How can we maximize the impact of Connecticut’s technical high schools—the state’s unsung heroes for preparing young people for productive careers in manufacturing and other trades?

That was the subject of a hearing this week in Hartford conducted by the Technical High Schools Task Force. Earlier this year, the legislature commissioned the group to study the finance, management and enrollment structure of the state's Technical High School System.

At the hearing, CBIA’s Louis Bach said technical high schools “provide a distinct competitive advantage to Connecticut's employers” by aligning students’ coursework with the skills that businesses need.

The problem is, the technical high schools are chronically underfunded, “undervalued and underutilized,” said Bach.

He called on policymakers to make technical schools “a higher priority.”

Kris Lorch, president of CBIA member Alloy Engineering of Bridgeport testified that “connecting industry and education in a global economy has produced innovation in other states.” Such as Maine and Kansas, where the technical school systems have aligned learning with industry-recognized skills credentialing “for impressive results.”

Connecticut has some examples of these kinds of “genuine partnerships” between businesses and schools, said Lorch—such as in the New Haven area with the New Haven Manufacturers Association, Platt Tech in Milford and Housatonic Community College.

“There remains much to do,” said Lorch, “but the promise is remarkable.”

Kathy Saint, president of CBIA member Schwerdtle Stamp Co. in Bridgeport, said “We really need to get more funding for these schools.”

With Connecticut struggling to create jobs, technical high schools are a resource that can both help employers get the skilled workers they need and help young people find rewarding careers.