Op-ed: CT’s aging workforce – preparing for a big shift, talent shortages

There is demographic “canyon” coming our way to the workforce in Connecticut. Many baby boomers are set to begin retiring in the next few years, and for some of the state’s businesses, that can be a significant percentage of their workforce and the “knowledge base” that forms the core of these organization’s operations and competitiveness. As much as 40 percent of some business’ workforce might retire within the next decade. If we don’t act now to prepare young people for these jobs, and provide more competitive skills for our older workers, we can expect critical impacts to tax revenue structure, service delivery, productivity and overall quality of life.

Capital Workforce Partners, the nonprofit, workforce investment board for North Central Connecticut, works in partnership with the Connecticut Department of Labor and many community agencies and chambers of commerce with the common goals of finding jobs for people and people for jobs. Here are the board’s state legislative priorities:

  1. STEP UP – continue the state’s successful STEP UP program for manufacturers and small businesses by replenishing the $20m in bond funds.- 2,000 jobs have been added to date in both the manufacturing and subsidized small business programs for other industry sectors, but some regions have expended their allotments. Others will soon follow. It’s time to build on success.
  2. JOBS FUNNELS –Fund the state’s jobs funnels that will otherwise need to be reduced or shut down in June 2014 due to the sunsetting of  a three-year grantThese pre-employment training “Funnels” for construction-related trades have put thousands of individuals, many of them ex-offenders, to work building the infrastructure of our state.  There are billions of dollars of construction activity in the works, and that does not even include the jobs that will be created for the Governor’s $7 billion energy plan and approved gas conversion efforts.
  3. JOBS FIRST and I-BEST –Provide $2 million for the state’s I-Best, outcome proven, contextualized learning initiatives, while reinstating  $1.3 million that was diverted from the state’s Job First (JFES) program back to that program. And create REGIONAL PRE-K – 20 HIGH LEVEL LEADERSHIP GROUPS, to support and sustain.
  4. YOUTH EMPLOYMENT –Continue to support the state’s youth employment program that last year put nearly 5,000 teens to work with the state’s $4.5 million investment. This program has proven outcomes, but still a large waiting list of eligible, low-income youth who are eager to work.
  5. LEVERAGE THE STATE’S JOB CREATION INITIATIVES with local workforce investment board talent development strategies to put CT unemployed residents back to work. These initiatives include:
    1. Connecticut’s First Five Initiatives – where thousands of new jobs will require skilled workers.
    2. Connecticut’s Energy Plan — where thousands of new jobs will be created form the conversion of present energy fuel supplies to natural gas.
    3. Connecticut’s Waste Management Task Force and Materials Management Plan – that will create new business start-ups necessitating the hiring of additional workers.

Talent Matters Now! Let’s all chip in to get Connecticut back to work.

Tom Phillips is president and CEO of Capital Workforce Partners.

 

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