NEW HAVEN — Future dieticians receiving education and training at Gateway Community College’s (GCC) new downtown campus will have access to state-of-the-art equipment in its Dietetic Technology Laboratory, thanks to a $150,000 gift from Anthem Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Connecticut. “The college plays a key role in educating tomorrow’s workforce, including those who seek careers in health care,” said Anthem President David R. Fusco in a statement. In recognition of the gift, given through GCC’s “Your College. Your Future” building campaign, the new lab will carry the Anthem name. GCC’s Dietetic Technology Program currently has 60 enrolled students; 344 have graduated with an associate of science degree since the program’s inception. “The teaching technology in our new laboratory will provide many more dietetic technology students the opportunity to bridge what they’re learning in class with instructional demonstrations and hands-on practice,” said Elaine Lickteig, coordinator of the Dietetic Technology Program.

 HARTFORD — Not all public-transportation commuters fared equally in the state budget approved by legislators in May. While a planned bus-fare increase was excised before final legislative approval, Metro North riders were not so lucky. Employees who commute to work via Metro North will be subject to a four-percent rise in the cost of their tickets come next January 1.

 HAMDEN — Special Olympics Connecticut (SOCT) is seeking a director of corporate relations. Duties include seeking out potential benefactors as well as maintaining relationships with current donors and sponsors; helping develop and initiate fundraising avenues for SOCT’s ongoing competitions, special events and programs in Hamden; keeping up-to-date databases and files focusing on sponsors; and representing the organization in a variety of corporate areas, among other responsibilities. Excellent communication, presentation, analytical and planning skills are among needed qualifications. For more details, e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..  

 WETHERSFIELD — Preliminary figures from the state’s Department of Labor show that there were 4,100 fewer nonfarm jobs in the state in April compared with the previous month, and 2,300 fewer positions compared with April 2011. However, the numbers could be misleading because of factors that include mild winter weather which made for above-average employment activity in industries that usually see a slow-down during the winter months. That could make spring employment figures less sanguine.

“The decline in both monthly and annual job growth numbers in April is disappointing, but unusual seasonal patterns this past winter into spring make these numbers difficult to interpret,” said Andy Condon, director of DOL’s Office of Research, in a statement. Condon chose to interpret the numbers optimistically, saying, “Despite variability in growth from month to month we still appear to be on a path of positive, albeit modest, job growth.” Connecticut saw a net gain of 5,300 jobs in the first four months of this year, according to the department. The state’s April unemployment rate remained the same as the previous month, 7.7 percent.

 NEW HAVEN — Much bigger and much better for the city of New Haven is how Higher One describes its new headquarters, which can accommodate ten times the number of employees that the company’s previous location in Science Park originally housed. The former Winchester Arms Factory site, fully refurbished to serve as Higher One headquarters, can accommodate 240 employees. “I’m happy the state of Connecticut saw the wisdom in making the investments alongside our partner Higher One to rebuild this great building and mark a new history for New Haven,” Gov. Dannel P. Malloy is quoted in a Higher One press release as saying. The governor was among several dignitaries attending a March 20 ribbon cutting ceremony.

Higher One, which also has offices in Oakland, Calif. and Atlanta, employs some 600 workers nationwide.

 NEW HAVEN — Services at Yale-New Haven Hospital’s main location on York Street are supplemented by a number of facilities throughout the region. Among them are blood-drawing sites. All must be staffed. And that’s where ConnCAT comes in.

A new community program housed in a refurbished second-floor facility at 4 Science Park, ConnCAT — or the Connecticut Center for Arts & Technology — will devote some of its resources to training unemployed New Haven-area residents in marketable job skills. Initially the focus will be on medical coding and phlebotomy.

“These are two market-relevant job training [areas] indicated by Yale [YNHH] as a need for them immediately,” explains Erik Clemons, ConnCAT’s executive director and president. The program formally opened its doors last month with a festive gathering of community leaders who, according to reports of the event, met the city’s latest effort to aid job-seekers with wholehearted enthusiasm.

