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CT officials address worker shortage, saying 6,000 public sector jobs are waiting to be filled

At the AFSCME job fair at Dunkin' Park, Julissa Echevarria of Hartford said she is looking for a better paying job, but has been disappointed by how many discount her years of job experience because she does not have a bachelor's degree.
Tyler Russell
/
Connecticut Public
Julissa Echevarria of Hartford said she's looking for a better paying job, but has been disappointed by how many discount her years of job experience because she does not have a bachelor's degree.

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Under scorching heat, city officials, state officials and union representatives gathered under a tent across the street from Hartford's Dunkin' Park to discuss the shortage of public sector workers.

Officials said they need to fill about 6,000 public sector jobs. Open positions include everything from corrections, bus driving, social services and more.

American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) President Lee Saunders said their union is building partnerships nationwide to recruit and retain strong candidates for public service jobs.

AFSCME member Meagan Balducci welcomes in attendees and directs them to registration at the hiring hall event at Dunkin' Park in Hartford.
Tyler Russell
/
Connecticut Public
AFSCME member Meagan Balducci welcomes in attendees and directs them to registration at the hiring hall event at Dunkin' Park in Hartford.

"We're connecting with young people who often don't know about these jobs or where to get the information about these jobs,” Saunders said. “We're reaching out to communities that are underrepresented in these jobs."

At the stadium, a jobs fair showcased 30 municipalities and state agencies recruiting including the Capitol Region Education Council and the Metropolitan District Commission water utility.

Monica Bacaro is originally from Ecuador, but has been a Norwalk resident for over a decade. She said she has a college education and came to the job fair looking for clerical work.

"The Spanish community needs a lot of help out there,” Bacaro said. “But it seems that it's kind of hard to get in. I'm kinda skeptical. I think maybe if you know somebody that can refer you. But you never know; you can try."

Julissa Echevarria is from Hartford. She learned about the job fair recently and said she is interested in finding a job with flexibility to take care of her one-year-old son.

"There wasn't really much advertisement,” Echevarria said. “I knew about this because a state employee told me. It is hard to find a good job that pays well. Hopefully, everyone can find a good job and start working again."

Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont emphasized the importance of these jobs. He said that the shortage of public sector workers affects society daily and that these open positions are an incredible opportunity to do meaningful work.

Estelle Highsmith was laid off last August from an IT job she had held for 15 years. She's been working with various job programs to transition her skills to something new, but with no luck yet.
Tyler Russell
/
Connecticut Public
Estelle Highsmith was laid off last August from an IT job she had held for 15 years. She's been working with various job programs to transition her skills to something new, but with no luck yet.

"We hired 9,000 people this year so far," Lamont said. He also mentioned there could be work opportunities for the thousands of immigrants living in the state.

"When it comes to work permits for people coming into our state, I still need permission from the federal government to do that," Lamont said. "But we are doing everything we can to put people back to work, and those people are gonna get a job as soon as we can."

Officials and union representatives urged millennials and Gen Z to join unions and reported that 88% of workers nationwide are pro-union.

David Seymour, from Manchester, has a degree in communications and said he was interested in the job postings.

"I have experience in social media management and working on campaigns," Seymour said. "I'm a millennial, and what I'm seeing is that there's a lot of seniors and a lot of people with the older generation that just need to retire.”

Officials also expressed their thanks to all frontline public sector workers for their efforts during the pandemic. Officials and the union representatives encouraged people to apply for public sector jobs which they said offer good retirement benefits.

An AFSCME volunteer passes out water to those waiting for a hiring event amid extreme temperatures.
Tyler Russell
/
Connecticut Public
An AFSCME volunteer passes out water to those waiting for a hiring event amid extreme temperatures.

Maricarmen Cajahuaringa is a journalist with extensive experience in Latino communities' politics, social issues, and culture. She founded Boceto Media, a digital Spanish-language newspaper based in Connecticut. Maricarmen holds a Bachelor's in Social Work from Springfield College, and a Master's in Journalism and Media Production from Sacred Heart University. As a reporter for Connecticut Public, she is dedicated to delivering accurate and informative coverage of the Hispanic/Latino population in the region. Maricarmen is an experienced and passionate journalist who strives to bring a voice to the stories of her community.

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