How Can Government Support Manufacturers? Help Build A Skilled Workforce
Nicole Russo needs more employees. She’s the CEO and owner of Microboard Processing Inc. in Seymour. She said she lost close to 20% of her workforce amid the pandemic last summer.
“People couldn’t see their way through to the other side of how they were gonna take care of kids, elderly, and protect their own health if they felt compromised.”
Those employees were mostly older, experienced workers. And now she’s struggling to find a pool of qualified applicants.
She’s not alone. Jaime Scott, executive director of ManufactureCT, said, “Prior to the pandemic, we were saying there [were] about 6,000 job openings in manufacturing in the state and we’re only training for about half of that.” ManufactureCT advocates on behalf of manufacturers in the state in policy matters and workforce development.
Scott said overall, the manufacturing workforce has stayed fairly stable during the pandemic. Connecticut Department of Labor statistics show that in December 2019, there were 161,300 manufacturing jobs. In December of 2020 there were 158,200.
Manufacturing in the state can expect to see financial support in the third federal coronavirus relief bill. But industry leaders say they need more than a cash infusion, they need help building a skilled workforce.
Connecticut high schools are working to create a pipeline of skilled workers. State agencies and the private sector have created apprenticeship programs.
The federal monies expected to go to education and municipalities, Scott said, will ultimately help manufacturing. That, and a return to a normal economy as soon as possible.
Ali Oshinskie is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms. Ali covers the Naugatuck River Valley for Connecticut Public Radio. Email her at email@example.com and follow her on Twitter at @ahleeoh.