A House Republican plan to eliminate a $95-million-a-year federal apprenticeship program could be bad news for Connecticut.
With a growing demand for skilled defense and aerospace workers, business and political leaders have been anticipating the funding to boost worker training ahead of an expected ramp-up in military contracting.
“It just flies in the face of every message that employers, not just in manufacturing, but in other sectors, have been totally united in expressing, which is the jobs are there but the skills aren’t,” Rep. Joe Courtney said.
Courtney traveled to an Electric Boat union hall in Groton Friday, where officials from the submarine manufacturer said 600 positions had been filled this year through an apprenticeship program created by the union and Electric Boat that relies on federal funds. Between 14,000 and 20,000 additional workers will be hired by 2030 as work at the Groton shipyard expands to three submarines a year.
When Courtney met with Pratt & Whitney President Bob Leduc in Washington this week he said their conversation included a discussion about workforce issues.
“It really is universal,” Courtney said. He said Pratt has hired 4,500 in other states in the past 18 months, 3,000 in Connecticut, and plans to hire an additional 12,000 to 15,000 over the next four or five years to meet increased demand for its commercial jet engines.
Rep. Rosa DeLauro is the senior Democrat on the House subcommittee where the budget that includes the apprenticeship program was debated this week. She introduced an amendment to restore the $95 million but it was defeated on a party-line vote.
“There are jobs they tell us that are going begging,” said DeLauro, who held a discussion in New Haven Friday with participants in the program. “And the problem is a skills gap. Why are we going to do in the apprenticeship program that allows you to earn while you learn?”
DeLauro said nine out of 10 people who participate in the apprenticeship program are employed, with an average starting salary of $60,000 a year.
“That’s a good-paying job,” she said. “That helps people take care of their families, pay their taxes.”
DeLauro’s district has also benefited from the increase in defense contracting. Stratford-based Sikorsky is planning on building more Black Hawks, as well as a new heavy-lift helicopter for the Marines and the next-generation presidential helicopter.
According to Courtney’s office, since 2015 the Connecticut Department of Labor has received three federal grants totaling $7 million to jump-start apprenticeship programs across the state. Courtney said funding for the program has received bipartisan support in the past.
Originally published in the Hartford Courant – July 21, 2017
By: Russell BlairJuly 21st, 2017