BLOOMFIELD — Cigna has announced it is now part of a national group of health care businesses and organizations committed to employing disabled veterans. The coalition, called Hero Health Hire, seeks to proactively place “wounded warriors” in health care industry civilian jobs for which they qualify. John Murabito, Cigna’s executive vice president for human resources and services, praised the overall skills of veterans, such as leadership and discipline, and said his company would benefit by hiring former service men and women. For more information about the Hero Health Hire program, visit

 NORTH HAVEN — Gateway Community College last month held a ribbon-cutting ceremony for a new solar energy laboratory on its North Haven campus. The lab broadens the college’s applied skills offerings and enhances potential employment opportunities for students by providing hands-on instruction in installing a variety of energy systems. Those systems include battery-based, solar thermal and solar photovoltaic (PV) operations. The new enterprise, which includes classroom workspace and a mock roof for practice installing, falls under the auspices of the college’s Center for a Sustainable Future. It was made possible through a $100,000 grant provided by the Connecticut Clean Energy Finance & Investment Authority and a $70,000 grant from the Northeast Photovoltaic Training Network. Gateway has offered instruction in solar energy installation on a limited, introductory basis for the past three years.

 The state’s Department of Economic & Community Development (DECD) is hosting informational sessions throughout the state on specifics of the jobs bill. As many aspects of the new legislation impact small businesses, owners and administrators of small businesses are encouraged to attend. Dates and locations for upcoming “Reinventing Connecticut” sessions, each of which will take place 8:30 to 10 a.m., are December 6, New Haven Lawn Club, New Haven; December 14 at UConn/Stamford; December 19 at Clinton Town Hall; December 20 at Post University, Waterbury; December 22 at Three Rivers Community College, Norwich; January 5 at Housatonic Community College, Bridgeport; January 9 at Four Points Sheraton in Meriden; and January 12, Matrix Corporate Center, Danbury. The sessions are free, but space is limited and advance registration is urged. To reserve a seat, call 800-392-2122 or e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. For information regarding additional sessions, check the DECD website at

 WOODBRIDGE — The often-held perception that manufacturing work environments are characterized by adjectives such as dirty, grimy and sweaty persists even into the 21st-century, say labor experts.

But many modern manufacturing employees operate in a highly technological, computer-based workplace where grease and grime are mere memories of a bygone era.

In a state where job shortage has been a primary focus, the dearth of qualified workers in the state’s manufacturing industry is a major issue that needs to be addressed, says Department of Economic & Community Development (DECD) Commissioner Catherine Smith.

“There are great alternatives right now if [job-seekers] are willing to work for a manufacturer,” says Smith. She adds that nowadays many machines are operated via computer instead of manually, and jobs in the manufacturing industry can command annual salaries of up to $100,000.

“These are good jobs,” she says. “We really want to get the word out.”

Getting the word out about the hundreds of available manufacturing jobs in Connecticut is one thing. Finding workers with the necessary high-tech qualifications is another.

“Many companies would like to hire people, but they can’t find people with the skills they need,” says Jerry Clupper, executive director of the New Haven Manufacturers Association. “What a manufacturer wants is a person who can walk in and do the job that’s available.”

Today’s workers must be proficient in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) skills, as well as have basic knowledge of the industry, Clupper notes.

“They have to be able to speak the language. If you don’t know what lean manufacturing is, I can’t use you. It’s the package that’s lacking. The range of skills they need is diverse.”

The state’s new “jobs” bill, signed into law by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy on October 27, may help, Clupper says. He and other NHMA members worked with the governor and Smith on manufacturing job-readiness elements of the bill.

The legislation attempts to address the state’s manufacturing industry worker shortage through initiatives that include vocational-technical school curriculum enhancements, increased educational-institution accountability, and subsidies to companies for new-hire salaries and training.

“It’s a start,” says Clupper. “It depends on how it’s going to be implemented.”

Educating school guidance counselors and parents as well as students is key, he says. Realizing that perceptions of manufacturing environments as “dirty, dark and dangerous” are outmoded will help increase the number of Connecticut residents seeking and preparing for manufacturing careers, says Clupper.

 NEW HAVEN — U.S. Sen. Richard C. Blumenthal traveled to Gateway Community College November 14 to announce elements of his Pathways Back to Work Act, a bill he introduced which he says will offer both relief and training programs to individuals seeking work. The legislation would make $5 million available for a fund aimed at immediately creating jobs for unemployed adults; provide $1.5 billion for summer and year-round work for youth; and establish a $1.5 billion competitive grant program for businesses and agencies that offer work-related education and training programs for the unemployed. Calling long-term unemployment “a persistent problem that harms the middle class and economy as a whole,” Blumenthal said in a release that the bill will empower families and individuals in Connecticut by providing the skills and opportunities necessary to reconnect them with the workforce.

 HARTFORD — A new law mandating electronic filing of state-required annual business reports will become effective January 1. Secretary of the State Denise Merrill says eliminating the paper filing option will make business registration for entrepreneurs easier and result in “significant savings for taxpayer” by reducing the need for large amounts of paper. Additional reasons cited for the procedural change include shorter processing time and better customer service. The legislation passed both the state House of Representatives and Senate unanimously, and was signed into law by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy in July.

 NEWINGTON — Commuters who get to work via state Department of Transportation-operated buses or trains won’t have to worry about cuts in service, which the department had considered. Workers will, however, be faced with what DOT calls “modest” fare increases come January 1, and with incremental increases occurring annually over several years. They’re needed to help address escalating operating costs, according to DOT. While fares have remained steady since 2005, operating expenses have grown by 12 percent because of inflation, says DOT Commissioner James P. Redeker. For specifics about the new fares visit and scroll down to and click “New Fares” on the left near the bottom of the page.