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Connecticut Republicans push for trade jobs under workforce plan

Connecticut Senate Republicans released a multi-pronged plan to bolster the state’s workforce with a particular concentration on boosting the trades, healthcare jobs and teaching.

“College isn’t for everyone,” said Sen. Henri Martin, R-Bristol, in a press release. “And we have a major demand for jobs in the trades. Employers need more welders, plumbers, electricians, and HVAC technicians. They also need people with manufacturing skills as well as culinary arts training. We need to listen to our job creators.”

Under the proposed plan, high schools would be required to discuss the benefits of enrolling in a trade school alongside college, re-establishes a vocational-technical school ambassador program for middle school children, work with the Connecticut Hospital Association to develop a health care curriculum for high schools and develop reciprocity certification opportunities for out of state teachers.

According to nearly 80 percent of high school graduates in Connecticut go on to higher education institutions.

“We also have other forms of workforce development, it’s retraining, finding people that are out there that maybe didn’t go to higher education, didn’t take a trade up outside of high school and introduce them to the companies that are hiring people at $70 – $80,000 per year, if not more with room to grow,” said Sen. Paul Ciccarella, R-, during a press conference.

Part of the proposal would require the Connecticut Department of Labor to develop a program to reach out to high school graduates who have not enrolled in higher education or are not working in a trade within three months of graduation to inform them of alternative career pathways.

The Republicans’ proposal was supported by some of Connecticut’s construction and trade unions with Don Shubert, president of the Connecticut Construction Industries Association, saying they were “encouraged by the discussion.”

“Several of these proposals would enhance our industries’ workforce efforts,” Shubert said in the press release. “We look forward to this discussion continuing and developing opportunities for students to attain employment in good paying jobs that provide substantial benefit packages and pathways to career advancement.”

Connecticut’s job growth has been stubbornly slow since the 2008 recession, having never gained back those jobs before the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent business shut-down plunged Connecticut’s job number back down. The state has yet to recover those jobs, as well, and the Connecticut Business and Industry Association (CBIA) has been reminding lawmakers that there are 100,000 unfulfilled job openings in the state.

CBIA’s 2022 survey of businesses found that 39 percent said the main factor hindering growth was finding skilled job applicants and 85 percent reported it was difficult to find and retain workers. Eighty-seven percent of manufacturers in the state said finding and retaining employees in their biggest challenge and say they need 11,000 more workers.

While jobs and in the trade, transportation and utilities sector have recovered any pandemic losses, they remain roughly 10,000 jobs short of 2008 levels, according to Connecticut Department of Labor data.

Similarly, Connecticut is facing shortages of teachers and healthcare workers. Although healthcare represents one of the fastest growing job opportunities nationwide, the healthcare industry says many more are needed. Connecticut remains roughly 6,000 jobs short in healthcare and education from pre-pandemic levels.

“Connecticut is dead last in the nation in job growth and income growth,” said Senate Republican Leader Kevin Kelly, R-Stratford. “We want to support our young people, develop our workforce, and address the growing demand for tradespeople, teachers, and healthcare workers. This plan represents a pathway to opportunity and prosperity for Connecticut families.”

Marc E. Fitch, Senior Investigative Reporter

Marc E. Fitch

Marc worked as an investigative reporter for Yankee Institute and was a 2014 Robert Novak Journalism Fellow. He previously worked in the field of mental health is the author of several books and novels, along with numerous freelance reporting jobs and publications. Marc has a Master of Fine Arts degree from Western Connecticut State University.

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