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February 19, 2024 Opinion & Commentary

Opinion: CT’s technical high schools bridge gap between opportunity and workforce needs

Ellen Solek

As leaders driving the Connecticut Technical Education and Career System (CTECS), we are witnessing a critical juncture in our state’s economic landscape.

The recent observations by Connecticut Business and Industry Association CEO and President Chris DiPentima regarding the surplus of job openings versus the shortage of skilled workers are emblematic of a challenge that affects us all.

However, it’s a challenge we are uniquely positioned to address.

Connecticut’s economy is ripe with opportunity, but the missing link lies in the alignment between these opportunities and a skilled workforce.

With about 85,000 job openings in our state, the urgency to bridge this gap is more apparent than ever. The solution? Empowering our youth with the education and skills required to step into these roles confidently and competently.

The CTECS stands as a pillar of transformation, providing comprehensive vocational education across a spectrum of industries, from health care to IT to advanced manufacturing.

But one striking facet that sets CTECS apart is the commitment to offering unique and specialized courses that extend beyond the conventional.

Take, for instance, programs in criminal justice and landscape design. These courses are not just innovative; they’re transformative in how they prepare students for specialized professions.

Our resolve extends beyond imparting knowledge. We are sculpting careers, shaping futures, and serving as the conduit between classroom learning and real-world application.

The narrative surrounding vocational education has evolved. No longer is it the secondary choice; it’s the forward-thinking pathway to success.

Our graduates are not just equipped with technical expertise; they possess adaptability, problem-solving acumen, and a practical understanding of their respective industries.

They are job-ready from day one.

The testimony lies in the success stories of our students. They aren’t just statistics; they’re the heartbeat of Connecticut’s future workforce.

They step into the workforce not only with qualifications, but with a sense of purpose and readiness to contribute meaningfully.

However, the potential of CTECS goes beyond merely addressing job openings; it’s about igniting a passion for learning and fostering a spirit of innovation.

Our institutions are incubators for talent, where students learn to embrace challenges and thrive in a world that demands constant evolution.

In addressing the concerns highlighted by Mr. DiPentima, the CTECS offers a beacon of hope by providing early entry into the workforce and offering a practical solution to the skills gap. We are not just educating, we are revitalizing communities and fortifying Connecticut’s economic foundation.

The time has come to celebrate the transformative power of vocational education.

Let us continue to champion these invaluable institutions, not just as pathways to careers, but as catalysts for change, driving Connecticut’s prosperity and pioneering a brighter future for generations to come.

Ellen Solek is the executive director of schools at the Connecticut Technical Education and Career System.

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