Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) joined managers, employees and workforce development leaders on March 1 in Middletown to spotlight a $10 million federal investment in Connecticut’s advanced manufacturing workforce.
Blumenthal visited leading aerospace components manufacturer , which, in conjunction with local community colleges, chambers, and economic development organizations, will use these funds to train and hire workers in high-growth, highly-competitive sectors.
In the midst of the longest jobs recession on record, Connecticut continues to have a disconnect between available jobs and available workforce. Trained and job-ready individuals are especially sought after in technical fields where the emphasis is on Science Technology Engineering Math Skills.
In an effort to narrow that gap and increase the number of Connecticut residents gaining those jobs, Workforce Alliance and Eastern CT Workforce Investment Board, and their partners in Community Colleges, private employers, economic development organizations and chambers of commerce, have won a four-year grant to put talented people together with well-paying technical jobs.
The STEM OJT Initiative will use On The Job Training resources to put approximately 361 long-term unemployed workers back to work on career paths in growing occupations in the South Central and Eastern regions of Connecticut. The effort targets three STEM fields that play an essential role in the regional and state economy: Information Technology (I/T), Engineering, and Advanced Manufacturing.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal said, “I hear constantly from businesses and manufacturers around the state that they have jobs to fill but need people with the skills to fill them. These grants respond to the need for skill training vital to putting people in Connecticut back to work. Expanding access to on-the-job training, postsecondary, and adult education helps ensure that all workers can obtain skills and credentials required for well-paying jobs.”
According to Workforce Alliance President & CEO William Villano, “This recession, combined with structural changes in the job market, has created chaos in the lives of many hard-working families.” This program will target the long-term unemployed, those unemployed or underemployed for more than 27 weeks, as well as veterans, people with disabilities and women. The target market is large — over 14 percent of the 61,000 unemployed in the service region had previously held jobs in these occupations, and half those registrants had education levels of Associate Degree or above.
U.S. Reps. Rosa DeLauro and Joe Courtney worked to bring the grants to Connecticut from the United States Department of Labor for technical skills training in high-growth industries like advanced manufacturing and technology. These grants are funded through the application fees employers pay for H1-B non-immigrant visas and reduce the need for employers to look outside of the U.S. for appropriately-skilled employees.
“Connecticut workers cannot afford to lose employment opportunities due to a lack of technical skills needed for the job,” said Congresswoman DeLauro. “These awards fund strategic public-private partnerships that will move some of Connecticut’s unemployed into high-growth, high-skill occupations.”
“New Haven’s Workforce Alliance will partner with the Eastern Connecticut Workforce Investment Board to make substantial investments in Connecticut’s workforce,” said Congressman Courtney. “This critically needed injection of funds will deliver valuable new skills to employees competing for the jobs of the 21st century right here at home.”
Chris DiPentima, President of , a family-owned company in Middletown, said, “There is a mismatch between the skills of many of the people looking for work and the skills we require in high tech manufacturing. This new program could help companies like ours, as well as employees.”
The partners, including Community Colleges, professionals in workforce development, chambers of commerce and local economic development organizations, will work with students in their last semester at school. They will offer general counseling, job search techniques, and leads to On the Job Training employment that students will enter on graduation. Because it is a 4-year grant, Workforce Alliance will be able to monitor graduates and provide additional services if required.
According to a CBIA’s survey, 37 percent of businesses reported difficulty finding qualified employees, especially among manufacturers. The skills most lacking were CNC operation, blueprint reading and job specific skills; advanced skills such as problem solving, computer and scientific skills; and leadership skills. The 2000 members of the Connecticut Technology Council described the difficulty in hiring qualified mid-level I/T employees as “dire”.
These are well-paid positions, providing a true living wage. The average wage for all I/T occupations in Connecticut is $38.79/hr. The average wage for engineering in Connecticut is $38.45/hr., and for manufacturing occupations overall it was $17.37/hr., with average wages ranging from $12.39/hr. for saw machine operators to $29.43/hr. for supervisors and managers. Overall average wage in CT is $24.90. It is estimated that our candidates will receive $21.67 to start at placement in employment.