One of the most incredible things about the staff at JVS is that they change lives every day. Too often, this goes by unnoticed, and I think even those who are changing the lives may not recognize the impact they are making, since it is happens so frequently. But sometimes, a real life-changer comes to my attention and I get the chance to let others know about it. Here is a particularly wonderful example. Lara Badalian has been our lead instructor at Partners Health Care for three years, and as many know, she will be leaving JVS this week to get married, and re-locate to Baltimore to join a wonderful organization, Baltimore Alliance for Careers in Health Care, a nonprofit organization that addresses unemployment, underemployment and healthcare workforce shortage issues. Sound familiar? Here is one of the many good wishes that our colleagues at Partners have received following Lara’s news.

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According to Northeastern University’s Center For Labor Market Studies, Massachusetts has the largest gap between those at the top and bottom of the income spectrum of any state, except Arizona (we are tied for #1). The projected growth rate in Massachusetts for new jobs requiring post-secondary education is nearly twice the national average (60% vs. 38%). And, we lead the nation in the rate at which we’ve cut funding for public post-secondary education. Is all of this purely coincidental?

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Marie Suze Camelien of Dorchester started her career in health care as a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) at Hebrew Senior Life (HSL). As anyone who has every spent time in a long-term care facility knows, CNAs are the lynchpin of this critically important and growing segment of our health-care delivery system. Their daily work with patients is extremely demanding, both physically and emotionally, as they strive to create a caring environment for our family members who are recovering from illness, or may be in a facility as their final home. Yet, however much we may value the care they provide for our vulnerable family members, as a society, we don’t typically demonstrate that value in a meaningful way. CNAs work long hours for low pay, and have few opportunities to move up into the more highly compensated health care occupations.

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Massachusetts faces its worst job market in decades, yet a major hospital in the Boston area can’t find physical therapists for its new womens’ health program. What’s wrong with this picture? Physical therapists, like radiological technicians, auto mechanics, and legal secretaries are middle-skill jobs. Almost half of the jobs in Massachusetts are middle-skill jobs, which require more than a high school diploma, but less than a four-year degree.

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In his recent New York Times Article, Peter Goodman reported that the difficulties faced by some recent graduates of training programs “…has intensified skepticism about training as a cure for unemployment”. It certainly should, since if there is actually anyone who believes that training can cure unemployment, they are woefully mis-guided. Those who advocate human capital development, whether it is job training, higher education, or on-the-job experience and training - and that would include most economists- understand that education and skill development are crucial, both to individual economic success, and the competitiveness of companies, regions and nations. Training is not typically a job creator, but a job enabler.

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