Connecticut's manufacturing sector employs more than 160,000 people in challenging, high-paying positions.
But thousands of jobs remain unfilled due to a skilled labor shortage.
The state Bond Commission took steps Sept. 17 to help fill that labor gap when it approved borrowing $10 million for the second phase of a program that provides job placement for manufacturers.
"This funding is critical to maintaining and expanding our our state's very successful workforce pipeline programs that are filling hundreds of well-paying jobs every year," Department of Labor Commissioner Kurt Westby said.
"This new funding will be a major step toward making our pipeline initiatives realize their full potential statewide."
Workforce development is a major concern for manufacturers and other Connecticut industries.
In fact, the 2019 Survey of Connecticut Businesses, produced by CBIA and the public accounting and business advisory firm Marcum LLP, shows that 29% of companies identify employee training as their top investment priority.
The allocation bond commissioners approved will support the second installment of funds for the Apprenticeship Connecticut Initiative program.
These funds, in conjunction with $5 million previously allocated, will finance workforce pipeline enrollment and job placements with manufacturers and other sectors that are experiencing sustained shortages.
"These apprenticeship pipeline programs are an important component of addressing the immediate workforce needs in manufacturing and other sectors at the entry level," said Eric Brown, CBIA's vice president for manufacturing policy and outreach.
"But more needs to be done to attract more students into manufacturing programs at our secondary and post-secondary schools and to ensure those students are well-prepared to meet the skill demands of an increasingly digital manufacturing economy."
The labor department selected Northwest Regional Workforce Investment Board, Inc. and Workforce Alliance to implement the program, which began this spring.
The program will target areas of the state with the most employment needs.
Each proposal for an Apprenticeship Initiative partnership must be for a four-year workforce pipeline program, and include at least one program for participating students in the 11th and 12th grades and one for adults.
Proposals must also identify how many new workers each company plans to hire.
The program was enacted by law in 2018. It earmarks $50 million in total and caps at $20 million the amount of funds any one partnership may receive.
There are roughly 6,000 registered apprentices in Connecticut, the highest per-capita number of registered apprentices in New England.