That wasn’t always the case.

Four years ago, when the idea for what would become ConnCAT was first made public, many observers doubted the enterprise would be successful, and some even met it with resentment. Fanning the flames of doubt was a $150,000 Community Foundation for Greater New Haven-funded feasibility study. A popular sentiment was that the money would be better spent on needy programs and projects already in the funding channel.

“Coming in I knew there was a lot of skepticism, given the number of competing resources,” says Clemons, “and also given the scope of what we were trying to do.”

What helped quell much of the criticism were the program’s fit with other city initiatives and the can-do attitude of area businessman Carlton Highsmith, says Clemons.

The “fit” is with the idea of a jobs pipeline, a proposed collaboration of training, educational and business entities touted by both Mayor John DeStefano Jr. and the Board of Aldermen as a way to reduce local unemployment. ConnCAT fits that blueprint, says Clemons.

“It was timely,” he says.

As for Highsmith, the founder and former CEO of Specialized Packaging Group, came out of retirement to spearhead the $5 million fundraising effort needed to get ConnCAT up and running.

In addition to employment training, the program also has an arts component geared towards at-risk New Haven-area youth. That is set to start this fall. The job training will begin within weeks, says Clemons, as soon as ConnCAT receives the necessary certification as a private occupational school by the state’s Department of Labor. This first class will consist of 40 adult trainees.

“We’re interviewing now,” says Clemons. Preliminary requirements for residents include New Haven County residence, possession of a Social Security number and high school diploma or GED, and passage of a criminal background check as well as a numeric and literacy exam.

For potential trainees who can’t meet all the requirements, there’s help, at least in some areas. For example remedial reading instruction is available for those who don’t pass the literacy exam (a tenth- to 11th-grade level is required).

“We’ve built a literacy classroom in the facility,” says Clemons. “We’ve partnered with Literacy Volunteers, and volunteers will tutor those who don’t meet the threshold.”

Going the extra mile to aid out-of-work local residents is a principle handed to ConnCAT by its progenitor, the Pittsburgh-based National Center for Arts & Technology. ConnCAT is the fifth affiliate of that program. All affiliates fall under the auspices of the Manchester Bidwell Corp., created as a parent organization in 1999.

Founder Bill Strickland wanted CAT to be an oasis for Pittsburgh’s underserved — and perpetually unemployed — population. In addition to New Haven, other CAT programs have been established in Cincinnati, Cleveland, Grand Rapids and San Francisco. A sixth program will be launched in Buffalo, N.Y., next year, Clemons says.

Each program aims to reduce unemployment by training local residents to be market-relevant by filling positions needed in the local economy. Thus it’s fitting that New Haven’s initiative begins with the medical coding and blood-drawing needs of the city’s second-largest employer, YNHH. ConnCAT also is looking to establish future partnerships with employers having similar needs, such as Quest Diagnostics and the American Red Cross, says Clemons. In addition, he says that ConnCAT will expand to include a culinary program within the next two years.

Students who participate in the arts component of ConnCAT also could eventually benefit from the job training program, Clemons adds.

“Our main goal [with the arts component] is for young people to go to college,” he says. “But for those who do not go to college, they can just walk across the hall and start job training.”

HARTFORD — Growing and retaining jobs that help protect the environment are among the priorities of the state legislature’s newly formed Long Island Sound Caucus, established to address energy, economic and environmental issues impacting the Sound. “I am proud to be part of this bipartisan group focused on protecting the waters, wildlife and economy of our home state,” said State Sen. L. Scott Frantz (R-36) of Greenwich, a member of the caucus’ steering committee. “Along the shoreline, we all depend on Long Island Sound for natural resources, transportation and recreation, and we must work together to solve current and future challenges. It is my hope that we can achieve our goals so that future generations can continue to enjoy this beautiful resource.”