MassHire Greater Lowell Workforce Board
March 14, 2019
Lowell General Hospital-Saints Campus
1 Hospital Drive
Lowell, MA 01852

Minutes – Draft
Call to Order: 7:57 a.m.
Presiding Officer:  Maureen Fitzpatrick, Vice Chair
Attendees:  Kimberly Bodkin, Judy Burke, Stephanie Cronin, Jill Davis, Karen Frederick, Beth Goguen, Charlene Jancsy, John Kovach, Maureen Kriff, Staci Landress, Greg Lennartz, Betty McKiernan, John Palmieri, Cynthia Smith, Susan Winning. Quorum present.

Staff: Peter Farkas, Lauren MacIsaac, Nancy McGovern, Beatriz Sierra, Shannon Norton, Kathleen Gentile, Cathy Sturtevant

  1. Welcome. Vice Chair Fitzpatrick welcomed everyone. Mr. Farkas indicated that Chair Wrobel was not in attendance and was at a credit union conference. Ms. Fitzpatrick, the Presiding Officer, welcomed the guest speaker Scott Latham from UMass Lowell and introduced Deborah Bergholm-Petka, Director of Organizational Development at Lowell General Hospital. Ms. Bergholm-Petka welcomed everyone and commented that they were excited to be part of the organization. Ms. Bergholm-Petka stated that Lowell General had a dual role in the community as part of the local healthcare system and the largest employer in the region. Their role is to not only care for those in the community but to ensure the health and well-being of their workforce. If their workforce loves what they do, and they are healthy, they will take better care of their community. We are blessed to have Maureen Fitzpatrick, Board Vice Chair, continue to make sure there is a connection. Thank you again for choosing us to host and welcome.

Ms. Fitzpatrick announced that Jill Davis from Greater Lowell Technical High School (GLTHS) was recently appointed to the board. Ms. Davis has been at GLTHS since 1996 and serves as the Assistant Superintendent. Ms. Fitzpatrick then asked for a quick round of introductions of the other board members. 

  1. Review and Approval of December 13, 2018 Minutes. Vice Chair Fitzpatrick requested review of the December 13, 2018 minutes.  With no comments or questions and a quorum present, Vice Chair Fitzpatrick requested a motion to accept the December 13, 2018 minutes.  Motion made by Elizabeth McKiernan; seconded by John Kovach.  All in favor?  Yes. Opposed?  No. Vote: Unanimous.

III.          Introduction of Guest Speaker: Scott Latham, Business Policy and Strategy, UMass Lowell

 Vice Chair Fitzpatrick introduced the guest speaker, Scott Latham. Vice Chair Fitzpatrick shared highlights from Professor Latham’s biography and indicated that the article he recently published in the MIT Sloane Review was included in the packet.

Mr. Latham thanked Mr. Farkas for the invitation to speak to the Board.

The following are highlights from the speaker:

Anyone that tells you that they know where the future of workforce lies doesn’t’ know. There are boom and bust periods, take Wang/Apollo for example in this area. There is no smooth transition in innovation. The reality is change doesn’t happen overnight. We have been coming to the 4th industrial revolution since the 19th century. There is always opportunity to rethink or hit pause because there is a cost associated with the technology.

Robotic Process Automation – there is a bubble that will occur, and it is imperative for the workforce to adjust. A field like higher education is in trouble and we need to adapt. Five years ago, if you liked math then you were steered toward accounting, Today, I would not recommend this field because automation is and will impact the occupation. Pharmacy/Pharmacists are in a similar position.

Mr. Latham’s article discusses the importance of “value” and not just the bottom line regarding the impact of automation. We see that some skills inherent in particular jobs might be threatened. Mr. Latham indicated that there has been a shift in value, for example, using a taxi versus Uber or e-Filing of taxes versus paper.

Mr. Latham walked through a series of slides. They indicated that there are now 4 paths to job evaluation:  displacement, disruption, deconstruction and durable. Mr. Latham then walked through positions within the 3 priority industries of Healthcare, Manufacturing and IT.

Ms. Fitzpatrick asked how the credential model fits in. Mr. Latham spoke to the need of institutions such as Middlesex Community College offering industry recognized micro-credentials to assist those who are in the displaced portion of the industries.

