Where Will Manufacturing Workers Come From?
Connecticut’s manufacturing industry got a series of boosts over recent weeks with announcements that Electric Boat, Pratt & Whitney, and Sikorsky all planned to increase their workforce.
That initial excitement was mitigated by a persistent and sobering thought, however: Where will those workers come from?
Our educational institutions endeavor mightily to meet the demands of industry, and our technical high schools play a critical role in those efforts, meeting the challenge of producing in-demand CAD and CNC machinists.
A host of industries are tapping into the technical high schools for talent, but few industries have come to rely on these institutions more than manufacturing.
Equally important, our manufacturing centers look to the technical high schools to feed these programs, as those students graduate with a firm grasp of career technical education and hands-on learning.
The technical high school approach is optimally aligned to our state’s current economy.
Research shows technical high school students are more likely to complete high school and obtain employment–employment that sets the stage for careers, not just jobs.
Technical high school students also matriculate to college at approximately equal rates as graduates of traditional high schools.
Today’s technical high school system provides a unique pathway, one that defines the concept of career technical education–not to mention serving as a powerful model for employer engagement.
Roughly 2,000 adults are in apprenticeships in the technical school system, in addition to the 11,000 high school-age students served by the schools.
Technical high schools work. That's why there are more students looking to attend programs than there are available seats.
CBIA has long recognized the value of technical high schools, and our members have a stake in the “product” they produce.
The Education & Workforce Partnership works closely with the technical high schools on the Green STEP program, an eesmarts learning initiative that enhances the curriculum to prepare students for careers in green energy.
Funded by Eversource and United Illuminating, Green STEP implements energy-related benchmarks at each high school grade.
The program was piloted in seven schools, but expanded this year to all schools in the system due to its success.
Connecticut's fiscal crisis is adding to the challenge of meeting this growing demand for talent.
State agencies are reviewing requests to cut spending across the board by 10% to address multi-billion dollar budget deficits forecast for the next two years.
Those discussions include the possibility of closing two technical high schools, part of a workforce development pipeline that includes critical manufacturing study programs.
Requesting a 10% budget cut from all state agencies is, unfortunately, a more brutal approach to budgeting that happens when policymakers ignore long-term structural budget reforms year after year.
There’s no choice left but to slash when policy gives way to so-called “doomsday” budgeting.
Often when faced with such a challenge, it is tempting to float provocative suggestions that parks, campuses, or schools will need to be closed.
In many cases, those trial balloons quickly burst.
That may happen in this case, and given the importance and track record of the technical high schools, it should.
Simply put, technical high schools work.
That's why there are more Connecticut students looking to attend technical high schools than there are available seats.
The schools' programs are critical to growing and securing jobs in the Connecticut businesses looking to build their talent pipelines.
The policy and budget challenges, however, remain.
And just as Governor Malloy suggested earlier this year, it is critical that policy drives the budget numbers—not the other way around.
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