Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Education Paves the Way for Jobs in Massachusetts

In case you missed it, Representative Richard Bastien (R-Gardner) recently wrote an op-ed about the Education legislation included in the GOP Jobs Package. In his op-ed, Representative Bastien highlights the new pieces of legislation, filed by the Republican Caucus, aimed at creating and retaining jobs in the Commonwealth.

To read the op-ed in its entirety, see below.

Recently, members of the Republican Legislative Caucus unveiled a jobs plan that reflects the vital role education plays in promoting job growth in Massachusetts. Nowadays, more jobs require a minimum of an associate’s level degree or advanced technical training. We need to prepare our workforce to fill new positions and secure our economic future as a Commonwealth.

The educational component of our Jobs Package addresses this challenge. First, we create a Finish Line Scholarship Program, a vital aid for cash-strapped students putting themselves through school. I worked my way through college. The high cost added years to that process. I appreciate keenly the struggle that families face with the ever escalating cost of higher education. But higher education equals higher earnings, a win-win situation. Higher wage earners have more economic opportunities and share those opportunities with the communities and businesses around them, spurring economic growth.

The second part of our proposal empowers vocational schools to better serve the demand of Massachusetts’ employers for workers with advanced training and skills. With additional flexibility, vocational schools will be able to offer new service programs for those looking to advance their professional careers. We also facilitate a corporate sponsorship program to help expand resources for not-for-credit vocationally-oriented instruction and targeted skills training.

Collaboration and communication between our educational institutions is key if we want to lead the nation in workforce development. Our proposal calls for members of the boards of trustees for community colleges and vocational schools to serve on one another’s boards, enhancing regional collaboration and communication. Unlike other proposals to consolidate educational control in Boston, our proposal trusts local leaders to create jobs in their communities without tethering them to overbearing Boston bureaucracy.

With such excellent institutions of higher learning, Massachusetts has always had the best and the brightest students. Yet our most high-profile students, like Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, consistently take their creative talents and ideas elsewhere after graduation because the cost of doing business is so high. We must fix this problem.

Our proposal also establishes a student-investment fund to foster early stage companies and provide technical and capital support to our student entrepreneurs. Connecting students’ ideas with capital will foster the spark of creativity and enhance job growth right here in Massachusetts instead of elsewhere.

As a veteran, I have spent time talking to service members and have heard a common story: they cannot transfer their military skills into educational credentials. They have gained valuable skills, experience, and training. But when they come home they can’t apply them toward certifications, licenses, and college degrees. Post 9/11 veterans experience an unemployment rate close to 13% compared to the national average of 8.3%. Our proposal allows veterans to qualify for licenses and academic credit, taking a big step toward solving this problem.

My colleagues and I filed a comprehensive set of proposals in our Jobs Package. We have included education because it is critical to our economy and to growing jobs. Given the global competitive environment, we must help Massachusetts residents access educational opportunities to sharpen their skills, create new ones, and better reflect those already earned.

Richard Bastien is the State Representative for the 2nd Worcester District and serves on the Joint Committees on Higher Education and Veterans and Federal Affairs.

This is the first in a series of five Op-Eds aimed at highlighting the GOP Jobs Package.