It’s no secret that Connecticut is losing businesses -- we’ve suffered body blows with the loss of General Electric, MassMutual, and the threat of Aetna packing up and leaving Hartford. Between 2015 and 2016, the state saw a net loss of nearly 40,000 people, nearly 8,000 of them millennials. People make decisions about where they are going to live, and start their families based on the jobs and opportunities that are available to them. When jobs leave, so do the workers.
We cannot afford to have our 160,000 manufacturing jobs -- nearly 10% of our workforce -- look for work in other states. Connecticut’s 4,000 manufacturers will need to hire more than 13,000 workers by the end of 2018. We can’t afford to have employers looking for those 13,000 workers in other states.
Experience in Small Business
As someone who has spent a career starting and running small businesses, I know what it means to balance a budget, introduce creative solutions to difficult problems, and invest for the future, all while treating employees fairly. In small business, titles are for paperwork: at the beginning of the day and the end of the day, we are a team. I built credibility within the business community and with our labor leaders who know I am willing to bring everyone to the table, ask the tough questions and work to map out real, collaborative solutions.
Fighting for CT Jobs
When GE left I was frustrated and I wanted to know why a long-time Connecticut employer decided to pull up stakes, so I asked.
While I was working as a professor at Central Connecticut State University, I worked with the Yale School of Management as an alum and led the CT Workforce Assessment -- a project that met with 17 of the Connecticut’s largest employers from the state’s key industries: manufacturing, insurance and finance, healthcare and bioscience, green technology, tourism and digital media. We also included the state’s core economic and industry boards and research organizations.
CT Workforce Assessment
In our primary interviews with thought leaders - academics, labor leaders & CEOs - we asked about future skill needs of their industries, strategies to address current and future gaps, and the role of the government, business and labor in moving our state forward.
Here are the problems we face, and the solutions I believe in:
We can’t keep going through budget crises every two years or less: state government must deliver an on time budget and present a public vision and strategic plan with detailed expansion of revenue streams that employers and employees alike can count on.
Fix our roads and bridges and expand public transportation. Connecticut motorists lose $6.1 billion (in the form of vehicle operating costs, congestion-related delays and crashes) per year. Furthermore, 338 of our bridges are rated as structurally deficient, and proposed cuts to public transportation do not represent a sustainable path forward. We can’t have a 21st century economy with a deficient 20th century transportation system: We must repair and modernize our infrastructure to improve and repair roads and services that employers and employees count on to get to work on time and move goods throughout the state.
Create and expand sustainable, vocational and apprenticeship programs between businesses and our high schools, as well as our vocational and technical colleges and universities. Training programs designed in direct partnership between our employers like Pratt & Whitney and Electric Boat, and Goodwin College and Three Rivers Community College, should be studied and emulated. For instance, Pratt has donated funds to purchase state-of-the-art machinery for training in Goodwin College’s new manufacturing buildings; Goodwin had no manufacturing classes until recently, and its partnership with Pratt and other local technology companies help ensure there are Connecticut workers to fill Connecticut jobs. And it’s not just the Pratts, Sikorskys or Electric Boats who need to hire: they count on hundreds of Connecticut companies for their supplies. We must make sure Connecticut residents are getting the job training that will match them to the opportunities available today and prepare them for acquiring the skills of tomorrow. This also includes job retraining to update the skills of the existing workforce. Technical literacy, data science, analytics and proficiency in STEM fields in general will be crucial for Connecticut graduates seeking employment in Connecticut’s key industries as they grow to stay competitive.
Future jobs will demand new skills of our state’s workforce from data analytics to sharper interpersonal skills, so government must engage with the business community early and often in discussions about any economic development planning. Businesses have indicated they want to be a voice that helps Connecticut out of the current crisis, so they should have a meaningful seat at the table along with everyone else involved.
Timely and objective information in one location will improve decision-making across the board. There are many separate efforts in Connecticut to understand the skills gap: We must create a partnership between our state’s Office of Policy Management and our state’s academic institutions to build a single unified platform for data aggregation, analysis and sharing.
I would love to hear your thoughts about this and other issues. Shoot me a note below! - Ned