2024 Governor’s Workforce Awards


Growing Connecticut’s workforce requires partnerships and collaboration to expand career pathways, attract a diverse talent base, and provide opportunities for rewarding careers.

The inaugural Governor’s Workforce Awards recognized the outstanding public-private partnerships that are developing Connecticut’s hidden talent as key contributors to the state’s economy.

“We need to continue to look for ways to uncover Connecticut’s hidden talent,” said Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz, introducing the awards at the April 16 Connecticut Workforce Summit

Department of Labor Commissioner Danté Bartolomeo and Office of Workforce Strategy chief workforce officer Kelli-Marie Vallieres presented the awards.

The three winners were chosen from a pool of 34 nominations statewide. 

“This was a very tough decision because there is so much great work to celebrate, and we applaud and express gratitude to all of the nominees,” Bartolomeo said.

“These partnerships represent what’s at the heart of our collaboration, propelling us toward a future where every individual, regardless of background or circumstance, has the opportunity to thrive in our beautiful state,” Bysiewicz said.

Project SEARCH 

Project SEARCH is a national model that creates internships for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. 

The program started in Connecticut as a partnership between the Connecticut Department of Developmental Services, Stamford Health, and Abilis.

It now includes 14 programs, with three more expected next year. In all, they employ more than 125 interns around the state.

Project SEARCH creates internships for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

“Initiatives like Project SEARCH are crucial, as they help us discover and nurture hidden talent, meet critical business needs, and enable individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities to secure real jobs for real pay,” said Department of Developmental Services deputy commissioner Elisa Velardo. 

Abilis is one of the programs in Project SEARCH. They provide internships at Stamford Hospital focused on healthcare and job readiness. 

“Abilis believes that all people deserve opportunities to work and to be included,” said board chair Mitchell Cohen.

BEST Chance Partnership

The BEST Chance Partnership began in 2015 to provide work readiness and support services to returning citizens.

The partnership includes Capital Workforce Partners, Career Resources Inc., Community Partners in Action, Connecticut Second Chance Business Coalition, Connecticut Department of Labor, Connecticut Department of Correction, CBIA, and the NAACP.

The BEST Chance Partnership provides work readiness and support services to returning citizens.

The program has placed more than 500 returning citizens at jobs in manufacturing, culinary arts, construction, health care, transportation, logistics and other sectors. 

Some of the employers who work with the program include Electricians Local 35, Hartford HealthCare, Hartford Hospital, Ironworkers Local No. 15, and Pursuit Aerospace.

“We work with them, but they are giving back in so many ways to the community at large,” said Capital Workforce Partners chief strategy officer Jim Boucher.

Efficiency For All

Efficiency For All is a nationally recognized minority-run nonprofit that focuses on workforce development, climate resilience, and sustainability.

Through the M=Power program, participants receive six weeks of hands-on training and six weeks of paid work experience. 

The program has placed more than 65 participants in clean energy careers.

The M=Power program provides training in clean energy careers.

The program also helps participants in areas like opening a bank account, obtaining reliable transportation, securing housing, and strengthening life skills like budgeting or time management. 

“They’re learning new things about themselves, ” said Efficiency For All associate director Lilian Brough. 

“They have agency. They have prosperity opportunities instead of being pushed down all the time by themselves or others.

Honorable Mentions

Several partnerships received honorable mentions for their workforce development efforts:

  • Ansonia Public Schools, Teamsters, and Sikorsky. This partnership developed a summer internship program that gives high school juniors and seniors job training, mentorship, and employment opportunities.
  • University of Connecticut School of Engineering, Vergnano Institute for Inclusion, and Pratt & Whitney. The three organizations are collaborating on several projects including BRIDGE, a five-week summer program giving high school students early college exposure.
  • Charter Oak State College and Hartford HealthCare. Their Career ConneCT-funded program provides training and supports to unemployed and underemployed individuals in healthcare revenue cycle management.
  • ConnCORP and Quinnipiac University. An SBA-funded partnership provides education and support to women- and veteran-owned small businesses in the Greater New Haven area.

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