Workforce development was a common theme throughout the legislative session, with the focus on strengthening access to employment in various sectors.
Using American Rescue Plan Act funding, budget surplus dollars, and bonding to bolster new and existing programs, the budget was a primary source for workforce development initiatives.
The budget bill contained multiple bills that passed out of the Commerce Committee including:
- SB 351: Creates a study into extending research and development tax credits to pass-through entities.
- SB 102: Requires the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection to provide the Release-Based Working Group a copy of the regulations prior to posting notice on the eRegulations portal.
- HB 5266: Shifts responsibility to the Office of Workforce Strategy’s chief workforce officer to develop a model student work release policy by July 1, 2023.
- SB 98: Extends the manufacturing apprenticeship tax credit to pass-through entities.
- HB 5127: Creates the JobsCT Tax Rebate Program.
The legislature passed, as a provision in the budget, the expansion of the manufacturing apprenticeship tax credit to pass-through entities.
CBIA advocated extensively for this policy with 28 co-sponsors and bipartisan support.
Section 424-428 of the budget includes provisions of the JobsCT Tax Rebate Program.
CBIA advocated for this program for the past two years noting that it focuses on increasing taxpayer return on investment.
Prior job creation programs borrowed around $200 million annually and subscribed to an ad hoc approach to recruiting larger companies to the state.
This earn-as-you-grow incentive is the right direction for ensuring maximum return on state invested dollars as well as increased transparency and accountability by all parties.
Continuing Education Funding
The budget also includes additional funding for bilingual education and adult education.
CBIA supports efforts to train and retrain adult learners who are valuable members of the state’s economy especially given the state’s 109,000 unfilled jobs.
The legislature also passed out workforce-related bills including:
- SB 407: Requires the chief workforce officer, in consultation with the Department of Economic and Community Development and regional workforce development boards, to develop and implement a Post-COVID-19 Women's Return to Work Economic Development Plan. This plan may include partnerships with institutions of higher education, nonprofit organizations, professional business associations and childcare and transit providers to develop and promote return to work initiatives, paid internships in high-growth industries, job and career fairs, professional mentorships, experiential learning opportunities, and educational and employment coaching services for women.
- SB 408: Requires the DECD commissioner, in consultation with the Office of Early Childhood and the Connecticut Health and Educational Facilities Authority, to identify the economic barriers experienced by individuals seeking to open a childcare center, group childcare home ,or family childcare home and develop a plan to address such barriers. This passed almost unanimously out of both chambers.
- SB 101: Requires the chief workforce officer, in consultation with the Department of Correction, to develop a plan to expand the state's current workforce development programming for incarcerated persons and persons reentering the community after incarceration. Such plan will include increasing the opportunities for such persons to receive technological training to support such persons' reintegration into the state workforce.
- SB 228: Changes who administers the Pipeline for Connecticut’s Future Program from a local or regional school board of education to the state Department of Education and the Department of Labor’s Office of Apprenticeship Training. These offices will assist local and regional boards to enhance existing partnerships and establish new partnerships for pathway programs.
The Higher Education and Employment Advancement Committee continued its focus from last year on expanding access to higher education, passing SB 103, which expands the appropriate uses of Connecticut Higher Education Supplemental Loan Authority loans.
Prior law only allowed CHESLA loans for individuals seeking collegiate post secondary educational opportunities.
The bill allows individuals looking for high value certificate programs to have similar financial options as those going to a traditional four-year institution.
The budget also included SB 3, requiring the Board of Regents to create a free seminar program for small businesses, 25 employees or fewer, on ecommerce, social media, cybersecurity, and virtual currency.
The budget included an expansion of the Debt Free Community College program to part time students in Sections 119-120.
It requires these students to take between six and 12 credits and is a result of declining enrollment due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
CDL, HVAC, Healthcare Training
The budget also invests in CDL training and requires OWS to design a program to support individuals pursuing CDL training, including through the use of income share agreements or equivalent financial tools.
The bill allows OWS to competitively procure a consultant to support the program's design and implementation.
CBIA is very supportive of using alternative methods like income share agreements to fund educational opportunities and is optimistic that this new framework will be used for other industries moving forward.
The budget also requires OWS, in consultation with the DOL, the Office of Higher Education, and the Technical Education and Career System, to establish a heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system pipeline training pilot program.
The program must develop pre-apprenticeship workforce pipeline training programs and include comprehensive career navigational and wraparound training services, job coaching, supportive services including transportation services, and job placement support.
The program is designed to focus on individuals from underserved and underrepresented populations and historically marginalized communities.
Section 233 of the budget requires the Office of Higher Education to establish a healthcare provider loan reimbursement program to provide reimbursement grants to Department of Public Health-licensed providers employed full-time in the state.
At least 20% of the grants must be awarded to regional community-technical college graduates.