NEW HAVEN — Contractors soon will be needed for renovation work at the city’s Tower East senior housing complex. The New Haven Jewish Federation Housing Corp., which oversees the downtown complex, has received a nearly $2.6 million federal grant to convert 14 existing residential units into assisted-living units, according to the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development. The funds were made available through HUD’s Assisted Living Conversion Program.  

 

ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Connecticut ranked sixth among states in highest compensation paid to government employees in 2010, according to information recently released by the Rochester, N.Y.-based Center for Governmental Research. The nonprofit reports that the gross average pay for Connecticut state workers was $51,186. That compares with $56,179 for the top-ranked New Jersey. Listed between the two were New York, California, Alaska and Maryland. North Dakota, averaging pay of $33,895 per state worker, was 50th. The figures are based on CGR’s analysis of U.S. Bureau of the Census information.

 

WETHERSFIELD — The state added a mere 100 nonfarm jobs in November, according to the state Department of Labor’s Office of Research. That came as a surprise to office Director Andy Condon, who expected fallout from the late October snowstorm would include a spike in emergency-related jobs. In a release chronicling November’s employment statistics, Condon surmises, “It is possible that since much of the additional workforce [during and immediately after the storm] came from out of state, the additional jobs will be reported in their home communities.” Condon was more sanguine about Connecticut’s 8.4 percent November unemployment rate, calling the 0.3 percent drop from the previous month “[a]nother healthy decline.” Sectors adding jobs in November included professional and business services (1,300, or 0.7 percent), leisure and hospitality (800, or 0.6 percent) and manufacturing (300, or 0.2 percent). Sectors losing jobs included construction (-1,300 or -2.6 percent), financial activities (-600 or -0.5 percent) and transportation and public utilities (-400 or -0.1 percent).

 

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 HeroHealthHire.com.

 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 decd.org.

 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.