Official at UMass Amherst Assists New England Workforce Study

AMHERST, Mass. - Efforts under way at the University of Massachusetts to train graduates for jobs in high-technology fields will get a boost from research being conducted by a New England-wide commission studying the workforce, says Joan McRae Stoia, director of the Campus Career Network.

Stoia, who is a visiting researcher at the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University, is working with the Commission on High Technology Workforce Development that is preparing a report for the New England Council on the region''s employment needs. Stoia is responsible for organizing a series of "summits" in each of the six New England states where commission members can gather data from employers. A report on the findings will be presented to the New England Council in 2001.

The focus of the commission is on science, engineering, and information technology (SEIT) employment and the labor pool that provides workers to fill jobs in those areas. The information that is generated will be available to the University at a time when campus officials are searching for ways to adjust the curriculum to give students the skills they need to meet the demand for trained workers in these fields.

Stoia is a member of the UMass Amherst Information Technology Working Group that has been formed to examine the need for developing cross-disciplinary programs that will eventually yield an information technology major. The working group is holding an organizational meeting on the UMass campus Oct. 13 to hear from students, staff, and faculty about the initiative.

"From the unique vantage point afforded by my work with the commission, I can appreciate how forward-thinking the UMass Amherst initiative is," Stoia says. "What we are doing here is developing what I would call a ''titanium curriculum'' - flexible enough to change with the times, yet able to provide highly durable skills for students who are preparing for jobs in the new economy."

Stoia also says her work with the commission will enhance her ability to develop new ways to connect UMass graduates with the industries that need well-trained high-technology workers.

"The employers I meet in connection with my New England Council activities are extremely pleased to hear that UMass Amherst is getting out in front on this issue," Stoia says.