MassHire Greater Lowell Workforce Board
September 19, 2019
MassHire Lowell Career Center
107 Merrimack Street
Lowell, MA 01852

Minutes –
Call to Order: 8:00 AM
Presiding Officer: Ray Wrobel, Chair

Attendees: Melida Aizpurua, Kimberly Bodkin, Robert Broughton, Judy Burke, Stephanie Cronin, Jonathan DaSilva, Jill Davis, Maureen Fitzpatrick, Beth Goguen, Charlene Jancsy, Stephanie Lee, Danielle McFadden, John Palmieri, Tom Raiche, Cynthia Smith, Ed Starr, Beverly Woods. Quorum present.

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

Guest: David Cedrone, Associate Commissioner for Workforce Development and STEM, Massachusetts Department of Higher Education

I. Welcome.

Chair Wrobel welcomed the group and introduced David Cedrone. Mr. Cedrone is the Associate Commissioner for Workforce Development for the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education.

Mr. Wrobel announced that Ms. Alexis Ciccanti started working at the Board on August 19th to oversee the grant to address the opioid grant as the project manager.

Mr. Wrobel announced new board member Jonathan DaSilva from CVS Healthcare.

II. Review and Approval of June 20, 2019 Minutes.

Chair Wrobel requested review of the June 20, 2019 minutes. With no comments or questions and a quorum present, Chair Wrobel requested a motion to accept the June 20, 2019 minutes. Motion made by Ed Starr; seconded by Charlene Jancsy. All in favor? Yes. Opposed? No. Vote: Unanimous.

III. Guest Speaker: David Cedrone, Massachusetts Department of Higher Education (DHE)
Mr. Wrobel introduced Mr. Cedrone and provided background information. Mr. Cedrone thanked the chair and commented that he had worked with Ms. Burke on several occasions. Mr. Cedrone commented that he started working in workforce development after a 20-year career at HP. Mr. Cedrone explained that he was in the National Guard where he worked in electronics and he was able to use his experiential learning as he transitioned into a career at Digital. There he attended a night school program and was able to secure credits because of life learning. He received his Executive MBA from Northeastern and eventually HP merged with Digital. He commented that we must be willing to work with students at different stages of their lives and there was no way he could have planned his own path.

When Mr. Cedrone entered public service, his focus was on higher education/intensive skills training. Mr. Cedrone worked on a STEM initiative in Rhode Island and was the Executive Director of STEM Advising at the community college level.

Mr. Cedrone spoke about the workforce development activities at the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education (DHE). He explained the Training Resources and Internship Network (TRAIN) grant program. The program is designed to support long-term unemployed, under-employed and new entrant adult workers who seek to enter/re-enter the workforce and address workforce shortages in priority industries. The TRAIN grant was awarded to 13 of the 15 community colleges. The goal of the DHE is to scale the funded projects across the Commonwealth.

Another DHE initiative is the Bridge to College Program which supports adult college transition services that increase the number of low-income, underrepresented, entry-level adult workers who enter and succeed in postsecondary education. Bridges to College funds programs that have achieved recognized success in bridging academic gaps of underserved adult learner populations, with this work leading to college entrance, retention, and success.

Last spring there was a shift in focus to determine where people are entering in higher education. Digital innovation and lifelong learning have become priorities. There has been a focus on working with the incumbent worker to upscale the workforce.

Mr. Cedrone discussed the Massachusetts Healthcare Collaborative. The Healthcare Collaborative is bringing together statewide leaders to address the challenges facing the healthcare workforce in the state: the impending talent gap and shortage drivers. It was noted that if the issue is not addressed, the healthcare labor shortage is expected to grow approximately 3.5 times by 2024 to a gap of 43,000 workers across the state.

Mr. Wrobel asked what the buy in by employers has been. Mr. Cedrone commented that it is getting better because everyone is facing challenges in the workforce. Employers are struggling to find qualified talent and we have an obligation to prepare our workforce.

Mr. Raiche asked about partnerships between organized labor and higher education. Mr. Cedrone stated that TRAIN grant at Roxbury Community College is in hospitality and students will have access to entry level positions with union training.

Mr. Wrobel asked if there were any additional questions. Seeing none he thanked Mr. Cedrone for attending.

IV. Workforce Board Report

Chair Wrobel indicated that Mr. Farkas would give an update. Peter Farkas, Executive Director, provided an update on the following board activities:

Unemployment Rates

Mr. Farkas stated that the national unemployment rate was 3.9%, Massachusetts is at 2.9% and Greater Lowell is at 3.0%. From July 2018 to July 2019, the unemployment rate in Greater Lowell has decreased from 3.7% to 3.0%. The average wage of a career center customer entering employment is $29.34. This is approximately $5 above the state average of $24.00. Mr. Farkas
walked through a comparison chart of U3 and U6 unemployment rates.

Quarterly Updates

Mr. Farkas proceeded with general updates. The annual regional job fair hosted by the MassHire Lowell and Merrimack Valley Career Centers was held in August. The job fair was very well attended by both job seekers and employers.

The Board held the annual Employer Appreciation Breakfast to thank all the businesses that worked with our Connecting Activities/School-to-Work Program. Over 40 employers attended and Congresswoman Trahan addressed the group about the importance of providing opportunities to high school students.

The summer young adult jobs program employed 245 low-income youth from the City of Lowell. The youth who participated earned a total of $422,123 in subsidized wages. In addition, this year we received an additional $40,000 to connect summer jobs participants to the Connecting Activities program to secure an unsubsidized job during the school year.

Grants/Resource Development

Mr. Farkas provided an overview of the 2 other competitive grants:
• Year-Round YouthWorks was awarded for $124,438. Through the grant, the youth department will run a certified nurse assistant program at Greater Lowell Technical High School, provide subsidized work experience for 12 students, and participate in a planning grant to develop a pre-apprenticeship program in the Trades.
• National Health Emergency to Address the Opioid Grant: The grant is fully staffed at this time. There have been 104 referrals and 59 people enrolled. We will be providing a larger overview at the March meeting.

FY’20 Annual Plan

Mr. Farkas indicated that the Annual Plan was submitted to the State with our job seekers and employer goals for FY’20. The Workforce Performance and Opportunities Committee recommended the goals based on performance data and the Executive Committee approved the submission of the plan. Mr. Farkas walked through a slide of FY’19 data and FY’20 goals.

FY’20 Budget

Mr. Farkas walked through the FY’20 budget. There has been a decline in federal funding from approximately $1.8 million to $1.3 million. Mr. Farkas indicated that budget is fluid due to grant development. Despite the decrease in federal funding, there is an increase of $1.32 million between FY’19 and FY’20. The increase is a result of successful grant development outside of the core funding. There has also been an increase in staff to manage the grants. The packet provided had a breakdown of funding sources.

Future Meeting Dates

December 13th – Tewksbury Country Club
March 19th -location TBD
June 25th -location TBD

Mr. Wrobel asked if there were any questions or comments. Ms. Jancsy commented on the progress that is being made to meet goals. Mr. Wrobel indicated that the Chair of the State Board continues to comment on the successes of the MHGLWB and the MHLCC.

VI. Adjourn

Chair Wrobel thanked everyone for attending. The Chair asked if there was any other business. Seeing none, the Chair requested a motion to adjourn. With no other business, motion made by Charlene Jancsy; seconded by Judy Burke. All in favor? Yes. Opposed? No. Unanimous. The meeting adjourned at 9:02 AM.