Connecticut’s economic outlook will continue to remain murky as the state faces the imminent retirement of baby boomers and the exodus of young people.

That means the work skills of those who remain will play a critical role in the state’s future economic vitality.

Skills Gap Needs Innovative Solutions
Amazon, Pratt & Whitney, and the FBI are among the companies and organizations sharing their workforce development strategies December 6 in Hartford.

There have been many ongoing efforts to address this challenge, most seeking to link schools, colleges and job-training programs around the goal of ensuring workforce readiness.

Despite these efforts, businesses continue to voice frustration with finding the right people with the required skills.

For example, CBIA and the Northwest Chamber of Commerce recently released the 2016 Survey of Northwest Connecticut Businesses.

It shows that businesses in the state’s Northwest region face many obstacles in filling open positions, with a lack of skilled applicants being the biggest issue, cited by 56% of businesses.

Employers also cited a lack of applicants (43%), and applicants who are not job-ready (41%).

A little over one-third of respondents (36%) rated workforce quality as good or excellent; 47% said it was average, and 17% said it was poor or terrible.

Those findings reflect statewide sentiment among businesses, as shown in CBIA's 2016 Survey of Connecticut Businesses, released earlier in the year.

That survey found that between 2018 and 2021, retirements are expected to claim 10% of current employees.

In short, over the next five years, businesses expect replacing upwards of 16% of their current workforce.

“Developing the next generation of skilled talent should be a top concern for everyone in the state, particularly here,” says CBIA economist Pete Gioia.

“Our innovative companies need and depend on a highly skilled workforce for their future growth and success.”

Untapped Population

There are several untapped segments of the population that could provide the human capital needed to sustain and grow our state’s economy.

This includes people returning to our cities and towns post-incarceration, youth out of school and out of work, and our veterans.

While we continue to look to our schools, we can also learn from companies that have successfully filled the skills gap.

This challenge impacts our economy and every citizen in the state. Businesses are a key part of the solution.

Connecticut's technical high school system provides a unique pathway, one that defines the concept of career technical education–and serves as a powerful model for employer engagement.

Research shows that technical high school students are more likely to complete high school and obtain employment–employment that sets the stage for careers, not just jobs.

Technical high school students also graduate to college at roughly equal rates as graduates of traditional high schools.

But another excellent way to address this issue is for businesses that have bridged the gap to share their success with other businesses, and for experts in the field to point to what works in workforce development.

Finding Innovative Solutions

Work It Connecticut!, a workforce development conference hosted by CBIA's Education & Workforce Partnership, will explore these important topics—and more—on Dec. 6 at Infinity Hall in Hartford.

Amazon, Pratt & Whitney, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation are among the companies and organizations sharing their strategies and case studies at the conference.

Erik Clemons, president and CEO of the Connecticut Center for the Arts & Technology, and a member of the state Board of Education, opens the program, while Amazon's Juan Garcia, the online retailer's global leader for career advancement, will deliver the closing keynote.

"This is a special opportunity to learn from educators, human resource professionals, and businesses," says CBIA Education & Workforce Partnership executive director Andrea Comer.

"This challenge impacts our economy, and with that, every citizen in the state, and Connecticut businesses are a key part of the solution."