In August, the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) announced awards to 32 worker-centered training partnerships and collaborations across the country for the $500 million Good Jobs Challenge. These monumental investments will innovate career opportunities for more Americans as we strive to address one of the most competitive labor markets in decades.
Connecticut Office of Workforce Strategy (OWS) received $24 million in federal funding to expand job training programs that have struggled to meet demand amid a shortage of skilled workers in the state.
Garrett Sheehan, president and CEO of the Greater New Haven Chamber of Commerce, discussed the talent challenge OWS focused on when they first applied to the Good Jobs Challenge.
The Greater New Haven region has access to an incredible talent base with a highly educated workforce. The area has six universities, highlighted by Yale University, that drive talent. They recognized that to continue to succeed and grow industries like bioscience and manufacturing, they would need to focus on investment.
Through the application process, they adapted existing programs to focus on regional sector partnerships with TPM in mind.
“At its core, it’s an employer-led initiative where we’re doing TPM,” Sheehan said. “Sometimes we’ll call it by different things, but it really is the TPM model of employers leading the way in an industry, getting them together on a regular basis to address workforce challenges in their industry.”
OWS, which was formed in September 2020, reports directly to the governor and is charged with organizing the workforce development efforts across the state in partnership with the workforce council. Through a desire to build on existing partnerships and develop more collaborations around individual sectors, OWS turned to groups like the Greater New Haven Chamber to help make those connections.
As they collaborated, they realized they had to be selective and identify a few industries that were critical to their region. The Greater New Haven Chamber brought together other chambers in our area, economic developers, and key business leaders to discuss the best workforce opportunities and strategies.
One of the programs that is part of the Greater New Haven Chamber component of the Good Jobs Challenge is a program called BioWatch. The chamber is partnering with CONCAT and Craig Crews, a Yale University scientist, who founded five different bioscience companies in his career, three of which operate in Greater Haven currently.
A college degree is one of the highest barriers to channeling workers into bioscience jobs. Knowing that, one of the programs that was put forth as part of this application is called Bio Launch. It is a six-month training program with externships where non-college-bound participants can get training. Most employers have committed to training these participants, and each participant will have an externship placement as part of this program. The program also offers a stipend and works to address issues around issues, transportation, childcare, and other factors that keep people out of the workforce.
“The chamber is able to be that convener and that central place for addressing the challenges and problems of business,” Sheehan explained. “It really goes to our larger goal, which is economic growth of our region. We see talent as that competitive advantage, and we have some great resources, and a great starting point, but obviously, everyone is competing on talent, doing things to address their workforce. TPM is one of those tools that we have to help give us an edge and continue to maintain that advantage.”