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Baker panel to focus on job training plans

Governor Charlie Baker will sign an executive order Thursday directing high-level staff to develop a comprehensive job training strategy for the state.

The order will create a “workforce skills cabinet” composed of the administration’s labor, education, and housing and economic development secretaries. The group will aim to tackle the so-called “skills gap;” some employers and analysts say job-seekers in Massachusetts and beyond do not have the necessary skills to fill vacancies in an increasingly high-tech economy.

“A talented workforce and growing economy are inseparable and Massachusetts has an opportunity to capitalize on both by ensuring our workers have the skills to meet the needs of employers in the 21st century economy,” said Baker, in a statement.

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The governor said different regions of the state will require different strategies. But he suggested there is value in high-level coordination.

Baker is ordering the workforce skills cabinet, to be chaired by Secretary of Labor and Workforce Development Ronald L. Walker II, to solicit input from businesses, government agencies, nonprofit groups, and advocates.

It is not clear that the governor, who has sworn off new taxes in a period of tight budgets, will devote any new money to job training. But investment has not been the sole approach to workforce development in the past.

Under former governor Deval Patrick, for instance, the state moved to build stronger ties between industry and the community college system.

But analysts say other states, such as North Carolina, have developed stronger relationships between business and public education.

Walker, the labor secretary, said the new workforce skills cabinet will try to better connect industry not just to community colleges and vocational high schools but to the state’s career centers and regional workforce investment boards.

A Northeastern University survey of Massachusetts manufacturers in 2012 found most do not view the public sector as a “very important” or “extremely important” source of training for future workers.

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Thirty-eight percent said vocational high schools are “very important” or “extremely important.” The figure was 13 percent for community colleges and three percent for workforce investment boards.


David Scharfenberg can be reached at david.scharfenberg@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @dscharfGlobe.