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Connecticut looks to boost manufacturing sector

10/23/2019

Connecticut looks to boost manufacturing sector

While many states have enjoyed a bit of a manufacturing renaissance in recent years, there are several where the industry could still stand to make larger improvements. One of them is Connecticut, where there has long been a solid base for the sector, but experts and officials agree that more can be done to encourage growth.

The Nutmeg State recently added a new position to the government payroll to do just that, with Gov. Ned Lamont tapping a long-time executive from the aerospace sector to become the state's first-ever chief manufacturing officer, according to the Connecticut Mirror. As with many other states, part of the problem is that many companies in Connecticut simply don't have a deep enough talent pool to draw from; just the relatively small number of aerospace manufacturers in the state have roughly 1,000 current job openings.

The position, now occupied by Whitcraft Group exec Colin Cooper, came at the urging of other industry leaders in the state, which is facing issues not just related the current shortfall of sufficiently skilled workers, the report said. Also, manufacturers have to contend with the so-called "silver tsunami" that will hit over the next several years, as thousands more workers retire from jobs they've held for decades.

Some growth is happening
The situation in Connecticut isn't all doom and gloom, however, according to the Manchester Journal Inquirer. Recent data from the state's Eastern Workforce Investment Board and Eastern Advanced Manufacturing Alliance showed that the part of the state closest to Rhode Island has seen manufacturing jobs grow more than 11% from 2015 to 2019, a rate that's double the national average over the same stretch.

Indeed, that region alone saw about 2 in every 3 of Connecticut's new manufacturing jobs over the four-year stretch - and it has been a big part of the state's labor-market turnaround as a whole, the report said. In the last three years alone, the EWIB has put some 1,500 graduates of its Manufacturing Pipeline Initiative into long-term jobs.

About the 'Silver Tsunami'
Those kinds of training classes are likely to become even more important as the first signs of the wave of retirements start to show themselves, according to the Hartford Courant. Across all industries, 27% of workers in the Nutmeg State are already over 54, but for manufacturing in particular, the share rises to 35%. The median manufacturing worker in Connecticut is 41 years old.

As such, more manufacturers and independent initiatives are ramping up their training processes to ensure they can at least begin to replace the thousands of workers who are likely to retire over the next decade, the report said. However, all acknowledge that it won't be easy.

When manufacturers are looking to attract new hires and retain the workers they already have, perhaps the best possible solution is to offer stronger pay and better benefits and perks. That may be especially true in the face of the increasing competition for talent that's likely to come in Connecticut and beyond.

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