CT POST. By Jordan Grice, Tuesday, December 11, 2018
Unemployment may be down in Connecticut, but regional workforce centers staff said they still have plenty of work to do.
“We are extremely busy, probably busier than ever,” said Joe Carbone, president and CEO of The Workplace in Bridgeport. “Unemployment rates in Fairfield County are a little bit higher than the national rate, but not all that considerably. This is not everyone’s recovery.”
The state’s unemployment rate remained at 4.2 percent in October, according to data from the Connecticut Department of Labor, compared with the U.S. jobless rate of 3.7 percent.
While that bodes well for many residents, the relatively low unemployment rate hasn’t eliminated the demand for workforce development organizations like The Workplace, which provides placement and job training throughout southwestern Connecticut.
“I’ve always considered the unemployment rate as the big lie,” Carbone said. “It makes it easy for those that are comfortable to separate themselves from the suffering of others.”
People with professional degrees and credentials that are in demand in the market are benefiting from the improved economy, but for those without higher education, Carbone said, there is still a need for assistance.
Among the job growth in the state, there has also been an increase of low-wage jobs, which doesn’t provide individuals with the means to make it out of poverty.
For the jobs that offer higher pay, barriers to employment remain for people who lack the skills or education to stand out in the competitive market.
People need “more than just help finding a job, “said Bill Villano, president and CEO of Workforce Alliance, an employment center in New Haven County. “They need to upgrade their skills some way. Even though the economy is getting near 4 percent, which economists think characterizes full employment, they’re still struggling to have the fundamental skills that employers need.”
Organizations are addressing the demand for skilled labor with different training programs. In Workforce Alliance’s case, they’ve concentrated on sector-based employment.
The employment center is preparing to launch a manufacturing training program modeled after the Eastern CT Manufacturing Pipeline in the Eastern Workforce Board. The program is responsible for placing troves of people in more than 140 companies statewide, with 78 percent of the graduates never having any prior manufacturing experience.
With the economy continuing to improve, the labor pool features people working part time and second jobs or using the program as an opportunity rise out of their entry-level positions into higher-paying roles.
“It’s a program that’s really demand-driven in the sense that employers helped design it and design the curriculum,” Villano said. “They helped design the assessment process, and in a five-week period, we’re giving people the fundamental skills that manufacturers across a number of areas and companies said they need.”
The Workplace also has its five-week Platform to Employment program, which has helped more than 1,000 people find work. Approximately 80 percent of graduates from preparatory programs take the next step into a work experience with a local business, according to the Workplace.