Fall 2000 Journal: Help Wanted!

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Fall 2000
For more information, contact:
John O. Harney, Executive Editor, Connection
617.357.9620
email: connection@nebhe.org
Susan Martin, Assistant Editor

Help Wanted! Connection Magazine Explores New England’s Labor Squeeze

Writing in New England Board of Higher Education’s Connection magazine, Northeastern University economists outline crisis in high-tech workforce

Connection also explores gender equity in New England, privacy on campus, workers with disabilities

New data reveal high minority failure rates on Massachusetts teacher test

BOSTON – Unless New England finds new sources of labor for science and technology occupations, the region’s booming economy will run out of fuel, according to an article by two Northeastern University economists to be published next week in Connection: New England’s Journal of Higher Education and Economic Development.

Between 1989 and 1999, while the nation added 21.4 million wage and salary jobs, New England added only 284,000, Northeastern University economists Paul E. Harrington and Neeta P. Fogg write in Connection. “Had New England been able to maintain its share of national job growth (as it largely did during the 1980s) the region would have added an additional 1 million jobs over the past 10 years.”

The extent of New England’s labor shortage has been hard to measure-until now. Harrington and Fogg explain how the “job vacancy rate” provides a measure of labor-demand similar to the unemployment rate’s measure of labor supply. Just as an industry unemployment rate of, for example, 6 percent would be viewed as relatively high, a job vacancy rate of 6 percent within a given industry also would be viewed as a high level of unfilled labor demand. The employers who were surveyed reported fully 1 in 12 positions vacant-or a job vacancy rate of 8.3 percent.

The “vacancy rate of 8.3 percent is properly interpreted as a powerful signal of labor shortage among the state’s technology-intensive employers,” write Harrington and Fogg.

Computer and information technology occupations including Web design developers, computer scientists/programmers, computer engineers and scientific occupations including physical and life scientists had extraordinarily high job vacancy rates, write Harrington and Fogg. “One of every four positions for Web design developers among technology-intensive firms in Massachusetts was vacant.”

Connection is the quarterly journal of the nonprofit New England Board of Higher Education (nebhe)-and America’s only regional journal on higher education and the economy. Following is a summary of other articles in the new issue of the journal:

Labor Shortage Truth Squad – Northeastern University visiting professor Joan McRae Stoia explains how a new Commission on High Tech Skills Shortages is separating labor market fact from fiction and bringing economic researchers face-to-face with the business executives who need technology workers.

Advantage New England? — Over the past three decades, New England has outpaced the nation in realigning its employment away from traditional manufacturing industries to high technology and services. University of New Hampshire economist Ross Gittell and Bentley College Graduate Dean Patricia Flynn explain how higher education can bolster the regional economy by sparking innovation and producing well-educated, highly-skilled workers.

Working For People With Disabilities — Just 30 percent of people with disabilities work compared with 80 percent of the general population. New England Council President James T. Brett explains how a new program is exploring technologies that can create opportunities for people with disabilities to pursue a range of careers that were once inaccessible to them.

Teacher Competency Whitewash — Massachusetts teacher testing policies will eliminate college-level teacher education programs all over the state and restrict the supply of new certified teachers-especially minority teachers-just when they are needed most. Fitchburg State College Professor Rona F. Flippo and graduate student Julie G. Canniff explain how one high-stakes test eliminates diversity from the teaching force.

Boys Club — New Economy or not, gender stereotypes, childrearing responsibilities and entrenched old boy networks continue to shut New England women out of leadership roles. Connection examines the record of women in positions of leadership in New England business, education and government.

What Do Women Want? — Economic equity, according to Maine state Rep. Christina L. Baker. White women earn just 74 cents for every $1 men earn doing the same work, and the gap for minority women is even wider. Baker examines the economic disparity between the sexes in New England, particularly in academia. “Though more than half of college students are women, just one-third of full-time faculty are, and they tend to occupy the lower paid, less prestigious and less secure faculty ranks,” writes Baker. Just 51 percent of women professors are tenured versus 72 percent of males. At the University of Maine at Augusta, 85 percent of the female associate professors earn less than the average male associate professor, according to Baker. “In fact, female associate professors’ salaries are more closely aligned with the average salaries of lower-ranked male assistant professors.”

Gates Scholarships: Philanthropy And Access To Higher Education — A new breed of American millionaires may target their philanthropy toward access to higher education. Johnson & Wales University Professor Jane Sjogren says their good intentions won’t be enough.

Is Big Brother Watching The Wired Campus? — The Internet has grown more pervasive-touching nearly every aspect of academic life-while a host of other surveillance, security and management technologies have conspired to embrace and control nearly every individual on many campuses. Freelance writer Alan R. Earls explains how information technologies make it possible to trace the whereabouts and activities of students from the time they wake up to the time they go to bed.

New England’s Nonprofit Sector Searches For A Regional Voice — nebhe Senior Fellow Melvin H. Bernstein calls on New England colleges and universities to provide a forum for the region’s vibrant philanthropic community.

Book Reviews And Excerpts — Connecticut’s former higher education commissioner Andrew G. De Rocco examines two new books on race, affirmative action and access to higher education. George McCully, trustee of the Ellis L. Phillips Foundation and originator of the Generosity Index, reviews a University of Southern Maine professor’s critical look at American charity. Connection‘s “Excerpts” department features University of Phoenix President Jorge Klor Alva’s prescriptions for serving working adult students.

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