CT is expected to create hundreds of thousands of jobs in the areas of IT, software development, healthcare, trades, and office/management work. Our workforce-training programs need to be better aligned to meet these needs. One of employers’ top considerations when choosing where to locate and whether to expand their business is the presence of  a skilled workforce.

Building on our successes in creating family supporting jobs, House Democrats’ will:

  • Give our Technical Schools the Resources and Tools they Need to Succeed

  • Expand Technical Education Programs in District High Schools

  • Develop Career Pathways in our Growth Industries

  • Review our Workforce Training Programs

  • Make Higher Education More Affordable

Solution: Give Our Technical Schools the Tools They Need to Succeed

Our Technical High School system has made significant strides to ensure that graduates earn certificates that will help them in the workforce. House Democrats propose that we make a historic investment in our technical schools by developing partnerships with our employers. In addition, we propose taking our Technical High Schools out from under the State Department of Education to provide them the flexibility they need to be responsive to the needs of students.

At a time when economic and labor trends all point to the importance of training for self-sufficiency, the number of undereducated adults in CT is approximately the same as CT’s entire K-12 population.  The Technical High Schools currently have 11,000 students enrolled in one of 16 diploma-granting technical high schools or one technical education center, offering training in 36 occupational areas. House Democrats will work with industry partners to expand our technicals schools both for regular students and for adult learners.

We also plan to track what happens to CTHSS students after they graduate.  Do they go to college, do they go right into an apprenticeship program or do they end up working in a totally unrelated occupation?  Knowing this information will help us to ensure that the programs that we are funding are actually producing the workers that our state needs.  

Insufficient funding has limited the ability to take effective practices to scale and sustain them.  Prospective participants' demand for services have overwhelmed available resources and capacity of workforce programs across the state workforce system.  Effective strategies - can be expensive and therefore have limited impact without sufficient funding.

Solution: Expand CTE in District High Schools

Every student, regardless of whether they are able to attend a Technical High School, should be able to receive basic career and technical education in their home districts. We will work to develop and fund Career Technical Education programing at our in-district high schools.

Solution: Develop Career Pathways in our Growth Industries

We are going to sit down with our large- and medium-sized employers - Aetna, Bank of America, our hospitals, etc. - and ask them what their workforce needs will be over the next 10+ years and then develop training programs in response to those needs.  We will do that by meeting with the Board of Regents, the Community Colleges, the Vocational Technical Schools, and the State Department of Education.  This will both keep those employers in the state, and keep our students here after they graduate.

During this past legislative session, working on a bipartisan basis and with the support of industry representatives, we passed HB 5423, An Act Encouraging Middle School And High School Students To Consider Careers In Manufacturing, to make sure our young people know about careers in manufacturing and have the opportunity to set themselves on a path for those jobs.

The manufacturing industry in CT employs 162,800 people at 4,152 manufacturing establishments.  Each manufacturing job creates 1.5 to 4 additional jobs in other parts of the state’s economy.  CT manufacturers export $15.35 billion per year and they bring in $11.8 billion in defense contracts.  

House Democrats will work with industry partners to develop similar programs in other growth occupations like health care, teaching, engineering, and information technology. Each of these industries is expected to grow jobs in the coming years, and Connecticut needs trained workers to be ready for those jobs.

Solution: Review our Workforce Training Programs

The State of Connecticut spends more than $30 million annually on workforce development through a combination of federal, state, local, and private programs. In 2014, and then again in 2015, after analyzing what works and what does not, we funded and expanded the Platform to Employment program developed by The WorkPlace in Bridgeport.  Over the past two years this program has graduated 1,000 students, and 80% of students who complete the program take the next step of getting work experience at a company. Of that group 90% have gained employment.  Going forward, House Democrats will look at all of our workforce development programs to eliminate duplication, fund what works, and focus on CT’s growth industries.

Solution: Make Higher Education More Affordable

In the most recent ranking by U.S. News and World Report, UConn is ranked 20th among national public universities.  Yale ranked third among national universities.  Wesleyan University is ranked 21st among national liberal arts colleges, Trinity College is ranked 38th and Connecticut College is ranked 50th on the same list.   Many of our other public and private universities have won accolades as well. They are attracting students from all over the country.  We need to work to keep these students here and to support these institutions of higher learning.    

Cost should not be a reason that someone doesn’t attend an institution of higher education.  For many of our recent graduates, a loan payment costs more than a monthly rent payment.  In many cases this debt burden can prevent them from purchasing a home and starting a family.  In 2015 we passed the Student Loan Bill of Rights.  We will continue our efforts to help make financing college more affordable.  

House Democrats proposes that we allow students to deduct student loan interest from their state income taxes (student loan interest is already deductible on their federal income taxes).

In addition, we propose that every student who graduates from a Connecticut High School at the top of their class and attends a public institution of higher education in Connecticut will be provided with a scholarship.  We will be sure to track the students that take advantage of this program to ensure that it inspires all students to reach the top of their class and stay in Connecticut.

We will continue to work towards making a community college education free to all students. Applying for scholarships, grants and other financial aid for college can be very complicated and complex we will create a more simplified way to access these funding opportunities.  

Every student deserves a quality education, and no student should be trapped with expensive loans and a degree that has little value. We are committed to working with our institutions of higher education to develop a system of metrics that can be available to students and their parents when choosing where to go to school, as well as policy makers and regulators when analyzing how effectively our tax dollars are spent.

Following the passage of HB 6907 in 2015, CHESLA is now offering a program called Refi CT, a pilot program that will allow students to be able to refinance their existing postsecondary education loans. Following the conclusion of the pilot program, we will work with CHESLA to either expand the program or make necessary adjustments.

In order to help encourage college graduates to go into the farming industry and build on the success of the CT Grown movement, we are proposing a student loan forgiveness program, where if the graduate farms for at least 5 years they will see up to $30,000 of their student loans forgiven.  Similar programs have been created in New York and Wisconsin.