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CT workforce office wins $24 million American Rescue Plan grant

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YEHYUN KIM / CTMIRROR.ORG
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Charles Morrison, 17, junior, left, watches Talyn Walsh, 16, junior, TIG welding at Ella T. Grasso Technical High School.

Connecticut’s Office of Workforce Strategy will receive $24 million in federal funding to expand job training programs that have struggled to meet demand amid a shortage of skilled workers in the state.

The OWS was one of 32 recipients selected for the Commerce Department’s $500 million “Good Jobs Challenge” program, funded through the American Rescue Plan and administered by Commerce’s Economic Development Administration.

The grant comes on top of an earlier $70 million in American Rescue Plan funding, which the state allocated to create CareerConneCT, a short-term training program aimed at workers displaced by the pandemic. Launched earlier this year, CareerConneCT quickly drew more than $250 million in grant applications — well above its $70 million budget.

“This is another significant grant for us to be able to continue our workforce efforts,” said Max Reiss, a spokesman for Gov. Ned Lamont.

Reiss said the grant will be used in a “targeted” way, to boost skills and help people struggling to return to the workforce. The funding will go toward training for the manufacturing, health care, information technology and biomedical sectors.

“This could be significant for as many as 2,000 people to get a strong foothold in one of these sectors,” Reiss said.

The application was highly competitive. More than 500 programs applied for the Good Jobs Challenge grant, which is expected to create a total of 50,000 jobs across 31 states.

In a press conference announcing the recipients Tuesday evening, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said the goal was to support programs that would boost labor force participation, bringing people back to work who’ve been more difficult to reach.

“We had a big emphasis on equity,” Raimondo said. “Reaching everyone, women, people of color, people without a college degree, people in rural communities. … What we’re trying to do is make sure we get to everyone in America who needs to be upskilled to have the training to get a job.”

The funding comes just over two weeks after Connecticut nabbed another competitive American Rescue Plan-funded grant. That one, $119 million from the Treasury Department, will be used by the state’s quasi-public venture capital outfit, Connecticut Innovations, to launch two funds — one aimed at supporting entrepreneurs from underrepresented communities and the other targeting clean energy, green technology and environmentally safe manufacturing startups.

On Wednesday, Gov. Ned Lamont is slated to announce a new $35 million workforce training program targeting the health care sector, also funded in part with American Rescue Plan money.

Presidential advisor and American Rescue Plan coordinator Gene Sperling said Tuesday that the president had set out two main goals for the broad COVID-19 spending bill.

“One was to jumpstart equitable, strong, job-related recovery to get us out of the crisis, but secondly, to ensure that we had an enduring equitable recovery.”

Sperling said the many workforce development initiatives it’s supporting “are really designed for that second goal — to make sure that even after we’ve lifted out of the worst of the crisis, that this is a recovery that’s going to meet the president’s values, our values of lifting everyone.”