A panel of employers and workforce development professionals convened at Wayfair headquarters March 27 to weigh in on a new report exploring the capabilities of Boston workers without bachelor’s degrees. The report, Untapped: Redefining Hiring in the New Economy, found that many of these workers possess the necessary skills to fill these jobs that have historically required a bachelor’s degree—and could fill more with the help of credentialed education and training in high-demand industries.

“While we’re proud that Boston has a highly educated workforce…we also want to look at the other fifty percent [who don’t] and their untapped potential,” said John Barros, Chief of the Mayor’s Office of Economic Development.

Chief of Economic Development John Barros mediates the Untapped panel.

Dr. Alicia Sasser Modestino, an economist at Northeastern University’s Dukakis Center for Urban and Regional Policy, conducted the study for the Mayor’s Office of Workforce Development.

“Reporters ask me, ‘Why is this report important?'” Modestino said. “We know that prosperity has not been shared equally across the Commonwealth. Yet the state’s economic growth depends on both baccalaureate and non-baccalaureate workers.”

The employers represented on the panel are each taking different approaches to accessing and supporting the potential of non-BA workers:

Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center

  • The hospital relies on a variety of technical jobs that do not require a bachelor’s degree but do require specialized training and offer good wages. Central processing technicians, for example, start at $21/hour sterilizing operating room equipment.
  • BIDMC provides on-site career advisors, tutors, classes, and Accuplacer testing for employees who aspire to educational and career advancement.
  • Through a new program, BIDMC will start hiring associate degree nurses into a residency program that will help them acquire their bachelor’s degrees.

Encore Boston Harbor

  • The resort, scheduled to open in June 2019, relies on strong partnerships to fill the 6,000 positions that need filling. A partnership with Cambridge College, for example, resulted in a special training program for card dealers needed to staff the casino tables.

Google

  • The Grow with Google program recruits and trains non-BA workers for employment in the company’s internal IT support department. The 3-year program includes a scholarship for free associate degrees in information technology.
  • The program manager, Natalie Van Kleef Conley, said this investment was very doable. She was able to find the money to cover the cost of the associate degrees from the company’s leftover purchase orders.
  • She also noted that Google has started working with fellow companies – including competitors – on developing this industry talent pipeline.

Wayfair

  • Within the past year, the online home goods retailer has dropped the bachelor’s degree requirement for software developer jobs.
  • Wayfair has started partnering with bootcamps that train aspiring coders from non-traditional backgrounds. The company’s goal is to hire at least 50% of its entry-level software developers out of these bootcamps.
  • The company, which added 4,000 jobs in greater Boston just last year, needs various talent sources to meet its expansion needs. But Deborah Poole, Wayfair’s global head of talent acquisition, also said, “Employees say they want to be part of a more diverse workforce.”
Panelists and attendees mingle after the event.