• Workforce Challenges - Identifying Hidden & Future Workers

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    North Central Massachusetts Chamber Study Shows Hidden, Future Workers Key to Workforce Challenges


    Businesses around the world continue to face a variety of challenges, especially when it comes to workforce. In North Central Massachusetts, the chamber set out to tackle local challenges and find solutions through its recent study, Engaging Hidden and Future Workers to Grow the Local Economy. The study, prepared by a local university research group, outlines barriers and recommendations to grow the local workforce.

    Challenges that today’s workforce faces are different from those of years past. The research team discovered the most diverse set of issues they’ve seen in recent years, including work-life balance, prioritizing shift times, complex benefits and location issues.
    In addition to these issues, the area has an aging population and slower population growth, compounding the impacts beyond the effects of pandemic shutdowns. However, two classes of workers are underutilized – hidden workers, who remain out of the workforce because of barriers beyond their control, and future workers, who will join the labor force soon.

    “North Central’s workforce is aging, and its slower population growth is projected to continue,” said Roy Nascimento, CCE, IOM, the chamber’s president & CEO. “In order to meet North Central’s workforce needs, employers, educational institutions and workforce development agencies must collaborate and create overlapping strategies to better engage and entice these groups into the labor force.”
    The four main barriers outlined in the study include:
    • Geographic: lack of affordable housing near employers or lack of transportation from home to work
    • Skill 
    • Work/life balance: lack of flexibility or pay levels that make employees ineligible for things like rental assistance or childcare vouchers
    • Structural: discrimination or aggressive applicant filters
    The study also included solutions to pull hidden and future workers into the labor force. Ideas like improved child care options, new worker transit, the creation of training and credentialing programs and fostering relationships. The chamber recently hired a talent and education initiatives program manager to support the development, retention and attraction of a qualified labor force. While collaboration is important, the study concludes that employers must overcome the identified barriers to make working easier.

    “The chamber of commerce is in a unique position to gain trust from businesses and locals with a goal of establishing connections necessary to better meet worker needs and ultimately bring additional people into the labor force,” said Nascimento. “It is our hope that by commissioning this study that all stakeholders will have a shared roadmap to overcome the challenges and set forth a bright future for employers and workers alike in the region.”