Working together matching skills with jobs
Something very good happened in Montville last week.
The occasion was the grand opening dedication of the American Job Center in Montville. The job center is one of five in the state that coordinates with other organizations to offer skills to job seekers and a workforce pipeline to employers.
The occasion was a celebration of the public good that can come when government at the federal and state level combines with private enterprise and public-spirited generosity to make life in Connecticut a better place.
Among the movers and shakers speaking at the event was John Beauregard, the president of the Eastern Connecticut Workforce Investment Board. The Investment Board is a federally-funded program that supplies qualified job seekers to employers in our 41-town region. The ECWIB operates the Job Center in Montville.
The ECWIB board is composed of representatives from regional manufacturers, state agencies, organized labor and local educational institutions. The manufacturers identify the jobs they need filled and skills they need from the workers they hire. The educational institutions, with input from the unions, provide the classroom training. The state agencies coordinate the activity with other government entities and departments.
ECWIB has trained and placed 1,027 Connecticut adults in jobs with Electric Boat or one of its 140 supply-chain vendors since its inception 2 ½ years ago.
In March, ECWIB began working with Norwich Free Academy to design a high school workforce pipeline program. As part of this pilot program, NFA identified 20 students who would be a good fit. The first training session to prepare these students for available positions — taught at Three Rivers Community College — will finish on Friday. Several of the students have jobs from Electric Boat or one of the shipbuilder’s suppliers awaiting them when they complete the course.
The concept has spawned interest from other school districts in the region. Montville High School, Bacon Academy in Colchester and Plainfield High School have inquired about starting similar programs in their schools.
This bold and innovative initiative provides solutions to several urgent issues facing eastern Connecticut. The workforce program supplies trained and vetted employees to fill the roster for EB and its supply-chain vendors in Connecticut. EB already has hired several thousand more people to design and build two submarines a year for the Navy. In the coming years, EB estimates it will need to hire several thousand more skilled tradesmen to replace retirees and to meet the increased production demand.
The EWIB high school program also addresses a chronic problem of unemployment and underemployment among Connecticut’s young adults. Up to 30 percent of Connecticut high school graduates do not continue on with a college education. Of the 70 percent who do attend college, up to 20 percent drop out after one year.
The skills developed by participants in these programs will also be applicable to jobs in other high-tech manufacturing companies, critical to diversifying and growing the state’s economy.
A $450,000 grant from the Gawlicki Family Foundation of Hartford was awarded to the ECWIB to expand its youth pipeline development program to other school districts. The ECWIB will use some of that money to hire a program coordinator who will make connections with high school career guidance counselors across the region.
Manufacturing jobs for skilled trades provide a ticket to a solid middle-class lifestyle. The pay is good, the work is steady, and the union benefits can be bountiful. Currently, thanks to the surge at EB, there are plenty of quality manufacturing jobs to be had in the area. This program will help young Connecticut workers stay in their home state and get a head start on a solid career.
The collaboration among business leaders, government bureaucrats, trade unions and public education systems demonstrates the ability to achieve desired outcomes by working in concert to identify and achieve mutual interests.