Several board members offered comments regarding how automation is impacting the fields they are in. Ms. Smith indicated that in the adult day programs, they are using avatars of cats and dogs and it is a combination of AI and humans. People are getting attached to a dog or cat, but it is still AI.

Mr. Kovach asked about the speed at which this is happening. Mr. Latham indicated that 10 years ago everything was going offshore however we are seeing a shift in the medical field. They are bringing processes back to the United States. For example, the company making the EpiPen brought it back from China because the quality wasn’t keeping pace. We are currently at full employment, which is another factor, though there seems to be an indication that next year we could be facing a slowdown and a recession.

Ms. Cronin asked if there are areas leading in researching and putting AI to work. Mr. Latham indicated that our region is light years ahead in terms of automation mainly due to the opportunities for research and the tech companies.

Mr. Latham wrapped up his comments and Ms. Fitzpatrick thanked him for the presentation. 

  1. Board Report 

                Peter Farkas, Executive Director, provided an update on the following board activities:

Unemployment Rates 

Mr. Farkas indicated that the current national unemployment rate is 3.9%, Massachusetts – 3.6% and the Greater Lowell Area – 3.6%.  However, the real UI rate is 7.3% nationally as of February. This accounts for people that are unemployed, underemployed or have stopped looking for work all together. In Lowell approximately 32% of families are making greater than $35, 000. Currently manufacturing has approximately 3,400 openings. Mr. Farkas spoke briefly about a recent 60 Minutes segment that indicated the labor market participation is at 63%. The story stated that approximately 500,000 people have given up looking for jobs. This could be due to advances in technology, the opioid crisis and the life expectancy rate.

Lease and Monitoring Updates

A new lease for the space for the Board and the Career Center is in the process of being signed. The footprint is being decreased from 26k square feet to 16k square feet which results in a savings of approximately $1 million over 10 years. The MassHire Department of Career Services was recently on site to monitor the board and review the board’s monitoring of the career center. Both processes went well. The Massachusetts Department of Career Services is conducting a fiscal monitoring in late March.

FY’20 Budget

 The region’s federal allocation should be released in late May or early June. At the State level the Governor has released his FY’20 budget and the House will debate their budget next month.

Grants/Resource Development

Mr. Farkas gave a brief update on the grants held by the Board and Career Center, there is also a complete list in the packet. EOHED/NAMC received $625,000 with the Greater Lowell area receiving $125,000 of that money.  For the Boston Foundation/Schiro Retention Grant we have received $50,000 for a 2nd year of funding to provide retention services through the Boston Foundation and Harford Foundation for Public Giving. This goes towards a retention specialist at the Career Center. We are still waiting for word on the Opioid Grant which was submitted for $2.45 million.  In addition, we have submitted proposals for funding through the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission (MRC), and Commonwealth Corporation for the summer YouthWorks program and a planning grant to work with the re-entry population.

Upcoming Events:

Mr. Farkas stated that the Lowell High Youth Job Fair will be held April 11th at the High School and is open to all Greater Lowell area students looking for summer employment
Mr. Farkas and Chair Wrobel will be attending the National Association of Workforce Board’s (NAWB) annual conference from March 23-March 26th in Washington D.C.
Mr. Farkas stated that there would be a series of roundtables held in partnership with the Middlesex 3 Coalition and Middlesex Community College focusing on the 3 priority industries identified in the Regional Blueprint – healthcare, advanced manufacturing, and IT.

Updating the Bylaws

Mr. Farkas indicated that an update was made to the bylaws and the new version was included in the packet. The name of the Board and the website were updated to reflect the transition to the MassHire brand.

Mr. Farkas indicated that a motion was needed to approve the updates to the bylaws. Vice Chair Fitzpatrick requested a motion to approve the updates. Motion made by Judy Burke; seconded by Staci Landress. All in favor? Yes. Opposed? No. Vote: Unanimous.

  1. Adjourn

Vice Chair Fitzpatrick thanked everyone for attending. The Vice Chair asked if there was any other business. Seeing none, the Vice Chair requested a motion to adjourn.  With no other business, motion made by Judy Burke; seconded by Elizabeth McKiernan.  All in favor? Yes.  Opposed?  No.  Unanimous.  The meeting adjourned at 9:04 AM.