Connecticut manufacturing leader Kelli-Marie Vallieres will head up a new state office charged with coordinating workforce development policy, including training, education, and worker placement.
Vallieres will step down as as CEO of Sound Manufacturing and Monster Power Equipment in Old Saybrook to serve as executive director of the new Connecticut Workforce Development Unit.
The unit will be located within the Department of Economic and Community Development and work DECD Commissioner David Lehman and Department of Labor Commissioner Kurt Westby on workforce strategies and initiatives.
Gov. Ned Lamont announced Vallieres' appointment this week, saying the new office is “committed to crafting nation-leading policies and goals that catalyze educators, businesses, nonprofit, and state agencies to develop curricula and programs that are accessible, inclusive” and provide the skills employers need.
Lamont said Vallieres, who has a doctorate in adult experiential learning, “brings a wealth of institutional knowledge about Connecticut’s workforce, leadership experience in both business and academia, and a passion for working alongside industry and education to ensure our students and jobseekers are learning skills that are aligned with the needs of Connecticut employers.”
Vallieres has worked on numerous manufacturing workforce development initiatives and serves on the board of several organizations, including as vice chair of the Governor’s Workforce Council.
“As someone who has devoted my career to working across the Connecticut ecosystem to help workers acquire the skills they need to thrive in their careers, I am thrilled at the opportunity to lead the Workforce Development Unit,” Vallieres, a former member of CBIA's board of directors and a member of the Connecticut Manufacturers' Collaborative, said.
“I am very much looking forward to collaborating with our educators, state agencies, nonprofits, regional workforce boards, employers, and everyone else committed to creating a world class workforce in Connecticut.”
Vallieres said she wants to take successful regional workforce development programs and expand them statewide.
Incoming CBIA president and CEO Chris DiPentima said the workforce unit will complement the Governor’s Workforce Council—and that Vallieres is the perfect choice.
“This is a great stride in moving from what has traditionally been a fragmented, grassroots effort to solve the state's workforce development needs toward a single, central, statewide office accountable for workforce development strategy and deployment for all industries,” DiPentima said.
“Kelli’s background in education and her experience in manufacturing are ideal for this position.”
DiPentima noted that her roles with several regional and statewide manufacturing organizations enabled Vallieres to help change Connecticut’s disjointed workforce activities “to create robust training programs.”
Vallieres’ involvement includes the Eastern Advanced Manufacturing Alliance, the Manufacturing Innovation Fund board, and the CMC leadership team, working with CBIA, its affiliates CONNSTEP and ReadyCT, and other manufacturing organizations.
CONNSTEP president and CEO Bonnie Del Conte also welcomed Vallieres' appointment and the creation of the new workforce development office.
"We all know that workforce development is one of the top priorities in our state for businesses," she said. "Here is a perfect example of how we are working as a team to better align and plan for the current and future pipeline of workers and their respective careers.
"Kelli is so welcomed with her knowledge and background to take on this role."
Shannon Marimón, executive director of ReadyCT, which focuses on connecting Connecticut's public education system with workforce development, called the new unit “very exciting.”
“And we aren't the only ones who think so,” Marimón said. “Since the announcement, there has been nothing but enthusiasm and support for this new unit and its leader.
“The stage is now set for reimagining partnerships and collaborations that better align our education systems to Connecticut's workforce needs, and we look forward to being part of that essential work.”
Lamont has made manufacturing and workforce development a priority in his administration with the revamped Workforce Council, the appointment of Colin Cooper as chief manufacturing officer, and the recent CT Back to Work Initiative.