News & Updates

Construction, hospitality, healthcare industries show promise for economic mobility

Oct 25, 2016

Today the Mayor's Office of Workforce Development (OWD) and UMass-Boston's Center for Social Policy released a report that explores the potential for career pathways in three local industries to help low-wage workers achieve economic mobility. The report found that those industries – construction, hospitality, and healthcare – are projected to exhibit higher-than-average job growth and offer opportunities for advancement to quality jobs with family-sustaining wages and benefits. 
"While many low-wage workers find limited opportunities for advancement in the retail service sector, this report finds that additional opportunities exist in construction, hospitality, and healthcare industries – especially when they couple the ability to earn an income with job training and educational advancement," said Brandynn Holgate, the report's lead author and a researcher at the Center for Social Policy at UMass-Boston.
"The analysis and recommendations in this report provide a meaningful framework to guide our efforts to provide upward mobility for workers in low-wage jobs," said Trinh Nguyen, director of the OWD, which commissioned the report. "Our goal is to help low-income residents access both employment opportunities and pathways to quality jobs that can positively impact their lives."
The report, "Career Pathways to Quality Jobs in Construction, Hospitality, and Healthcare," builds on a labor market study commissioned by the OWD earlier this year that found that nearly half of Boston workers earn less than $35,000 a year. This new report explores the potential for career pathways to advance these workers – specifically those working front-line customer service positions, who are primarily women and people of color. Career pathways can promote advancement for these workers through job training, career counseling, mentoring, access to post-secondary education, English language instruction, and articulation agreements with colleges to offer credits for on-the-job learning.
The three growth industries studied in the report show the presence of these pathways and demonstrate low barriers to entry – providing access, for example, to non-traditional students and residents with high school equivalency diplomas. These industries also benefit, to varying degrees, from union involvement and employer commitment to worker advancement. 
Of the three industries examined in the report, the construction sector, though the smallest, showed the highest job growth rate and the highest average wages. From 2001 to 2014, wages rose by 18 percent to an annual average pay of nearly $95,000 per year.

The report found that the hospitality industry, which encompasses a range of low- and high-quality jobs, includes a hotel sector fruitful for employee advancement. Boston's hotel workers earn 2 to 4 times as much as workers in other hospitality sectors, aided in part by unionization. For example, entry-level hotel union workers earn an average hourly wage of $18, compared to $11 for their non-union counterparts.

Constituting over one-fifth of Boston's private sector employment, the healthcare industry offers the most job opportunities of those sectors studied in the report. Several healthcare employers, such as hospitals, were found to provide their own workforce development programs to help employees advance their careers, and average annual pay in ambulatory care and hospitals was found to be on the rise.
The OWD has previously initiated investment in career pathways in construction, hospitality, and healthcare. The OWD-led Greater Boston American Apprenticeship Initiative (GBAAI), launched last year, will train 405 pre-apprentices in the construction and hospitality industries. The GBAAI connects trainees with union apprenticeships and opportunities to earn associates degrees while working. In the healthcare sector, Jewish Vocational Services provides industry-specific job training and job search services with the help of OWD funding and private partnerships.
The report advocates for greater investment in career pathways to quality jobs for low-wage workers. The authors suggest strengthening current pathways in these industries by expanding efforts to include English language learners and further integrating the community college system. The report also recommends exploring the potential for career pathways in Boston's other growing sectors, such as finance and IT, and replicating this framework in other industries.

The "Career Pathways to Quality Jobs in Construction, Hospitality, and Healthcare" report can be found online here.
The OWD is an affiliate of the Boston Planning & Development Agency.

About the Mayor's Office of Workforce Development
The Mayor's Office of Workforce Development (OWD) is an innovative agency within the Boston Planning & Development Agency that seeks to ensure the full participation of all Boston residents in the city's economic vitality and future. The OWD funds and oversees programs that promote workforce development through education, jobs training, apprenticeships, financial coaching, career pathways, literacy initiatives, and the like. Please visit OWD.Boston.Gov to learn more about the OWD's work.

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