HQ2 Competitor Exchanges Thoughts on Workforce

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(Marty Walsh is the mayor of Boston, Massachusetts.) (Marty Walsh is the mayor of Boston, Massachusetts.)
INDIANAPOLIS -

The mayor of another city competing for the Amazon.com Inc. (Nasdaq: AMZN) second headquarters project is discussing some techniques he says Indianapolis could employ to land the tech giant and other projects. Boston's Marty Walsh, whose city, like Indianapolis, is among 20 finalists vying for the so-called HQ2, says training and streamlining city processes are keys.

The online marketplace's second headquarters is expected to involve a more than $5 billion investment and some 50,000 jobs. No specific timeline on when the location will be decided has been detailed, though Amazon says it could come by the end of the year.

Following a recent presentation in Indianapolis organized by Washington D.C.-based New America, a think-tank focused on innovations that solve public problems, Walsh told Inside INdiana Business Reporter Mary-Rachel Redman his city is also combating skills gaps.

His solution to bridging the gaps? "It has to be training, it has to be money involved in training," he said. "In Boston, we launched a program called Boston Hires where we're going to train or retrain 20,000 workers by the year 2022 into tech jobs and jobs like that. It's a difficult situation, it's very complicated, because sometimes you're talking with an older workforce that technology is a little beyond what they want to do or can understand. So, it has to be training, it has to be comprehensive job training. Not training somebody for something that they can't accomplish, but actually training them for a job they can do."

New America Indianapolis Director Molly Martin says the idea exchange that featured Walsh and was hosted last week at the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 481 office in Indianapolis provided an opportunity to talk about the future of the workforce and how it's changing everyday. "When we talk about jobs going away, really what we mean are that tasks are being automated -- the tasks that make up a job," she said. "The reason that concerns us is that we want to make sure that people who are in vulnerable positions -- low-skill, low-paid jobs -- have a pathway to something where they can find more mobility. So, manufacturing jobs aren't disappearing, they're changing, and in some ways, they're growing." Martin says it's important to steer the national conversation toward skills instead of specific jobs types or title, "because we think that will give workers the opportunity to go from employer to employer. People are going to have to be adaptable and nimble. That's they conversation."

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