SECTION 1. A middle-skills council is hereby established to make recommendations to increase the readiness for and success of working adults and other non-traditional students in education and training for jobs that require more than a high school diploma but less than a four-year degree. The recommendations shall focus on how to increase the number of adults with these middle-skills and middle-skills credentials that meet Massachusetts’ long-term labor market needs.
The council shall establish baseline data on the Commonwealth’s ‘middle-skills gap’ - the gap between the skills held by the Commonwealth’s workers and the skills needed by its employers for jobs that require more than a high school diploma but less than a four-year degree. The council may draw upon the work of the Vision Project of the department of higher education and other data sources as appropriate.
The council shall examine the feasibility and impact of making changes to adult basic education, developmental education, and student support services to increase adult and non-traditional student success in middle-skill education and training. Specifically, the council shall make recommendations for minimizing remediation by developing a system-wide plan to better align adult basic education and pre-college programs with post-secondary institutions. The council shall examine the feasibility and impact of all relevant strategies, including but not limited to, ways to: leverage and shape adult skills training to maximize responsiveness to industry needs; streamline or restructure developmental education to enable faster and increased rates of skill and credential attainment, including more clearly delineating the roles and responsibilities of community colleges and adult basic education providers; establish a uniform system for transferring course credits between community colleges to promote faster and higher completion rates; evaluate the efficacy of current college placement tests and where appropriate replace them with standard competency-based assessment tools and improved methods for placement in post-secondary education; and increase the retention, skill, and credential attainment rate of non-traditional students in post-secondary education and training. The council should coordinate with existing efforts of the departments of elementary and secondary education, higher education, and labor and workforce development, the Massachusetts workforce investment board, and the Massachusetts executive office of community colleges.
The council shall consist of 16 members, 1 of whom shall be the secretary of labor and workforce development, or his designee, who shall serve as chair; 1 of whom shall be the secretary of education, or his designee; 1 of whom shall be the commissioner of elementary and secondary education, or his designee; 1 of whom shall be the commissioner of higher education, or his designee; 1 of whom shall be the president of commonwealth corporation, or his designee; 1 of whom shall be a representative of the Massachusetts Executive Office of Community Colleges; 2 of whom shall be a member to be appointed by the speaker of the house; 2 of whom shall be a member to be appointed by the senate president; 1 of whom shall be a member to be appointed by the minority leader of the house; 1 of whom shall be a member to be appointed by the minority leader of the senate; 1 of whom shall be a member to be appointed by the secretary of labor and workforce development from the business community; 1 of whom shall be a representative of the Massachusetts AFL/CIO; and 1 of whom shall be a representative of the Center for Labor Market Studies; and 1 of whom shall be a representative of adult basic education or non-traditional college students in the Commonwealth.
The council shall conduct its first meeting not more than 90 days after the effective date of this Act and shall conduct not less than 3 public hearings in geographically diverse regions of the Commonwealth. Not later than 18 months after the effective date of this Act, the council shall submit a report of its findings and recommendations together with proposed legislation, if any, to the clerks of the house of representatives and the senate who shall forward the same to the house and senate chairs of the joint committee on higher education and the chairs of the house and senate committees on ways and means.
SECTION 2. During the first year after the effective date of this Act, commonwealth corporation shall develop five to seven regional skills academies. In subsequent years, regional skills academies will be developed in each workforce investment area of the Commonwealth as established by the Workforce Investment Act of 1998.
The regional skills academies will address the gap between the skills currently held by the Commonwealth’s workers and the skills needed by its employers for jobs that require more than a high school diploma but less than a four-year degree. The regional skills academies will also align to the Commonwealth’s economic development strategy to meet the needs of employers in high growth sectors, including but not limited to health care; life sciences; information technology; and advanced manufacturing.
Regional skills academies shall be geographic clusters of community colleges, vocational-technical high schools, community-based organizations, and employers. Community colleges shall serve as the lead partners for each cluster. Regional skills academies will increase the number of Massachusetts residents with middle-skills and middle-skill credentials by carrying out activities that may include but are not limited to, providing programs accessible to working, unemployed or underemployed adults; defining and establishing the process for students to transition from adult basic education programs to college-based programs; providing stackable certificates and credentials, non-semester-based modular programs, and accelerated associate degree programs; providing sector-based training including developmental education; providing student support services; using competency-based placement assessments; leveraging regional resources, including shared equipment and funding; partnering with two or more training organizations in a region; and partnering with two or more employers in a region.
Commonwealth corporation shall award competitive grants from the Workforce Competitiveness Trust Fund to the regional skills academies to carry out these activities. Commonwealth corporation shall be responsible for conducting an evaluation on the outcomes of the regional skills academies and presenting its findings to the middle-skills council.
SECTION 3. The secretary of labor and workforce development in consultation with the secretaries of education, and economic development, as well as the president of commonwealth corporation, shall define regions in the state on which both to base a review of local and regional labor market information and to develop regional plans to coordinate training and education activities to target employer needs and to meet Massachusetts’ demand for middle-skill workers. Upon designation of the regions, commonwealth corporation shall ensure that the workforce investment boards established by Public Law 105-220, 112 Stat. 936, assist in convening meetings in each of the regions to undertake the review of labor market information and develop the regional plans.
The meeting participants shall include representatives from each workforce investment area, established by the Workforce Investment Act of 1998, and, at a minimum, the presidents of any of the region’s community colleges; the principals of any vocational-technical high schools; the executive director of the appropriate workforce investment boards; the fiscal agents for workforce investment act funding; labor, education and industry leaders, and the director of the regional skills academy, if applicable. Commonwealth corporation shall aggregate these findings and report them at least annually to the middle-skills council.
SECTION 4. The regional skills academies shall be funded at a level of one million dollars each from a combination of sources including the consolidated budget surplus. Notwithstanding any general or special law to the contrary, after complying with clause (a) of section 5C of chapter 29 of the General Laws, the comptroller shall dispose of the consolidated net surplus in the budgetary funds for fiscal year 2011 and each year thereafter ending in 2014 by transferring up to $8,000,000 from the General Fund to the Workforce Competitiveness Trust Fund, established by section 2WWW of chapter 29.
SECTION 5. Subject to appropriation, the regional skills academies will be funded by the Workforce Competitiveness Trust Fund, established by section 2WWW of chapter 29 and managed by commonwealth corporation on behalf of the executive office of labor and workforce development.
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