Community Development, Homelessness

Campaign For A Working CT Is Making Progress, And Will Do More In ‘14

 

Alice Pritchard, Executive Director of the Connecticut Women’s Legal and Education Fund.

As leader of the Campaign for a Working CT, I am hopeful about the year ahead. We are making progress in growing Connecticut’s economy and putting residents to work. Programs such as STEP Up have helped over 2,000 individuals find work with nearly 600 Connecticut companies. Connecticut has started to invest in and implement innovative contextualized learning programs for adults who are trying to build their skills to meet employer demands. 

But we have more work to do. According to the 2012 American Community Survey, 10% of Connecticut residents over the age of 25 do not possess a high school diploma or equivalent. There is a correlation between the education gap and securing employment. The unemployment rate for people in Connecticut without a high school diploma was nearly 24% compared to 10% for people with a diploma. Clearly we still have lots of work to do. In a recent survey of Connecticut employers, 66% said they have difficulty finding qualified workers in their industry.  In the absence of workers with job-ready skills, positions go unfilled. Furthermore, small businesses, which drive our economy, cannot find the workers needed. 

Connecticut could follow the examples of other states across the country that are working to address this skills mismatch. More than half the nation’s states have taken steps to form industry partnerships which employ sector-based strategies. These industry partnerships are collaborations that bring together regional groups of employers, educational institutions, workforce investment boards and state agencies to identify common workforce needs for high demand occupations within a target industry. 

Modeled after successful legislation in Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and Maryland, the Campaign will be calling on the state legislature to make substantial investment in industry partnerships, particularly in healthcare, manufacturing and energy/construction and implementation of sector-based strategies that will bridge the gap between the needs of employers and the skills of the workforce. Coupled with the wrap around services that individuals need such as housing, childcare and transportation, these strategies can help make sure that all Connecticut residents have the opportunity to experience personal economic security and contribute to the state’s competitiveness.  

Alice Pritchard is the Executive Director of the Connecticut Women’s Legal and Education Fund.

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