Legislators, manufacturing leaders, and various employer groups from across the state attended the first Manufacturing Caucus meeting of the year March 2.
Last year, lawmakers approved the manufacturing sector's top priority with the creation of chief manufacturing officer within the Department of Economic and Community Development.
Gov. Ned Lamont later appointed veteran aerospace executive Colin Cooper to the position.
This year, one of the top priorities is protecting the Manufacturing Innovation Fund, a key revenue source for workforce development training programs.
CBIA's Eric Brown told legislators small and mid-sized manufacturers are concerned about the pending shutdown of three programs funded through the Manufacturing Innovation Fund—particularly the Incumbent Worker Training program.
"This program helps manufacturers ensure their employees are advancing their skills to meet the increasing technical needs associated with technology advancements in the manufacturing environment," Brown said.
Manufacturing vouchers are the second program at risk according to Brown.
"Voucher programs are a near necessity in today's highly constrained workforce marketplace," he said.
"They help smaller manufacturers make the investments that they need in software and help them stay competitive in a quickly evolving global market."
Brown noted that apprenticeships funded through the MIF include a number of schools that already have waiting lists for students wishing to enter technology training programs.
Chris DiPentima, president of the Pegasus Branch of Leggett & Platt in Middletown also addressed workforce development needs.
He urged lawmakers to support the expansion of the adjunct professor permit program to allow experienced professionals with manufacturing related experience to teach.
"We're trying to get more manufacturing programs in public high school systems, but we know one of the hurdles down the road will be getting people to teach these programs," he said.
"We're trying to stay ahead of that. We want to make sure that when the time comes, we have an avenue to get these adjunct professors right into the classroom."
Lawmakers were also asked to reinstate the state sales tax exemption for safety equipment, which was removed in last year's state budget.
"Manufacturers face a wide variety of regulatory mandates when it comes to safety equipment and training," Brown said.
"These are important measures to take in order to keep the workforce safe.
"However, they are also expensive, especially with respect to smaller manufacturers."