Group invests $343,000 in worker retraining

Fifty-two businesses in eastern Connecticut will receive more than $343,000 to help retrain local workers for today's marketplace.

The funding, announced by the Franklin-based Eastern Connecticut Workforce Investment Board, represents an investment of nearly $1 million in the local labor pool, because each of the businesses selected must contribute at least a matching amount for retraining. About 825 workers in eastern Connecticut will receive training.

"The best way we can help our businesses who are providing the jobs is to help them compete - and that means keeping their workforce equipped with leading edge skills," said Tom Burns, the workforce board's chairman and director of training for Northeast Utilities, in a statement.

The workforce board's Incumbent Worker Training Review Panel reviewed 128 applications - a 38 percent increase from last year - before deciding on which companies would receive retraining funds. The workforce stimulus is funded by the board and the state Department of Labor.

"The economy is tough, and we know that businesses everywhere are trying to maximize their productivity to stay competitive," said John Beauregard, the workforce board's executive director. "Our goal here is to tap into all resources available to help regional businesses and jobseekers succeed."

The workforce board, which oversees employment and training strategies throughout the region, said the retraining should help businesses boost productivity, stay globally competitive and generate jobs.

"This incumbent worker training initiative is a key retention-based strategy that produces economic growth for the area." said John Markowicz, executive director of the Southeastern Connecticut Enterprise Region and a member of the workforce group's board.

The Incumbent Worker Training Review Team comprises representatives of the Labor Department, Southeastern Connecticut Enterprise Region, the Northeast Connecticut Economic Alliance and the workforce board's Regional Workforce Innovation Council. The team first identified core skills required by local businesses and emerging industries, then focused on providing training resources that offered the "biggest bang for the buck," said Cynthia Lamb, chairwoman of the innovation council.

"Again this year, our focus with this money was on supporting training opportunities that advanced the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) capacity within our region's workforce, and as a result, our ability to adapt and innovate," she said in a statement.

l.howard@theday.com

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