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June 7, 2019

CT creates new workforce training entity

Lawmakers have seeded a newly created workforce fund with $1 million, and created a new board within the Department of Labor (DOL) to dole out grants for worker training.

H.B. 5001, which received final approval from the House and Senate on Wednesday, establishes the Workforce Training Authority and the Workforce Training Authority Fund.

The assistance will be aimed at a broad range of industries, including construction, health care, early childhood education, insurance, financial services, bioscience, advanced manufacturing, digital media, green technology and tourism, the bill says.

The authority, which will include board members from government and industry, may also develop industry-specific advisory councils.

The final two-year budget passed by lawmakers this week allocates $500,000 in each year of the coming biennium.

There might be more money than that available to the fund, though it’s not clear how much, as the bill also allows for private contributions, gifts, grants and bequests.

In addition to the new fund, H.B. 5001 also requires that DOL, in collaboration with workforce development boards, study programs available to jobseekers in the state, reporting findings back to the legislature by Jan. 1, 2020.

Chris Fryxell, president of Plainville-based Associated Builders and Contractors of Connecticut, testified during the legislative session that workforce development and job training are some of the most important issues facing Connecticut.

While filling manufacturing has been a top workforce development priority for the state, he noted that the construction industry also has major skills shortages.

Fryxell estimated there are 500,000 unfilled construction jobs in the U.S., including more than 40,000 in Connecticut. Those workforce shortages are only expected to rise as more baby boomers retire in the coming years.

“We must do a better job of promoting apprenticeship in construction, removing barriers to training and hiring and developing a pipeline of students exploring a career in the trades,” he said in written testimony. “We should promote careers in the trades earlier in our schools and encourage students to explore the trades, not merely as an ‘alternative’ to a four-year degree, but as a worthy and respectable career path.”

Read more

HBJ Special Report: Building Connecticut's workforce pipeline

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