Future of Work Report, Facebook Expansion Confirm Need for Training

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Future of Work Report, Facebook Expansion Confirm Need for Training

Economy News | July 13, 2021
By: Chris Geehern

On a day when Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker outlined a new economic world of job transitions and hybrid work, Facebook reminded everyone that the commonwealth remains uniquely positioned to thrive in the new world.

The Boston Globe reported this morning that Facebook plans to triple the size of its offices at Kendall Square in Cambridge by subleasing 270,000 square feet that experts say would give company room to add hundreds of jobs. The social media giant already occupies 130,000 square feet in Cambridge with room for 650 employees.

The Facebook expansion would take place just a few miles from where Governor Baker today outlined the results of a McKinsey & Company study exploring what work will look like in post-pandemic Massachusetts. The report emphasizes the possibility that the economic center of gravity will move away from cities and the need to re-train hundreds of thousands of people to fill jobs in growth industries such as health care and artificial intelligence.

The governor said at a morning press conference that the findings confirm the importance of his proposal to the Legislature to spend $2.9 billion of American Rescue Plan Act money to address issues such as housing and economic dislocation.

“Massachusetts is well-positioned as we emerge from the pandemic and look to promote economic growth, and the Future of Work Report provides us with a roadmap to build on our strengths and address areas that remain challenges,” Baker said.

“Our Administration is working to respond to this report’s findings by pursuing significant investments in housing, job-training and downtown development through our plan to invest $2.9 billion in federal funds from the American Rescue Plan Act. We are also making investments and using other tools to provide more flexibility for residents in child care and transportation, and we look forward to continuing to partner with workers, businesses and communities to respond to the needs raised in this report.”

The Future of Work report outlines eight insights that will affect how Massachusetts residents earn a living:

  1. Demand for office real estate may fall as workers spend more time in residential areas due to hybrid work.
  2. Hybrid work will likely drive demand for flexible childcare options, requiring childcare business models to evolve.
  3. Public transit ridership is likely to fall, with the steepest decline likely in commuter rail.
  4. Business travel may be structurally reduced from pre-pandemic levels.
  5. Workforce training may be required at an unprecedented scale and pace.
  6. The Commonwealth population is likely to grow, albeit more slowly than pre-pandemic
  7. Existing equity challenges will intensify.
  8. Equitable housing opportunities will be key to retaining and attracting people.

The Baker Administration commissioned the report several months ago as the commonwealth emerged from the COVID-19 pandemic and its consequent economic recession. The Massachusetts Legislature has established its own Future of Work Commission to look at many of the same issues.

“The Future of Work report highlights the most important issues facing the Massachusetts economy, from training and education to transportation to equality of opportunity. It also provides a glimpse of the potential that remains for a commonwealth that is a global center of innovation and technology,” said John Regan and Chief Executive Officer of Associated Industries of Massachusetts.

Governor Baker said Massachusetts must “turbo charge” its job-training system by providing more money to successful programs that match dislocated workers with high-demand occupations. His comments came as the state the state awarded $8 million through the Workforce Training Program to about 100 businesses statewide to support the training of 4,300 workers with a range of skills like project management, advanced software training, and other technical skills.

The report also highlights the need for Massachusetts to moderate the high cost and complexity of doing business in a world in which many workers can clock in from anywhere.

“Remote work enables greater mobility for both employers and employees, thus lowering the barrier for jobs and residents to leave the state or for companies to place jobs and recruit talent elsewhere. To remain attractive, Massachusetts must double-down on the fundamentals, as validated in numerous surveys and conversations with residents and business leaders,” the report said.

The Facebook expansion, meanwhile, at once suggests continued hope for urban technology centers and the importance of a highly trained work force.

Facebook would join a string of marquee tech companies planning to expand in Boston and Cambridge — defying predictions they would look to ditch costly urban office space as working remotely becomes a mainstay.

Amazon, which early next year will open a large building in the Seaport District, in January leased a larger building nearby in the same complex, eventually giving it room for 5,000 employees. Google intends to occupy a 16-story tower under construction in Kendall Square, and in March announced plans to double its 1,900-person workforce here over the next few years. MassMutual is also preparing to open its new facility in the Seaport.