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CT launches $70 million accelerated workforce training program

U.S. Labor Secretary Marty Walsh speaks about skilled job training at Ella T. Grasso technical high school in Groton on August 16, 2022.
U.S. Labor Secretary Marty Walsh speaks about skilled job training at Ella T. Grasso technical high school in Groton on August 16, 2022.

The Connecticut Office of Workforce Strategy on Tuesday launched a $70 million job training program to fill more than 6,000 skilled jobs as businesses around the state face ongoing challenges hiring the workers they need.

The effort, known as CareerConneCT and funded through the American Rescue Plan, offers an online portal to register for short-term skills training for jobs in manufacturing, health care, information technology and other fields at no cost to participants. Nineteen partner programs will provide the training along with supportive services such as child care, transportation and housing assistance for those who enroll.

Kelli-Marie Vallieres, director of the workforce strategy office, said the program was designed to help workers most impacted by the COVID pandemic as well as residents from historically marginalized populations, including veterans, immigrants, formerly incarcerated people, individuals with disabilities, women and people of color.

“Currently there are over 100,000 open positions in Connecticut with approximately 67,000 unemployed workers,” Vallieres said. “A fundamental issue in these open positions is a mismatch in skills of those who are unemployed and underemployed.”

CareerConneCT programs, which take between five and 12 weeks to complete and offer an industry-recognized credential, intend to close that gap. The initiative will also coordinate closely with employers to ensure that those who complete training have a job waiting for them.

Businesses across the state have sounded alarms this year about a shortage of workers, which has compounded anxiety about inflation, supply chain delays and other concerns.

By launching accelerated training programs and simplifying the experience by providing child care, housing and other assistance, state leaders hope to see workforce woes easing soon.

“We’ve got to do everything we can to make sure you have the trained, skilled labor ready to go,” Gov. Ned Lamont said Tuesday.

The CareerConneCT announcement came on the occasion of a visit to the state by U.S. Labor Secretary Marty Walsh and members of Connecticut’s congressional delegation, Rep. Joe Courtney and Sen. Richard Blumenthal.

Courtney explained that CareerConneCT takes after an earlier workforce development program, known as the Manufacturing Pipeline Initiative and run out of the Eastern Connecticut Workforce Investment Board, which has trained 2,500 workers for jobs building submarines in the region.

“Eighty percent of the graduates had zero experience in manufacturing,” Courtney said. “I mean, they literally walked in the door with no experience and walked out the door eight to 10 weeks later, ready to be hired.”

In directing $70 million of the state’s American Rescue Plan funds toward launching CareerConneCT, the governor and state legislature intended to replicate the same model in other industries.

“To their credit, [they] recognized that it was more than just disaster response — it was about pivoting out of COVID and trying to grow the economy,” Courtney said Tuesday. “This is a really smart use of ARPA dollars.”

Walsh said the labor department would like to be able to replicate that model across the country.

“Connecticut is doing it right. It’s the exact kind of programs that we need to invest in our working people so we can meet this moment in time,” Walsh said. “I think the pandemic put a light on the fact that we have a worker shortage, but in reality we had a worker shortage the day before the pandemic happened.”

Earlier this month, the U.S. Commerce Department awarded Connecticut’s Office of Workforce Strategy a $24 million grant to support a related program known as “regional sector partnerships.”

Vallieres said Tuesday that the grant will be “leveraging” the CareerConneCT program and will include an expansion of the Manufacturing Pipeline Initiative as well as the development of a “youth health care pipeline initiative” and other programs.

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