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Training a workforce for economic recovery

As Connecticut recovers from the pandemic, it is critical that we prioritize the development of a high-skilled workforce. With record unemployment levels, there is an opportunity to reskill and upskill Connecticut’s workers, so they enter a new, high-demand, career that pays a family-sustaining wage.

As a business owner, having access to a talent pipeline of highly skilled individuals will allow my business to be more productive, increase bottom-line growth, and better meet the needs of my customers. Having a highly skilled workforce will benefit Connecticut’s regional and local economies by creating higher revenues for our towns and municipalities from business activities, while supporting small businesses through increased incomes of residents. That, in turn, attracts more businesses who want access to a high-performing workforce.

Gov. Ned Lamont recently announced two pieces of legislation, S.B. 881, An Act Concerning Workforce Development, and S.B. 885, An Act Concerning the Governor’s Budget Recommendations for General Government, both of which have several proposals that develop a stronger workforce and talent pipeline for companies.

One such proposal in S.B. 881 is a statewide training program known as CareerConneCT, which would improve the lives of the public, as well as local businesses and educational institutions. CareerConneCT offers access to funding for high-quality, short-term, training programs that are now financially inaccessible to thousands of residents. As the workforce continues to rapidly change, there needs to be more of a focus on skills, rather than just two- and four-year degrees. CareerConneCT will help residents earn new skills so they can enter a new career or progress within their current career path.

To ensure success of these workforce training programs, we must build a coordinated workforce ecosystem. There is often a disconnect between educational institutions, workforce organizations, and the business community, which leads to high-quality job needs being unintentionally dismissed or overlooked. In eastern Connecticut, the business community has benefitted from working with regional educational institutions to develop a workforce that has the skills required for the jobs available. This has resulted in a higher return on investment of state and federal resources as well as an increased talent pipeline for businesses.

S.B. 885 proposes codifying the Office of Workforce Strategy, which would coordinate state agencies, workforce development boards, businesses, educational institutions, and community organizations to support regional workforce development efforts, while breaking down siloes that inhibit such efforts and assuring programs and policies are designed to serve all residents.

As a member of the Eastern Advanced Manufacturing Association, I have seen the benefits of businesses, nonprofits, and educational institutions collaborating to find a strategy that serves all participants. This collaboration would not have been possible if the different entities worked in their own siloes.

EAMA has made significant progress in developing a regional strategy for manufacturing training that directly supports Connecticut residents and businesses. This progress was made possible through the work of Kelli Vallieres, who, before entering her role as the executive director of the Office of Workforce Strategy, coordinated these various stakeholders to create a unified voice and solution that helped all participants. Having leaders in government who can cross boundaries to communicate and coordinate action creates better results, while ensuring the needs of all participants are met.

This proposed statewide coordination would reinforce a system whereby government supports the community and safeguards the interests of those it serves, while improving enrollment into high-quality educational programs and developing a talent pipeline for businesses. The result would be higher growth and productivity.

As a lifetime resident and business owner in eastern Connecticut, as well as a parent of students in local schools, I believe SB 881 and 885 will positively impact these aspects of community life. In particular, I am hopeful that the Office of Workforce Strategy can build on the great work that has already taken place.

Meredith Shay is the owner of InCord, which manufactures netting for a wide variety of uses. It is located in Colchester.



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