Massachusetts Senate Approves Legislation to Address Skills Gap and Help Unemployed Workers with Senator Jason Lewis’ Support

The Massachusetts Senate voted unanimously to engross An Act to Diversify the Use of the Workforce Training Fund to Support the Workforce Competitiveness Trust Fund. The legislation, originally filed by the late Senator Kenneth J. Donnelly, and since championed by his successor Senator Cindy Friedman, will ensure a sustainable, predictable source of annual funding for the Workforce Competitiveness Trust Fund (WCTF). The WCTF provides high impact job training grants designed to support unemployed and under-employed workers while helping employers across the Commonwealth hire the skilled workers they need to grow. Furthermore, grants issued from the fund are to be re-named the Senator Kenneth J. Donnelly Workforce Success Grants.

“A reliable funding stream for workforce development and training will provide the Workforce Competitiveness Trust Fund with the predictable and stable funding to help our employers find the skilled workers they need to fill positions. We should all be proud that the legacy of our good friend the late Senator Donnelly will live on with the passage of this legislation,” said Senate President Stan Rosenberg.

“Our economy in Massachusetts is one of the strongest in the nation, but we’re nevertheless facing challenges in ensuring our workers access the skills and jobs they need to thrive”, said Senator Jason Lewis, Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Labor and Workforce Development. “Too many working families are struggling to get by, while many employers are facing difficulty hiring the skilled workers they need, and this legislation will help address both of these challenges.”

“This bill strengthens our workforce development system where it is needed the most, providing unemployed workers a pathway to economic stability” said Senator Cindy Friedman. “Senator Donnelly was a long-time advocate for working families and it is so fitting that as we provide a reliable funding stream for workforce development grants that we honor his memory by naming the grants after him.”

This bill would allow up to 5% of the state’s Workforce Training Fund, an approximately $22M annual fund supported by employer contributions for incumbent worker training, to be used for the WCTF, a proven sector-based training model that has served hundreds of employers with qualified, skilled employees.

The WCTF was created by the economic stimulus act of 2006 and administered by Commonwealth Corporation on behalf of the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development. The WCTF funds regional sector training partnerships across the state with the goal of placing unemployed and underemployed workers in jobs that are in demand. Grants from the fund bring together employers in a particular sector, workforce investment boards, career centers, vocational technical schools, community colleges, and workforce training providers.

The bill also ensures that WCTF grants are performance-based, with 50% paid upon enrollment in the program and the remaining 50% to be paid contingent on job placement and retention outcomes.

A broad coalition of stakeholders has advocated for this legislation, including the business community, workforce boards, labor unions, job training providers, and advocates for low-income workers and their families.

Senator Kenneth J. Donnelly served for 37 years as a firefighter and for 8 years as a state senator. He was a staunch believer in the role of unions and government to protect workers, and he was well known for his efforts to advance justice and equality for all people no matter their race, religion, national origin, or sexual orientation. During his time in the Senate he advocated fiercely for funding for workforce training for unemployed and underemployed workers.

The bill now moves to the House of Representatives for consideration.

Senator Jason Lewis (far right) was proud to stand beside (left to right) Senate President Stan Rosenberg, Judy Donnelly (widow of the late Senator Kenneth Donnelly), and Senator Cindy Friedman (Senator Donnelly’s successor and former Chief of Staff) as the Massachusetts Senate honored the memory of Senator Donnelly and engrossed legislation to invest needed resources in workforce development grants for our working families.