Workforce Challenges and Opportunities Discussed at October Business Breakfast
On Wednesday, October 23, the Chamber hosted Minding the Skills Gap: Workforce Development, Recruitment and Retention at Latitude 41 in Mystic. This Business Breakfast focused on the facts surrounding this challenge being faced across industries and how the Eastern Connecticut Workforce Board is making strides to fill the need.
Laying out the data and opportunities in workforce, presenter Patrick Flaherty is Assistant Director of Research and Information for the Connecticut Department of Labor and part of the leadership team of the state’s Labor Market Information unit.
Patrick Flaherty, Assistant Director of Research and Information, CT Department of Labor
The key takeaways from Flaherty’s presentation focused on recovery from the recession, the demographics of Connecticut’s labor force and the growth opportunities and challenges in eastern Connecticut. In regard to economic growth, Connecticut recovered job losses from the recession and has grown in most sectors, although there were net losses in state and local government, finance and insurance, and to a much lesser degree, retail.
Key statistics from the U.S. Labor Market:
- U.S. economy is experiencing a record high of months of job growth and job openings—currently 7 million
- 6 million separations every month, primarily voluntary to change jobs or retire
Migration in and out of Connecticut shows a great deal of movement, but the result is a net gain, notably of those in their 20’s, 30’s and 40’s. Those migrating out of the state include a large number of 17-19 year-olds, aligning with typical departure for college, and smaller net losses of those in their 50’s, 60’s and 70’s, aligning with retirements. Flaherty noted that the net gain in the younger members of the labor market can be attributed in part to an influx of immigrants. “The one thing that really has been saving us in Connecticut has been immigration from other nations,” said Flaherty, who suggested we should be proud people from all over the world would like to live here.
- Migration into and out of Connecticut shows a net gain of people in their 20’s, 30’s and 40’s, and losses among those moving out to attend college and in their 50’s, 60’s and 70’s.
- Immigrants moving to Connecticut positively impacts the net gain
- An aging workforce and dip in the birthrate during the recession are impacting workforce
Flaherty described a significant difference in areas of job growth in eastern Connecticut compared with the rest of the state. Data on the State of Connecticut shows employment highest in health care, retail, educational services, and manufacturing, respectively. In eastern Connecticut, manufacturing rises to the top followed by educational services, retail and health care.
- Connecticut (Top 5)
- Health Care (largest sector with the most growth)
- Educational Services
- Accommodation & Food Service
- Eastern Connecticut (Top 5)
- Manufacturing (largest sector with the most growth)
- Educational Services
- Health Care
- Accommodation & Food Service
In working to meet the labor shortage, Flaherty pointed to the much higher number of men than women hired in manufacturing. Calling out the hardworking staff of the morning’s venue as an example, he suggested employers look at people with different backgrounds, but a strong work ethic, to fill positions by providing the right training.
The Eastern Connecticut Workforce Investment Board (EWIB) is helping the region navigate this intersection between employer needs and training the workforce. Mark Hill, Chief Operating Officer, EWIB spoke about the Eastern CT Manufacturing Pipeline Initiative (MPI), a nationally-recognized training program. He shared the story of the MPI’s strategy, process, and results and discussed expanding and scaling for future programs.
With manufacturing the fastest growing sector, EWIB responded to employers’ need to hire thousands of employees with training programs designed for existing job openings. The collaborative partnership includes EWIB, employers, organized labor, community colleges, technical and comprehensive high schools, adult education, the CT Department of Labor, and CT Department of Economic and Community Development along with other agencies.
Manufacturing Pipeline Initiative:
- Manufacturing in eastern CT increased 11.3% in the past four years, four times the growth seen in the state as a whole
- MPI has made 1,512 job placements at over 260 employers
- 96% of those completing the program had job offers at the end
- 80% of MPI job placements had no formal manufacturing work experience prior to enrollment
- Decreased employer new hire training and attrition rate by 50%
Working through the American Job Centers, which connect with 11,000 people each year, they create a talent pipeline that brings job seekers with the right aptitude into the training program. A process of assessments, interviews and training lead to 96% of trainees ending the program with a job offer. Notably, 80% of MPI job placements had no formal manufacturing work experience prior to enrollment.
Mark Hill, Chief Operating Officer, EWIB
Since its launch in 2014, the success of the program outpaced projections, garnering interest from 8,500 applicants, conducting 60 training classes and leading to 1,512 job placements.
The program is being expanded to high schools to offer students who are not planning to attend college a strong career pathway. The Youth MPI pilot of 19 students at Norwich Free Academy led to an 100% placement rate.
“This program is completely portable to other industries and other locations,” said Hill. The program design involves employers in curriculum and assessment, adjusts timing and scale to job openings, reduces training and hiring cost while increasing retention and productivity. EWIB is already working on a health care pipeline solution for that growing industry, and the award-winning model is being shared with other workforce boards.