Gov. Ned Lamont's proposed two-year budget provides a promising boost for Connecticut's manufacturing sector.
Giving careful consideration to recommendations received from a broad coalition of public and private experts, including the Governor’s Workforce Council and the Connecticut Manufacturers' Collaborative, Lamont proposed structural changes within government along with crucial strategic investments.
His proposals are designed to expand the quality, accessibility and capacity of the state’s 21st Century manufacturing career training environment, and to stimulate private investment in the latest technologies necessary to compete in the rapidly evolving global manufacturing economy.
For example, to implement a statewide coordinated and collaborative system for career education and to more effectively leverage federal funding opportunities, Lamont proposed a Governor's Workforce Cabinet comprised of all state agencies involved with employment and training.
The cabinet would be chaired by the executive director of the recently created Office of Workforce Strategy, Kelli-Marie Vallieres.
While the work of the new cabinet, the Governor’s Workforce Council, and the Office of Workforce Strategy go beyond manufacturing, Vallieres has demonstrated her commitment to work closely with the state's chief manufacturing officer, CMC, and educational institutions at all levels to create seamless and coordinated career pathways.
To improve the quality and accessibility of manufacturing career training, the Governor is proposing measures to better catalogue and evaluate various training and certificate programs for high demand skills, including manufacturing.
For example, OWS will develop standards for evaluating training programs and designating "credentials of value" based on metrics such as how well the credential meets current workforce needs of employers, enrollment and completion rates, and aggregate earnings upon completion.
Additionally, the Governor proposes requiring the Office of Higher Education, working with an advisory council, to create a database of credentials offered in Connecticut so that students, parents, school counselors, and others can easily identify the skills necessary to achieve specific career goals and locate the programs needed to obtain those skills.
Lamont is also proposing several critical strategic investments in manufacturing through state bonding.
For example, he proposed replenishing the Manufacturing Innovation Fund, administered by a board comprised largely of manufacturers and chaired by chief manufacturing officer Colin Cooper.
The fund has helped thousands of manufacturers since its inception, spurring private sector investment in technology and apprenticeship and incumbent working training, among other initiatives.
The fund has exhausted its original $75 million in bond funds and manufacturers across the state have asked the Governor and the legislature to prioritize its refunding.
The technologies of the 21st century manufacturing economy require a workforce skilled in those technologies.
Connecticut must have a training ecosystem that provides broad opportunities for hands-on training with the latest advanced manufacturing equipment.
The state’s 15 technical high schools must be centers for such training, with the latest technologies and training opportunities that extend beyond their own students to include conventional high school students as well as adults for upskilling and career transition.
Lamont responded to this need by proposing over $15 million to upgrade centers of manufacturing technology training for middle and secondary school students.
He is proposing $3.5 million for a pilot program to extend manufacturing career educational opportunities for conventional high school and adult students by expanding accessibility to technical high schools beyond their regular hours in Hamden, Hartford, New Britain, and Waterbury.
Finally, at the post-secondary level, Lamont proposed $3 million for upgrading advanced manufacturing and emerging technology programs within the state's community college system.
To summarize, the Governor's budget is strategically focused on high-priority manufacturing needs to ensure Connecticut manufacturers have the technologies and the workforce they need to not only compete, but to be a global leader in 21st century manufacturing.
For more information, contact CBIA's Eric Brown (860.244.1926).