A new state program aims to train 20,000 skilled trades workers in the next four years to help meet soaring demand for labor in the construction sector and other industries which is helping drive up construction costs.

The announcement came last week amid major announcements about the Baker administration’s push to decarbonize the Massachusetts economy by 2050 and a Senate bill that would hike energy costs for commercial building operators based on the amount of carbon dioxide their buildings’ HVAC systems generate.

Under the plan, called Career Technical Initiative, the state’s vocational schools would operate three teaching shifts a day and would get help from the state to expand enrollment in vocational schools during the day and build out evening programs for adults seeking skills and certification in high-demand industries.

The initiative includes new state funding to help adults pay for classes, boosts business involvement in program development and credentials and reduces licensure barriers to incentivize mid-career professionals to become vocational teachers. The administration’s fiscal year 2021 budget includes $15 million to launch the program.

“There are many highly-skilled jobs and industries that are growing in the commonwealth that require the knowledge taught in career technical programs,” Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito said in a statement. “We need more young people and adults to take advantage of the educational assets we already have in the commonwealth and expand them to keep our economy growing.”

Under the plan, vocational schools will run three teaching shifts a day. From 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., students enrolled at vocational schools will take classes; from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m., students from area high schools will take technical classes at the vocational schools; and from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., the schools will provide training for adults. The administration projects that over the next four years approximately 7,500 to 10,000 more students will be enrolled in high-impact vocational trade programs, which will reduce waitlists in programs at vocational schools around the state.  Approximately 9,000 to 13,000 additional adult students are expected to earn industry credentials, opening opportunities for them for obtain jobs in high-demand skilled industries.

“By expanding hours of utilization at the vocational schools, more and more workers can attend these classes, obtain marketable construction credentials and be well on their way to a lucrative career in our industry,” Joe Camilo, vice president and general manager at Tocco Building Systems and 2020 chair of Associated Builders and Contractors, said in a statement.

Massachusetts, like the nation, faces a worker shortage and skills gap as the population of young people declines and the number of older people reach retirement age. By 2035, it is predicted that the number of people 65 and older will reach almost 1.7 million, while the number of five to 19-year-olds will hover around 1.2 million, according to the UMass Donahue Institute. New statistics released by the Associated General Contractors of America show that the number of workers in the construction industry has grown by a mere 800 jobs, or 0.5 percent, in the last 12 months. There were 156,300 people in the construction industry as of December 2019, the report states.

Mass. Launches Program to Train 20K Tradespeople in Four Years

by Banker & Tradesman time to read: 2 min