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April 17, 2024 Focus: Higher Education

Lamont to CT employers: Be more like UConn coaches Hurley, Auriemma in building successful teams

HBJ Photo | Skyler Frazer A panel at the 2024 Connecticut Workforce Summit consisting of, from left to right: Adhlere Coffy, senior portfolio director at Connecticut Opportunity Project; David Golfin, associate director and deputy chief engineer at Pratt & Whitney; Tara Spain, vice president and COO of Travelers Foundation; Vilma Cuevas, associate vice president of talent Strategy at Nuvance Health; and Julie DeGennaro, associate executive director of Domus.

Gov. Ned Lamont had basketball on his mind during the 2024 Connecticut Workforce Summit event earlier this week: contemplating how Dan Hurley and Geno Auriemma built championship-caliber teams through recruitment and talent development.

Speaking at Tuesday’s event, which was hosted by the Connecticut Business & Industry Association (CBIA), Lamont recalled how the two coaches scour the globe for top talent to ultimately create cohesive teams that work together toward their goals of winning championships.

And with some 86,000 open jobs in the state in February, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Lamont emphasized the importance of casting wide nets when recruiting talent and increasing opportunities for young people seeking employment.

“It really is key to our economic future,” Lamont said. “Our workforce is our great strategic advantage.”

Panels at the event discussed the importance of involving nontraditional populations, such as formerly incarcerated individuals and disconnected young people in the labor market, and establishing career pathways for people that need assistance.

“One of the things we don't often talk about enough is how many young people are actually in a position to seize workforce opportunities,” said Adhlere Coffy, one of the event’s moderators and senior portfolio director at the Connecticut Opportunity Project, a social investment fund of nonprofit Dalio Education.

Coffy alluded to a report recently produced by nonprofit Dalio Education — “Connecticut's Unspoken Crisis: Getting young people back on track” — that identified about 63,000 disconnected young people in the state, the majority of whom could fill open jobs if given appropriate support. Disconnected youth are young people who are off-track toward continuing their education or entering the workforce after high school.

During the event, company officials from major Connecticut employers like Pratt & Whitney and Travelers Cos., shared ways they’ve helped reach young people that have typically been left behind in the past.

Pratt & Whitney

David Golfin, an associate director and deputy chief engineer at Pratt & Whitney, said his company partners with the University of Connecticut on three youth outreach programs starting from the K-12 grade levels up to college. 

Specifically, Pratt focuses on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education and aims to showcase career opportunities in those fields. Its Engineering Ambassadors program, for example, brings undergraduate college engineering students back to their local high school, so younger people can see that someone from their community pursued an education and career in a STEM field.

“It's all about finding the students that might not have otherwise considered a career in engineering, and showing them how rewarding it can be and how accessible it can be, and giving them role models and then support as they transition into college,” Golfin said.

In addition to getting young people interested in STEM and manufacturing-related careers before college, Pratt & Whitney works with UConn to host a multi-week program for incoming “underrepresented minority” freshman engineering students. The program allows students to meet their peers, develop mentor opportunities, and learn more about the programs they’re entering.

Scholarship opportunities and hands-on internships are also available to students through Pratt’s partnership with UConn.

“We give them the tools to succeed, the programs give them the tools to succeed when they're starting their careers at UConn and then finally at Pratt,” Golfin said.


Travelers launched its Travelers EDGE program in 2007, as a way to support future potential employees who typically come from economically disadvantaged backgrounds and might need holistic and financial support to further their educations and career plans.

“We saw a shortage of young people from our communities in our industry, and so we wanted to address that,” said Tara Spain, vice president and chief operating officer at the Travelers Foundation, which is Travelers Cos.’ philanthropic arm that runs the EDGE program.

Travelers EDGE helps participating students plan for college and insurance-related careers, and includes financial scholarship and stipend opportunities to help them pay for school.

“Students face several barriers financially, so that scholarship was designed really to try to remove as much of that financial barrier as possible,” Spain said. “So, each one of our students that are going to four-year universities receive $15,000 a year, and then students that are in the community college system would be $6,500 a year.”

Paired with the financial support is on-campus academic advising resources, mentoring and professional development opportunities like internships, she said.

In 2022, Travelers EDGE marked its 15th anniversary. At that time, Travelers said the program helped more than 300 students complete bachelor’s degrees, and more than 100 of those graduates have gone on to pursue a career at Travelers.

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