An advisory group that spent the last year examining ways to improve workforce development in Connecticut submitted its report Wednesday to Gov. Ned Lamont just as the economy has been “knocked to its knees” by COVID-19.
The report recommended numerous strategies to match skilled workers to jobs in manufacturing, health care and information technology. The group also turned its attention to social problems that trap low-wage workers.
It calls for establishing better child care at a reasonable cost to help parents find and keep work; accessible and affordable transportation; and support for those with mental health challenges.
“And we must untangle the web of government support programs that often create disincentives to work,” it said.
Among its recommendations, the advisory group called for the launch of three to five skills-based hiring pilot initiatives, establish talent retention organizations in three cities by 2022 and establish training programs for “high-priority jobs” in manufacturing, health care, and IT by December 2021.
The report also urged the state to establish a regionally based high school career advising system by December 2021.
Lamont commissioned the report in October 2019, enlisting executives at some of the biggest companies in Connecticut. Five months later the coronavirus swept through Connecticut, forcing businesses to shut and leaving hundreds of thousands of workers jobless.
A year ago, Connecticut’s economy had historically low unemployment and officials and businesses were talking about a skills gap, looking for ways to match workers with high paid manufacturing and other jobs.
“The economy has been knocked to its knees by the virus, creating enormous hardship and scrambling the job market," the report said.
Garrett Moran, chairman of the workforce commission and a long time friend of the governor, said COVID19 caused a “biblical level of disaster that changed everything.”
"We now look at workers through a different lens,” he said at a presentation at Stanley Black & Decker’s Advanced Manufacturing Center of Excellence in Hartford.
The emphasis will remain the skills gap and training, he said. But officials also are looking at child care, transportation and other issues, “and it’s a hellacious problem,” Moran said.
“It’s a system that’s kind of broken,” he said. “We need to help people escape from minimum wage hell.”
“All of this costs money, but a lot of it is not expensive really,” Moran said. “Most of it is getting people in a room to talk about what we need to do.”
Asked how the recommendations are different from previous workforce development recommendation, Lamont said businesses are involved in defining job requirements and training. Among its recommendations, the report calls for businesses to recruit future workers on college campuses.
Stephen Singer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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