BOSTON – On Oct. 26, Senator Cindy Friedman (D-Arlington) gave her maiden Senate speech, successfully securing passage of a dedicated funding stream for a workforce training grant program championed for years by the late Senator Kenneth J. Donnelly.
The legislation, originally filed by Senator Donnelly, and since supported by Senator Friedman, will ensure a sustainable, predictable source of annual funding for the Workforce Competitiveness Trust Fund (WCTF). The WCTF funds regional workforce training partnerships across the state with the goal of placing unemployed and underemployed workers in jobs in high-demand industries.
In her speech, Friedman said, “This bill strengthens our workforce development system where it is needed most, providing unemployed workers a pathway to economic stability.”
This bill would allow up to 5% of the state’s Workforce Training Fund, an approximately $22 million annual fund supported by employer contributions for incumbent worker training, to be used for the WCTF. Grants from the fund have helped supply hundreds of employers with qualified, skilled employees since the WCTF’s inception in 2006.
To honor the work Senator Donnelly did to advance workforce opportunities in the Commonwealth, Senator Friedman offered an amendment to the bill on the Senate floor to rename the grants issued by the WCTF: “Senator Kenneth J. Donnelly Workforce Success” grants.
“Senator Donnelly was a long-time advocate for working families,” said Senator Friedman. “It is so fitting that as we provide a reliable funding stream for workforce development grants that we honor his memory by naming the grants after him.”
Friedman, who was joined by Senator Donnelly’s wife, Judy, received a standing ovation from the Senate members upon conclusion of her maiden speech. The bill, which is backed by a broad coalition of stakeholders including the business community, job training providers, and advocates for low-income workers and their families, passed the Senate with unanimous support. The legislation now moves to the House of Representatives for consideration.
Thank you, Mr. President, and through you to the members. It’s an honor to offer this amendment to S.2109, An Act to diversify the use of the Workforce Training Fund to support the Workforce Competitiveness Trust Fund.
This amendment is very straightforward. It would rename the grants issued by the Workforce Competitiveness Trust Fund (WCTF) after Senator Kenneth J. Donnelly in honor of the work he did to advance workforce opportunities in the Commonwealth, specifically to those who are unemployed and often lack a pathway to economic stability.
When Senator Donnelly started in the Senate, very few people talked about or paid much attention to the WCTF. But this fund – which supports industry training partnerships with employers, community colleges, and community-based training providers to train and place unemployed and underemployed workers – had been quietly making a huge impact:
Addressing the needs of employers by supplying highly trained workers;
Addressing the needs of our economy by supporting the growth of 21st century industries; and
Most importantly, addressing the needs of our unemployed residents by providing access to training opportunities that lead to good jobs in high-demand industries.
Senator Donnelly recognized this and began including funding for the WCTF as one of his top budget priorities each year he was in the Legislature.
In addition, he sought to create a steady, more consistent stream of funding for the WCTF and proposed several different vehicles to ensure that this successful workforce training model would continue to grow and serve more workers in need of jobs.
Ken Donnelly never gave up on this effort, nor throughout his career did he relax his constant and vocal support for working families. In fact, one of the first bills he filed was the Middle Skills Solutions Act, which created middle-skill training opportunities for hundreds of Massachusetts residents and helped develop more efficient pathways to middle-skill credentials that employers are looking for.
Because of the work he did to provide opportunities for our residents, especially those without easy access to economic opportunity, it is a fitting gesture that as we provide a reliable funding stream for the WCTF, we name the grants that will be made possible by doing this after Ken Donnelly.
So I ask that the amendment to name the WCTF grants the “Senator Kenneth J. Donnelly Workforce Success” grants be adopted and when a vote is taken, it be taken by a call of the yays and nays.
And I also want to acknowledge Ken’s wife Judy who is with us today. Welcome, Judy, it is a very special and additional honor to have you with us.