Workforce subject of October Business Breakfast
Chamber members consistently name workforce as a primary concern. Meeting current staffing needs and planning for expansion is a challenge we hear across industries. With the unemployment rate for eastern Connecticut around 3.5%, there is a tight labor pool and those seeking employment may not have the skills needed.
Organizations across the region connect jobseekers with programs that respond directly to the needs of employers. On October 23, we will share information on these programs at our Business Breakfast titled Minding the Skills Gap: Workforce Development, Recruitment and Retention.
Speakers Patrick Flaherty, Assistant Director of Office of Research and Information for CT DOL, and Mark Hill, Chief Operating Officer of the Eastern CT Workforce Investment Board (EWIB), will share insights about this issue locally and far beyond, and highlight programs and businesses generating success.
One of the EWIB’s leading programs, the Manufacturing Pipeline Initiative has garnered national attention for effectively drawing together manufacturers, community colleges, technical high schools and the American Job Centers to address a skills shortage and workforce demands. In an April visit, U.S. Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta praised the coordination between educators and employers and called the model “transformative.”
The Manufacturing Pipeline Initiative, described as “a demand-driven model,” connects over 30 community partners and over 250 employer partners, including Electric Boat and members of the Eastern Advanced Manufacturing Alliance. The program has a greater than 95% job placement rate with 1,468 jobseekers placed between April 2016 and July 2019. Important for employers, the new hire training time and the attrition rate have both dropped by 50%.
That model is the basis for meeting other workforce-related challenges in the region to address labor market shortages and skills training in healthcare, retail and business. Key to the success of the model is connecting employers to training programs, to both inform the curriculum and create that same pipeline for jobseekers into good positions.
The Business Breakfast program will be followed by a mini-expo of workforce development organizations, where employers can learn about training programs and make mutually beneficial connections.
Many of the programs offered are tuition free and provide access to childcare reimbursement, free transportation and paid internships, removing many of the obstacles to participating in job training.
In addition to the Manufacturing Pipeline Initiative, EASTCONN will host a table at the expo to share programs employers can tap into for training: Intensive Customer Service, Microsoft Office, Manufacturing and Spanish in the Workplace. A grant from Walmart funds the Customer Service Academy where jobseekers can learn these skills.
Expo participant, Westerly Education Center offers workforce training for certified nursing assistants, process technology, customer service, banking, call center basics and sales, in addition to maritime manufacturing and trades. Connected with Community College of Rhode Island, the Westerly Education Center is similar in their breadth of classes, with many free training programs as well as credit-earning programs.
Similarly, both Three Rivers and Quinebaug Valley Community Colleges are deeply engaged in the Manufacturing Pipeline Initiative and have also built pathways to employment in healthcare, pharmacy, real estate, and business through workforce training programs.
Porter and Chester Institute of New London will also be joining the mini-expo on October 23. They offer career-focused programs in the medical, dental, CADD or electrician fields.
Connecting employers directly with these training programs is essential to the success of the model. American Job Center East acts as a conduit into training and placement. Designed to unify numerous training, education and employment programs into a single, customer-friendly system, the centers and their partners collaborate to provide seamless core services to job seekers and employers to ensure that the region’s resources are being utilized.
With healthcare as the second highest area of demand, EWIB Healthcare Pipeline and healthcare partners will host an event that explores the changing realities in the region’s healthcare workforce on October 18 at Three Rivers Community College (TRCC), with speakers from across the industry and a discussion diving into essential questions on training, recruitment, and retention.
The Chamber is hosting programs like the Business Breakfast on workforce and mini-expo to help bring businesses into the pipeline. Chamber staff at the American Job Center and in our main offices are available to help make connections between employers and the training programs in our network of members.