WASHINGTON, D.C. — The United States has brought a new trade action against China, claiming that the Asian nation’s policies unfairly restrict American companies’ access to rare earth materials. The U.S. is joined in its complaint by Japan and some European allies, President Barack Obama announced March 13. Rare earth materials, which China supplies, are used to manufacture hybrid cars and advanced batteries. Obama said in a statement that bringing the case against China would help level the energy-industry manufacturing playing field and strengthen fair trade.

 Two Connecticut residents, along with two students attending college in the state, have been selected to participate in the White House Internship Program for the Spring 2012 session, the White House has announced. Described as “future leaders” in a White House press release, the chosen interns are Brian Bendett of West Hartford, who attends Cornell University; Amanda DeGroff of Glastonbury, a student at Wheaton College; Yale University student Dana Rosenzweig of Wyomissing, Pa.; and Wesleyan University student Andrew Zack, who is from Baltimore, Md.

 WETHERSFIELD — The vicissitudes of Mother Nature during the winter months made a positive impact on Connecticut’s jobless rate, according to the state’s Department of Labor. Nonfarm unemployment dropped to 8.0 percent in January 2012, as the weather at best encouraged and at least did not impede business activity. “The region’s mild winter appears to be helping job growth in Connecticut across many industries, including construction, manufacturing, and trade,” said Andy Condon, director of DOL’s Office of Research in a statement. Condon added that the state saw a new development in comparison with recent months: a slight labor force shrinkage. Still, Connecticut’s January unemployment rate was below the national rate of 8.3 percent. In Connecticut, January job gains were seen in ten of the state’s employment supersectors, for a total of 7,100 new nonfarm jobs over the previous month.

 WASHINGTON, D.C.— President Barack Obama announced last month a proposal to create at National Network for Manufacturing Innovation, to be funded through a $1 billion investment. The project would focus on making American manufacturers more competitive and encouraging investment in the United States by building a network of up to 15 Institutes for Manufacturing Innovation throughout the country, according to a White House release. The initiative would support the president’s efforts to encourage insourcing — supporting and creating jobs in the U.S. — and reverse the trend of outsourcing that has resulted in a significant number of jobs being repositioned outside the country.

NEW HAVEN — The question of whether New Haven-based companies should be required to hire city residents has spurred the mayor and Board of Aldermen to initiate a job-creation plan.

 

The aldermen want the city to establish a “pipeline” that gives residents a direct connection to jobs with city-based employers as a way to help relieve unemployment among city residents.

 

Mayor John DeStefano Jr. has a similar idea, which he described in his February 6 State of the City address. His solution consists of “a one-stop [jobs center] for all those looking for work,” DeStefano said. It would be “connected directly to employers who need workforces through an employer pipeline. Imagine a program focused on New Haven residents in which all employers, big and small, profit and nonprofit, build community through extraordinary efforts and goals to hire city residents.”

 

But some say that potential already exists. They point specifically to a multi-million-dollar local financial services company, Higher One that, some critics say, fails to hire from within its host city.

 

The problem, say defenders of Higher One, is that many city dwellers are not qualified for most of the available Higher One positions, and lack the expertise, education and even the social skills required for employment with the company.

 

However, local residents maintain they’ve been unfairly shut out of the Higher One workforce — something the company owes members of its community, they say.

 

The company, which offers financial services to students at colleges and universities across the nation, has grown exponentially since being launched by three then-Yale students 12 years ago. Work to refurbish the former Winchester Repeating Arms Co. site as the new Higher One company headquarters has attracted millions in state financial support.

 

Higher One did participate in a recent city-wide job fair. Openings it sought to fill included positions such as cook, dishwasher and customer care agent.

 

While the particular situation with Higher One has yet to be resolved to the satisfaction of some city job-seekers, local leaders are hoping the jobs pipeline will help reduce the city’s 11.7-percent unemployment rate.

 

In its Vision Statement for 2012-13, the Board of Aldermen announced the “creation of a Jobs Pipeline Program Working Group with a 90-day deadline to develop a strategic plan” as well as a resolution requesting that the Civil Service Board “increase the [job-readiness] points awarded to qualifying New Haven residents from five to ten points.”

 

Meanwhile, DeStefano said in his State of the City address that he’s seeking a coordinated effort among local employers, training centers and educational institutions to formulate a jobs solution that “matches aspiration to access; that matches access to a trained workforce; that matches a trained workforce to all employers; and a solution that matches a trained New Haven workforce to lifelong work.”

 

HAMDEN — A cohort of Quinnipiac University nursing pre-professionals topped their high-achieving predecessors by earning the school’s highest pass rate in a decade on the profession’s recent qualifying exam, according to a release from the university. About 97 percent of the university’s nursing graduates earning bachelor’s degrees in 2011 passed the National Council Licensure Examination. “This year’s pass rate is our highest in ten years,” said Lisa O’Connor, director of the school’s undergraduate nursing program, in a statement. “This year’s pass rate demonstrates the strong caliber of our students. It also is representative of the strength of our curriculum and of the nursing faculty and staff.” Quinnipiac routinely has among the highest pass rates of any college in the state, according to the university, which adds that Connecticut tops all states among those graduating in excess of 1,000 bachelor’s and associate degree nursing students annually.

HARTFORD — Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has proposed an improvement to vocational-technical schools that will have them focusing more on employer needs. Last month Malloy announced enhancements to the system that would include raising standards for both students and schools; establishing goals that are commensurate with national and global training models; and increasing funding for student supplies and training resources, among other enhancements.

“When these reforms are in place, we will position our technical high school system to offer programs that are relevant for the high-tech jobs of today and tomorrow,” said Malloy. The changes stemmed from recommendations made by the Connecticut Technical High School System Task Force in a January report.