a family, come with benefits, and put them on "career ladders" to further advancement. Training workers in skills valued by the new economy is critical, with the Massachusetts unemployment rate still at 5.4% and more than 171,000 jobs lost since 2001, according figures provided by the Governor.

The Boston Workforce Development Initiative gave credit to many legislators for passage of the proposal and the override. In the House, Speaker Thomas Finneran led the way by proposing an Economic Stimulus bill, identifying funds to pay for it, and supporting the veto override of this section after Governor Romney vetoed the section related to job training. Representatives Peter Larkin, Michael Rodrigues, Brian Dempsey, John Rogers, and others played important roles in moving this legislation forward and successfully overriding the veto.

The $6 million in funding first emerged in the Senate version of the Economic Stimulus bill, with support for skills training led by Senate President Robert Travaglini and Senators Therese Murray, Jack Hart, Linda Melconian, David Magnani, Dianne Wilkerson, and Steven Panagiotakos, among others.

The Boston Workforce Development Initiative, along with many community organizations, campaigned to make this new source of funds for training a reality. This effort was coordinated by the Workforce Solutions Group, a partnership led by the Massachusetts Workforce Board Association, The Women's Union, and the Organizing and Leadership Training Center, and including the Massachusetts AFL-CIO and others, that the initiative has funded to advocate for effective public policies.

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The Boston Workforce Development Initiative, the single largest public/private investment in workforce development in Boston's history, seeks to change the way employers hire and promote entry-level workers from Boston's neighborhoods. In a unique arrangement, the Initiative blends investments from several foundations and public sources of workforce development financing into single grants to service providers, providing a model for simplified, coordinated program support.

To date, the funders have raised $10.1 million toward a goal of $14.3 million over five years and have made grants totaling over $5 million for the initiative's three components: Workforce Partnerships that build long-lasting relationships among employers, workers, and providers of education, training, and support services; Strengthening Capacity to improve the ability of local organizations to engage in such partnerships and best provide workforce development services to low-income residents; and Public Policy efforts focused on analysis, organizing, and advocacy toward institutionalizing successful innovations.

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