ReadyCT Programs Prepare Next-Generation Workforce
As businesses deal with the state’s labor shortage, one solution is to focus on growing the next generation of Connecticut’s workforce.
“I don’t even ask people anymore if they’re hiring, I ask them what they’re hiring for,” CBIA president and CEO Chris DiPentima said during ReadyCT’s Employer and Community Partner Breakfast in Hartford.
“We want to ensure that students have a foundation of academic ability to be successful in the world, as well as career-connected learning,” said ReadyCT executive director Shannon Marimón.
“Our goal, ultimately, is to better align our educational system so that we are understanding what is the world is going to look like that’s going to meet the students when they graduate from our K-12 system.”
ReadyCT exposes high school students to different industries, teaching soft skills like communication and problem solving and connecting them with employers and internship opportunities.
“I would say that ReadyCT really helped to prepare me for high school, because it taught me a lot of things that I previously did not take into account,” said University of Connecticut student William James.
“The business world is so broad that there’s so many different places for every single person and a lot of kids younger than me don’t see that.”
James [pictured above with Hartford HealthCare’s Melanie Tucker] is studying business and marketing at UConn after taking part in ReadyCT’s Insurance and Finance Career Pathway program at Hartford’s Weaver High School.
He said the internship and work opportunities he received gave him the knowledge and experience to know what he wanted to study in college.
Employers on the panel said the internship program is just as rewarding for their businesses as it is for the students.
“Connecting with the students and helping educate them about the breadth of opportunities. really does open up a whole world for them,” said Hartford HealthCare vice president of human resources Melanie Tucker.
“By being in the school system and working with ReadyCT, and we get an internship or several, I’m able to reach a younger group of candidates and show them what else is out there,” said HarConn Chrome human resources manager Caren Backus.
“It makes me as an employer and I think my workforce even more excited about doing it and bringing that next generation into manufacturing and showing what we do.”
As of November, Connecticut has 102,000 job openings, an increase of 46% since February 2020, while the labor force has declined by 53,700 people.
“This is a solution to our workforce crisis,” added DiPentima.
The state also has one of the largest achievement gaps in the country.
About one third of public school students, 10,000 to 12,000 students a year, don’t go on to two-or-four-year colleges or the military.
“There’s a huge opportunity, when you think about it from a business perspective, to make an investment here to help our economy,” DiPentima said.
The students helped by the career pathway programs are often from underserved communities.
“It helps with engaging students who may otherwise feel somewhat disconnected from school and so that partnership with educators is just critical,” Marimón said.
Addressing Opportunity Gaps
Marimón called the internship programs “a true value-add to the company in terms of providing a deliverable and some perspective that maybe your company doesn’t currently have access to.”
“I think the studies have shown that the students that enter these pathways have higher grades, higher graduation rates, and go on to programs post high school at higher percentages,” added Tucker.
“They see that they can have these careers, they can build a family, and they can do it here.”
Marimón said ReadyCT’s affiliation with CBIA is a key partnership to help reach as many students as possible across the state of Connecticut and prepare them for the workforce of the future.
“If we can lift up the tide and address opportunity gaps in our underserved communities, we lift up the economy,” DiPentima said.
“My aspiration and belief truly is, we will have the career pathway programs in every school district in Connecticut in coming years.”
For more information, contact ReadyCT’s Brittany Wilborn.
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