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CBIA survey finds recruiting, training top challenges for CT manufacturers

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Connecticut manufacturers will need to fill 13,600 positions by 2018 to meet growing demand, according to a new Connecticut Business & Industry Association (CBIA) survey.

The 2017 Survey of Connecticut Manufacturing Workforce Needs, produced by CBIA and the National Science Foundation Regional Center for Next Generation Manufacturing, found 99 percent of manufacturers expect to grow their workforce in the next three years.

Manufacturers are hiring for a range of positions, including entry level production workers, engineers and welders, with 98 percent looking to fill full-time positions. The average starting pay for all levels ranged from $29,000 to $66,000.

The survey also showed that retaining workers is a challenge for many of the state’s manufacturers. Twenty-seven percent of respondents said some were leaving for better pay and benefits, while 20 percent said they were losing employees to retirement.

Manufacturers said they are preparing for vacancies by training their current workforce (79 percent), targeted recruitment plans (72 percent), developing and expanding apprenticeships (40 percent) and automation (26 percent).

“This survey is the road map to reinvigorating the mainstay of our state’s economy,” said Brian Flaherty, CBIA senior vice president of public policy. “The answers are here, from hiring needs, to the skills they’re looking for, and the barriers to growth they need to clear.”

The survey also highlighted the disconnect between needed skills and available training. In almost every category, manufacturers felt there are not enough training opportunities. Specifically, they noted employees lack employability, punctuality and work ethic (74 percent) and technical skills such as CNC and blueprint reading (71 percent).

Manufacturers are largely addressing the skills gap through on-the-job training (95 percent), tuition reimbursement (61 percent), and classroom education outside of (54 percent) and during work hours (47 percent).

They are also turning to educational institutions for help, including in-state technical high schools (75 percent), in-state community college certification programs (67 percent), in-state community college associate’s program (52 percent) and state high schools (58 percent).

With hiring projections in the thousands over the next three years, the CBIA recommended the following:

  • Further expanding the state’s community college technical training programs;
  • The Small Business Express Program must expand  to reach larger manufacturers that are struggling as much as smaller firms to find the next generation of talent;
  • Public schools must increase efforts to educate students, guidance counselors, and parents about careers in modern manufacturing; and
  • While the University of Connecticut’s successful engineering program has grown in popularity, other state and private schools need to work to create and improve engineering programs

The 2017 Survey of Connecticut Manufacturing Workforce Needs was emailed and mailed to manufacturing executives and human resource directors throughout Connecticut in December 2016 and early January 2017. The survey had 157 respondents for a 5 percent response rate and 8 percent margin of error, with a 95 percent confidence level.

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