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Workforce Development

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At the Massachusetts AFL-CIO, we provide job-skill-based education and training because we understand that a highly skilled workforce is essential to keeping Massachusetts competitive. We believe that unions must work with employers to continuously upgrade the skills of workers, and that effective partnerships are essential to that goal.

Workforce Development

The Massachusetts AFL-CIO Workforce Development Programs, Inc., (WDP) - the organization’s 501(c) (3) education and training arm - works with unions, employers, and the public workforce system to form partnerships that focus on innovation, productivity, and skills. The WDP accomplishes these goals by concentrating on the following measures to prevent union company closures: (1) Retain union companies in Massachusetts (2) Work to upgrade the skills of union workers, (3) Create an early warning system through our State Federation, our Central Labor Councils and our affiliates.

Using best practices in rapid response services and workforce development, the organization works closely with national agencies such as the AFL-CIO’s Working for America Institute, the National Employment Law Project, as well as the United States Department Of Labor and the Massachusetts Congressional delegation.

Massachusetts AFL-CIO Workforce Development Programs, Inc. serves as labor’s voice in the workforce development system by serving on Workforce Development Boards across the state including professional associations like the Massachusetts Workforce Association and the Workforce Solutions Group.

Link to Mass Workforce Association

The Massachusetts Workforce Association (MWA) is a statewide membership association that leads, advocates, and convenes on behalf of the Massachusetts workforce development system.

Link to Workforce Solutions Group

The Workforce Solutions Group is a statewide advocacy coalition that plays a major role in setting the state’s agenda for skills training and workforce development. They advocate for an effective training and education system that increases workers' skills, advances families to self-sufficiency, and promotes job creation and economic growth.


  • Tools for the Trades
    • A 4-day program during April school vacation, that gives high school students an introduction to the trades and hands-on work experience in fields such as construction, heavy equipment operation, plumbing, carpentry, painting, and more. The program allows students to learn about careers in various trades fields and spark interest in a path different from, but just as rewarding as a traditional college experience.
  • SkillsBuild Pre-Apprenticeship Programs
    • The SkillsBuild Pre-Apprenticeship training program is a six-week comprehensive exploratory training program registered with the Division of Apprenticeship Standards, designed to prepare participants with the skills and knowledge to enter into a state-registered building trades apprenticeship program or enter a career track in the construction trades industry. Participants receive hands-on training, classroom instruction, and work experience from licensed professionals in the building trades. The program prioritizes applicants from underrepresented populations and environmental justice communities that often face barriers entering high-quality careers.
    • The program is co-sponsored by Building Pathways, the New England Laborer’s Training Trust, the Building Trades Training Directors Association, the Massachusetts AFL-CIO, and MassHire Metro South/West Career Connections.


  • Building Pathways
    • Founded by the Greater Boston Building Trades, Building Pathways is dedicated to the recruitment, retention, and advancement of under-represented groups in the union building trades, including women, people of color, and other under-served communities.
  • Community Works
    • Community Works is adult pre-apprenticeship program in Western Massachusetts for the building/construction trades and the transportation/highway. 


The Massachusetts AFL-CIO Rapid Response Team partners with the State Rapid Response team to assist unions and workers who are experiencing layoffs or downsizing. The program helps people access new jobs, job training or retraining, job counseling and more. Programs include:

  • Providing Rapid Response services that annually assist thousands of laid-off workers, their unions, companies and communities
  • Assisting dislocated workers in search of a new career path, either through re-training or job search
  • Helping the State access funding to assist dislocated workers (e.g., National Emergency Grants from the U.S. Secretary of Labor and Trade Adjustment Assistance)
  • Developing layoff aversion strategies, where possible, to prevent layoffs and dislocations
  • Promoting and utilizing the WorkShare program to avert layoffs
  • Researching, developing, and employing best practices in dislocated worker services
  • Providing worker training services to assist unions, employers, and labor-management partnerships to address the training needs of individual workers  
  • Designing training programs to benefit businesses and workers
  • Delivering training and technical assistance to labor representatives on the Commonwealth’s Workforce Investment Boards

Link to State Dislocated Worker Program: National Dislocated Worker Grants (NDWGs)

Link to MassBizworks Guide

What to do when you lose your job?

Information about Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA)

  • The TAA program helps workers who have lost their jobs as a result of foreign trade to quickly rejoin the workforce

For more information contact:

Bob Bower

Sezan McDaniel