Governor Charlie Baker has appointed William Kiernan, founding dean of UMass Boston's School for Global Inclusion and Social Development (SGISD), to a task force on Economic Opportunity for Populations Facing Chronically High Rates of Unemployment.
Gov. Baker signed an executive order establishing the task force on Thursday. The task force, chaired by Secretary of Labor and Workforce Development Ron Walker, will lay out a strategic plan to address chronic unemployment among specific target populations over the next eight months.
The secretaries of Housing and Economic Development, Education, Health and Human Services, and Veterans’ Services, and members of the community appointed by the governor will also serve on the task force.
“Chronically unemployed populations and regions of our commonwealth require collaboration with our educators and business community to break down the barriers to economic growth and job creation for everyone,” Governor Baker said. “Too many Massachusetts workers have become discouraged as a growing economy unfortunately leaves them behind. This task force will build upon the workforce development practices we know work and replicate them across the Commonwealth to create more opportunities for employment everywhere.”
The task force will be charged with focusing on “target populations” facing chronically high unemployment. African Americans, Hispanic or Latino Americans, certain groups of veterans, and persons with disabilities continue to see higher than average annual unemployment rates between 7 and 12 percent despite an annual average state unemployment rate of 5.8 percent.
"For too long, the target populations have suffered from chronically high rates of unemployment," said Secretary Ronald Walker. "The task force is charged with understanding how best to reshape our public workforce system to meet the needs of the target population and how best to assist individuals in achieving their goals of meaningful employment."
Kiernan has served as a content expert for state, federal, and international governments in the areas of employment policy and practice for people with disabilities. Kiernan is also the director of the Institute for Community Inclusion, a research and training institute housed within SGISD.
The task force will meet to study and identify the challenges in the target populations seeking work, review current workforce development practices, recommend strategies to reduce barriers to employment, and develop goals for recommended programs, policies, and practice. They will actively gather input from community-based organizations, business leaders, local officials and advocates. The task force will make policy recommendations to the governor by November 15, 2015.