Osten, Regional Job Leaders Testify in Support of Advanced Manufacturing Training Bill
State Senator Cathy Osten (D-Sprague) and job advocates from southeastern Connecticut testified today in support of a bill which Sen. Osten helped craft and which would expand existing job-training programs in southeastern Connecticut to prepare workers for new careers in defense manufacturing and to re-train those who have lost a job in the gaming industry.
Senate Bill 731, “An Act Concerning Resources for Advanced Manufacturing and Health Care Training Programs in Eastern Connecticut,” received its public hearing today before the Commerce Committee.
The bill is based on more than a year of roundtable business discussions that Sen. Osten held in southeastern Connecticut, linking private-sector business owners with community college officials, economic development leaders, state officials and others to grow jobs in southeastern Connecticut.
“We can open new opportunities for different careers for those who have lost their jobs in the gaming industry as well as fill the pipeline for defense manufacturing-related jobs,” Sen. Osten told the committee. “As we know, not everyone is prepared for a traditional four-year college education. With the legislature’s previous support for Electric Boat, UTC/Pratt & Whitney, and most recently Sikorsky, and with the growth of manufacturing jobs in the coming years, we must lay the groundwork today to prepare our workforce for the jobs of tomorrow.”
Sen. Osten said her bill seeks $1.5 million in state funding to replace some federal jobs-training funding in the area that is ending, but which has proven successful, creating 600 to 800 jobs per year at Electric Boat alone. Sen. Osten said she hopes her bill could create another 1,000 to 1,500 new jobs in southeastern Connecticut over the next two years.
John Beauregard, president of the Eastern Connecticut Workforce Investment Board, also testified in support of SB 731, saying the bill would be “transformative” for the region.
“One of the key points that I have heard from legislators in various meetings is a desire to solve both Connecticut’s immediate budgetary issues as well as build a strategy for the long-term prosperity of the state. They have repeatedly emphasized an ideal to prioritize investment toward programs with a proven track record of both financial return and profound social impact. I am proud to represent my region to present one such program to you today,” Beauregard said. “In some ways, I feel like together we have been cast in an episode of the entrepreneurial hit show ‘The Shark Tank’ for today’s meeting. Our role is to present an innovative and proven idea to you with the understanding that your role is to review the proposal in the context of its redeeming value for the state’s bottom line. I believe our proposal, the Eastern Connecticut Manufacturing Pipeline Initiative, has proven its ability to both improve our state budget situation and to provide career opportunities for our residents to stay and flourish here in Connecticut.”
Beauregard noted that in 2015, the Pipeline Initiative received a $6 million grant from the U.S. Department of Labor, one of only six such grants in the country. The Pipeline used a short-term (6-10 weeks) customized training program to align jobseekers with the specific hiring needs of area employers; the result was more than 200 job placements in 10 months.
Nancy Cowser, executive director of the Southeastern Connecticut Enterprise Region, said she is confident that Connecticut will see a “significant” return on its investment if funding for these training programs is approved.
“As you well know, our region has lagged much of the nation in recovering from the great recession. But we stand poised to take advantage of significant workforce development opportunities in advanced manufacturing and healthcare,” Cowser said. “But those jobs, employees, taxpayers, homeowners, renters and local spenders will only become a reality if our region can continuously demonstrate to major employers that we are ready to fill their needs. I sit here beside our partners because this opportunity is about collaborating and leveraging precious job-creation funds to ensure that as a region, we are a place that the talented staff we have invested in want to stay—that education, culture, recreational opportunities, attractive housing, transportation—all those things that make a thriving community—are aligned.”
The Commerce Committee’s deadline for making favorable recommendations on bills is March 21.