Former Mass. Secretary of Labor to Devote Herself to Employability of Northeastern U. Graduates

Eric Haynes

Joanne F. Goldstein
March 17, 2014

As Joanne F. Goldstein was wrestling with issues over a flawed computer system in her job as secretary of labor and work-force development for Massachusetts, a new job was beckoning: one in which she would focus on employment opportunities not for the entire state but a select group of students.

In January, she stepped down from the governor’s cabinet so she could become vice president for work-force development and employer engagement in the College of Professional Studies at Northeastern University. She will begin the position, a newly created one, in May.

Before becoming labor secretary in 2010, Ms. Goldstein was a labor lawyer, general counsel to the Utility Workers Union of America AFL-CIO, and chief of the Fair Labor Division of the Office of the Attorney General in Massachusetts. This is her first time working for a university, she says.

"As we get an aging work force and as technology changes just so rapidly, individuals need new skill sets and new technological advantages," Ms. Goldstein says. The new position will allow her to further work-force development "in a way that will be very interesting."

Ms. Goldstein says she will develop a strategic plan on how the college can best engage with businesses and create partnerships with them. She plans to engage in "constant communication" to determine what employers, faculty, and students need, and try to find "that middle space where it all matches."

John LaBrie, dean of the College of Professional Studies and the university’s vice president for professional education, says, "We’ve only started scratching the surface in the engagement side," so "I think it will be important for Joanne to get out there and hear what the employer community is wanting out of university graduates."

The college offers degrees or certificates in 37 areas of study, including criminal justice, finance and accounting, and law and policy. Many of the programs can be taken entirely online.

About 11,000 students, most of them at the graduate level, are enrolled in the college’s courses. Most of them are working adults, often already employed in the sector in which they are studying and hoping to improve their skills or advance in their fields.

Ms. Goldstein’s resignation from her cabinet position in January followed months of criticism of a computer system designed to manage unemployment claims and benefits. The $46-million system was delivered two years late and $6-million over budget. Problems with the system, The Boston Globe reported, led to thousands of overtime hours for state workers and an investigation by a commonwealth Senate panel.

Ms. Goldstein says the turmoil is not what prompted her resignation.

"I left totally voluntarily because Northeastern presented me an opportunity to use my work-force development skills and experience in a way that was just so right for me," she says.
Mr. LaBrie says he has been discussing the initiative and the position with Ms. Goldstein for more than a year.

"What emerged out of that conversation was a remarkable alignment with her personal goals and vision of work-force development," he says.

Mr. LaBrie says the controversy surrounding the unemployment-claims system was noted in vetting Ms. Goldstein, but it was not a factor in the university’s decision to hire her.

"The attributes that we were most interested in in her profile was really that work-force development and both understanding the labor situation here in the Northeast and nationally," he says.