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Governor Baker Announces Program to Expand Workforce In Advanced Manufacturing

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Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Sept. 7, 2017.
Jose Luis Magana/AP
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Massachusetts is known for its healthcare services, tech workers and higher education. But Governor Charlie Baker tells WGBH's Morning Edition that nearly 20 percent of all jobs in the state are in manufacturing, and a new program he’s announcing today aims to provide the right workforce for an evolving industry.

The Baker administration is opening up classes at vocational high schools for adults looking to enter the advanced manufacturing industry. The program offers financial aid to help pay for the courses and gives students credit towards completing a bachelor’s degree.

Governor Baker also talks taxes with Morning Edition as Congress prepares to vote on its overhaul of the tax code as early as next week.

The transcript below has been edited for clarity.

Joe Mathieu: You're listening to WGBH’s Morning Edition. Governor Baker is launching a new pilot program aimed at helping more people start careers in advanced manufacturing. It starts with taking classes at local vocational high schools, and it could end at local colleges and universities. The governor is with us now to talk about this. Welcome to WGBH ‘s Morning Edition, Governor Baker.

Charlie Baker: Morning, Joe, how are you?

JM: I'm great. You've got an announcement set for this morning. What's this all about?

CB: So I'll be down at Southeastern Regional Voc Tech High School, which is in Easton, a little later this morning. And basically, this is a program that makes it possible for people to take college-level programming and advanced manufacturing at 10 participating voc tech schools in Massachusetts. And the good news for people who do this, is first of all, they'll be eligible for Pell Grants and other states support to pay for it. And also, these programs are going about at night and weekends, which means they'll be more consistent with people's busy schedules. The other thing is it puts these [vocational schools] in a place to put a lot of their physical assets and their faculty to work preparing these adults, young adults in many cases, for job opportunities that are very real and pay really well.

JM: Governor, we've talked about manufacturing in the state before. You know the rap is that we don't make anything around here any longer. I'm wondering if you can tell us what you mean by advanced manufacturing.

CB: Well first of all we do make stuff, okay? I know everybody says that, but it's simply not true. About 20 percent of the jobs in Massachusetts are in manufacturing. And we make all kinds of things. We make stuff in the healthcare space, we make stuff in the technology space, we make stuff in the plastics and polymers and special materials and fibers and fabrics space.

But what advanced manufacturing basically refers to is using 21st century equipment and techniques and digital technology to manufacture stuff that, in many cases, we used to manufacture using what I would describe as more traditional techniques.

A lot of the folks who do this Joe, who offer this kind of employment, are people who are in, like, the machine tool business, which is certainly a very traditional industry, but it's one in which the nature of the work has changed a lot over the course of the past decade, and even the past five years, thereby making the products more precise and better. But, at the same time, requiring a higher level of understanding with respect to how to use the equipment and the processes associated with making them.

JM: We're talking with Governor Charlie Baker on WGBH’s Morning Edition. Of course we are known for our elite colleges around here, Governor. I wonder how many jobs in the state, and a lot of people don't realize ... how many jobs require less than a bachelor's degree?

CB: Well, in this particular case, you're talking about skills, okay?  I mean, I think the thing we should all be focused on is skills. There are lots and lots of people who work in the trades, for example, many of whom went to our [vocational] schools and became specialists in a whole variety of fields, [such as] welding, electricians, H.V. A.C. folks. And they make good money and a good living in that space.

And in this particular case, we have businesses that are very successful, that are looking for people with skills, and these skills will be available to folks who participate in these programs starting in the fall. And the best part for people participating is there are financial resources available to help pay for federal and state resources, and you get credit toward college coursework at the same time. So, from our point of view this is a kind of a win-win. People can get training and credentials that they can use to get a good job. Our [vocational] schools are stepping into and participating in a space where they're already pretty comfortable, and there are real work opportunities for people who come out of these programs.

JM: The governor again will be talking about this at 10:30 this morning at the Southeastern Regional Vocational Technical High School in South Easton. Governor, I have to ask you, while you're on the phone, you've had some comments about the Republican tax plan in Washington, and how it may impact people in Massachusetts. Now that we have a deal, are you still worried?

CB:  I'm not exactly sure what’s in the deal, but what I can tell you Joe is that there are a couple of things I'm specifically worried about for Massachusetts. First is the loss of federal deductibility on state and local taxes. That's a very big deal for every state and it's an especially big deal for us. The second is some of the changes with respect to how you calculate mortgage interest deduction. Massachusetts obviously has a higher priced housing market, although we're trying to do some things about that as well, than in many other parts of the country. And if you cap that at some national average, you're basically going to dramatically reduce people's ability to take that mortgage interest deduction on the value of their home. And just as importantly, probably reduce the value of that home which is in many cases for people the the asset they have put the most resources the most money into, which would be, you know, that's a bad thing to do, given the fact that housing prices vary a lot depending upon what part of the country you're in.

JM: Looks like it's headed to the president's desk either way, from what we're hearing, but we'll continue this conversation, and Governor, I appreciate you weighing in on that. Good luck in announcement this morning. Governor Charlie Baker, thanks as always, for being with us on WGBH's Morning Edition.

CB: Thanks, Joe. Take care.

Click on the audio player above to hear the full conversation.

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