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CT Needs More Manufacturing Employees, One Program Is Trying To Prepare Workers

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Eric Wilson has been pretty busy lately. The 38-year-old has been working full time plus taking math classes in a pre-apprenticeship training program.

Wilson said that when he heard about the program, he thought, “‘I’m not gonna go to school, I’m gonna just get a job.’ But the job was for the moment, and this pre-apprentice program was for tomorrow.”

The WorkPlace, a nonprofit job placement organization in Bridgeport, is trying to get residents trained and into apprenticeships.

Thursday’s job data showed Connecticut’s economy is still continuing to recover jobs, but the state still has one of the highest unemployment rates in the country, coming in last place and tied with New Mexico. In the manufacturing sector, there are more job openings than qualified workers.

Wilson’s mindset about seeking a job for tomorrow is exactly what Sarah Lewis, the director of ApprenticeshipWorks, likes to see.

“A lot of these programs are long, and people need jobs now,” Lewis said of manufacturing training programs. They can take as much time and money as a bachelor’s degree, but this program is just a few weeks long and free.

In eight weeks, Wilson and his cohort learned the math and measurement skills necessary to take the certification test for metalworking apprenticeships. Some classes were run out of Derby High School and some virtually.

Lewis said the WorkPlace sees it “as a starting place for people who might not otherwise go into the sector.”

The WorkPlace wants both recent high school grads and adults looking for a new career. Residents of southwestern Connecticut under a certain income level are eligible, and the program has provided child care, transportation or housing for some so they can get into the mindset to learn.

The manufacturing sector was growing in Connecticut before the pandemic. It still hasn’t recovered completely, but there are plenty of job openings waiting to be filled.

Ali Oshinskie is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms. She loves hearing what you thought of her stories or story ideas you have so please email her at aoshinskie@ctpublic.org.
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