In the late 1980s, observers of the Massachusetts hospital industry were predicting a severe shortfall in skilled technical workers. The Worker Education Program (WEP) emerged as one of several responses to this projected labor shortage. It was premised on the idea of an internal solution to the need for workforce development, shifting the focus from external recruitment to upgrading of incumbents — nutrition, maintenance, clerical, and secretarial staff— and from traditional classroom training to workplace education. Other features of the WEP model made it an extremely interesting experiment: it was operated by labor-management partnership, it was located statewide in nine different hospitals, it offered a college prep as well as a college-level curriculum, and it involved community colleges in a collaborative network. The author provides a narrative and assess-ment of the WEP, reporting the results of surveys and program observation. Participants, who were overwhelmingly positive in their evaluation of the program, provide insights into the ambitions and fears, needs and hopes, of lower-tier workers in the industry. The reasons for the failure to institutionalize the WEP — economic and institutional — are also discussed.



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