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CWP Targets Training, Development and Marketing to Help Build Connecticut’s Manufacturing Workforce

Timothy Blonsky
By Timothy Blonsky Advanced Manufacturing Coordinator, Capital Workforce Partners

Capital Workforce Partners (CWP) is the regional workforce development board in North Central Connecticut; our objective is to help individuals overcome barriers to employment and build the necessary skill sets to meet business hiring needs.

Through the American Job Center network, CWP invests in youth development, develops sustainable career pathways for adult workers and assists employers, all with a focus on our sector initiatives: manufacturing, healthcare, and construction. Through labor market information studies, we project thousands of new openings over the next few years in manufacturing due to economic growth and an aging workforce. Our motto is “Find, Retain, Grow.”

Manufacturing has long been a robust part of Connecticut’s economy. The Hartford region, home to Pratt and Whitney and Sikorsky, is known as the “Knowledge Corridor” or “Aerospace Alley.” Connecticut has hundreds of supply chain manufacturers for larger regional companies, accounting for over 169,000 manufacturing employees statewide, including 50,000 in the North Central region alone. Nearly a third of the manufacturing workforce is close to retirement age and will take with them upwards of 30 years of experience, leaving a need for new skilled workers to take their place.

One of the tasks of workforce development boards is to bring partners together to address workforce needs. Here are some examples:

Education Partners

In 2012, with the aerospace industry growing, Connecticut focused on revamping its manufacturing education centers within several community colleges around the state, creating seven advanced manufacturing technology centers. In the North Central region, we worked with Asnuntuck Community College and Manchester Community College to recruit advanced manufacturing cohorts for short-term (six to 12 months) training in areas such as CNC machining, 3D printing, welding, and quality control. We also partner with Goodwin College, a private school, which houses its manufacturing center in a former Pratt and Whitney facility. Through our American Job Center network, we provide hundreds of scholarships annually through the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA).

These programs provide placement rates above 90%, generally in well-paying jobs. We also educate the general public about manufacturing jobs and the credentials needed to secure them. We opened a new American Job Center in the Asnuntuck Community College building and will soon be announcing another center located at the Tunxis Community College satellite campus in Bristol. Tunxis is opening an advanced manufacturing technology center this fall.

In East Hartford, CWP is working with Synergy Alternative High School through our lead partner, the Connecticut Center for Advanced Technology (CCAT), to introduce high school students to pre-apprenticeship education via CCAT’s Manufacturing Education Center. The successful program includes Tooling U-SME courses and works with employers to provide 72 hours of hands-on experience. In these partnerships, we are tweaking the paradigm of post-secondary education to a model in which the general public can take part in short-term training and continue their education while working, thereby not incurring college-related debt.

Manufacturing Partners

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Phoenix Manufacturing Inc. (Enfield, CT) works with CWP on various projects. The company supplies component parts for aerospace industry companies such as United Technologies, Parker and General Dynamics.

Our partners at CCAT serve as the manufacturing sector intermediary to the Workforce Solutions Collaborative of Metro Hartford and work with CWP to convene quarterly Advanced Manufacturers Employers Partnership (AMEP) meetings. AMEP is an employer-led partnership that identifies alternative ways to build the manufacturing talent pipeline. Each meeting includes speakers on topics such as apprenticeships, manufacturing innovation, and workforce forecasting. In 2017, AMEP spent several months holding bi-weekly meetings to develop a strategic initiative. Through this plan, AMEP will work to:

Establish a one-stop clearinghouse for manufacturers in recruitment, retention, and training. The workforce development system can be confusing for employers; we are eliminating the confusion by giving all regional employers one point of contact to resolve issues or connect the employer with the appropriate resource.

Assist employers with the recruitment process. We do this by investigating employer time for hiring and establishing baseline metrics. We are working to establish a universal pre-training program (foundational technical skills) as well as a pre-screening process. We also coordinate regular career fairs with several manufacturing education entities in our region. Additionally, we are helping to create a manufacturing industry marketing plan to help area employers understand the importance of effectively marketing their companies to potential workers.

Assist with employee retention. Employers need to better understand how to retain employees. CWP started by distributing a survey (which had a 30% response rate) to hundreds of manufacturing companies. We asked questions such as why people leave jobs, turnover rates, etc. Through these findings, we hope to establish career paths and/or succession rates, determine incumbent worker training needs, and prepare an employer toolkit on incumbent worker training.

These three initiatives will be addressed by representatives from several small and medium-sized employers as well as large firms like Pratt and Whitney, a division of United Technologies.

Funding for On the Job Training

Through various grants and initiatives, we have worked with hundreds of manufacturing companies to help them utilize funding intended to help cover the training costs associated with new hires. Through programs like StepUp, a state program that provides a $12,500 wage reimbursement over a six-month period, as well as the National Emergency Grant, we have dispersed over $1 million in wage incentives to employers to hire unemployed individuals.

For the most part, these incentives are designed for firms with fewer than one hundred employees. Our manufacturing partners continually express appreciation for the area’s workforce development system’s focus on the need for these incentives.

Moreover, Connecticut recently passed a legislative initiative called the “Apprenticeship Connecticut Initiative,” which will provide up to $50 million to help cover tuition costs for up to 10,000 people in the state. Most of these funds, if bonded, will have a manufacturing focus and CWP will make a major push to market the potential careers to the general public. This funding will also have a wage incentive and an apprenticeship training component at employer work sites. Jim Boucher, our chief strategy officer, was recently interviewed by the Hartford Business Journal about this subject.

Workforce needs have been a key focus for CWP, the consortium of public officials and private business leaders on our board and area legislators. While no one program or partnership will resolve every workforce need, we are confident that a proactive approach to current and projected needs will help staff our local aerospace industry and help thousands of residents get the skills they need for good-paying, middle-skill jobs.

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