WETHERSFIELD — The state’s Department of Labor reminds employers that its apprenticeship program is available to help them train and develop trade skills of potential workers. These placed apprentices earn while learning through supervised, site-based vocational training, with an emphasis on building a strong employer-employee relationship. The program is offered through the department's Office of Apprenticeship Training. Employers who wish to become a program sponsor are matched with expert consultants who provide technical assistance, monitoring and other services. In addition to the possibility of adding to its customized workforce and other workplace advantages, a company that trains apprentices for the manufacturing trades could be eligible for a corporate-tax credit. For more information, contact the Office of Apprenticeship Training at 860-263-6000.

 NORWALK — "Unremarkable" is how the top administrator of a Fairfield County job-market monitoring and résumé database company describes job activity in the region for February. Job postings declined by two percent compared to the previous month, according to FairfieldCountyJobs.com. In keeping with prior monthly observations, job titles most often posted in February were in the accountancy, administration and sales categories. Job-seekers were most interested in jobs in the financial services, accounting and professional-services areas. In addition, FairfiedlCountyJobs.com reports that the most active markets within the county were Stamford, Norwalk and Westport. "The February numbers reinforce the ongoing trend of unremarkable activity in the area's job market," said David Lewis, CEO of AllCountyJobs.com, in a release. "With no real sign of any positive momentum in the area of employment, the first quarter of 2014 is not looking promising." FairfieldCountyJobs.com is a subsidiary of AllCountyJobs.com.

HARTFORD  — The March 26 vote by the state legislature that incrementally raises Connecticut’s minimum hourly wage up to $10.10 by 2017 could serve as a catalyst for other states, as well as the nation, to double their efforts to do the same.

“This legislation is about making sure that people working full-time and supporting families aren’t living in poverty,” stated Gov. Dannel P. Malloy in a release. “The extra money that these folks earn will be put back into our economy and help our communities. I am proud that Connecticut is once again a leader on an issue of national importance.”

Malloy signed the bill into law the day after its legislative passage. The move means Connecticut leads all other states in the nation when it comes to highest mandated hourly minimum wage, at least theoretically.

Like Connecticut, a number of other states are considering hiking their minimum wages, a move that has received vocal and vigorous support from the Obama administration. Washington now has the highest state minimum wage, at $9.32 per hour.

The new Connecticut wage will be phased in over the next three years. It will rise to $9.15 on January 1, 2015; $9.60 on January 1, 2016, and $10.10 on January 1, 2017.

The minimum wage in Connecticut is now $8.70, a significant $1.45 above the current federal minimum wage. President Barack Obama seeks to increase the federal minimum wage to $10.10 per hour, and has solicited the support of Malloy and other Democratic governors to help achieve that goal. Likewise, Obama has enthusiastically supported Malloy in his efforts to raise the minimum wage in the Constitution State.

The increased wage was lauded by legislators who championed it.

“A low minimum wage forces the government to subsidize the cost of employment while privatizing the profits,” Senate Majority Leader Martin Looney (D-11) of New Haven said in a statement. “As a result, the costs are shifted to government in the form of aid to low-wage workers. President Obama and Gov. Malloy are right; the minimum wage has not kept up with the cost of living and full-time work should pay full-time wages.”

Jim Horan, executive director of the Connecticut Association for Human Services, released a statement saying that the increase “will directly help 140,000 workers, many who are women with children, move out of poverty.” He added, “This higher wage means greater financial stability for families, reduced need for government safety-net programs, and higher earnings for students who are working to pay for college.

Horan went on to call Connecticut “a leading state in addressing poverty and promoting economic success through progressive policy change” because of the raised minimum wage and other legislative mandates such as paid sick days.

Some pundits have taken issue with raising the state’s minimum wage, however, theorizing that it would further restrict businesses struggling to recover from what is commonly referred to as “the great recession.”

Bill Villano, executive director of New Haven-based Workforce Alliance, doesn’t think the effect will be nearly as dire as some are predicting.

“There’s almost no employer I can think of paying less than $10 an hour anyway that we place people with,” says Villano. “So Connecticut, for the most part, is pretty much there.”

Career centers affiliated with Workforce Alliance place clients in entry to mid-level positions. It’s diverse placements include areas such as IT, advanced manufacturing and engineering.

Villano also notes that only a small percentage of jobs in the state pay the minimum wage. That significantly narrows the scope of the new legislation, he says.

“So I don’t think it’s going to have an impact,” Villano adds.

 

 HAMDEN — The Hamden CTWorks Center is offering a number of training and employment workshops this month at its 37 Marne Street office. Topics range from improving interviewing techniques to job-search strategies to drafting an effective résumé. The latter will be explored April 23 and 25. “Résumé Basics,” presented April 23  from 1 to 4 p.m., will be geared toward first-time résumé writers. “Advanced Résumé Writing” will be offered April 25 at the same time and will cover aspects of job hunting beyond the résumé, such as interviewing skills and networking. A workshop devoted specifically to networking, titled “The Networking Club,” will take place from 1 to 3 p.m. April 24. And for older workers, “Over 40 and Looking for Work” will be offered April 25 from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. The session will cover challenges for older workers such as stereotyping that a job-seeker might encounter during the hiring process. For more information, including additional workshops being offered in April, call the Hamden CTWorks Center at 203-859-3200

 BRISTOL – With more than 100 job openings, ESPN of Bristol is seeking the best and brightest candidates to fill them. That’s why the company participated in last month’s Heroes 4 Hire job and career fair, which brought together potential employers and 1,200 job-seekers who have served their country as a member of the U.S. Armed Forces. ESPN Bristol was one of 85 exhibitors attending the event, which was sponsored by the state’s Department of Labor, the state and federal Departments of Veterans Affairs, Travelers, CBS Radio and local chambers of commerce. ESPN’s Diane Larivee lauded the event as an opportunity to meet and possibly hire qualified job candidates. Similarly, Courtney Wengenroth, a human resources specialist at Yarde Metals in Bristol, attended the event “looking for veterans to fill a good number of our openings because they bring great skills to our workplace,” according to a DOL release. The release also quotes state Labor Commissioner Sharon Palmer. “It’s very rewarding when there are so many employers eager to hire our veterans,” Palmer states. “The Heroes 4 Hire Career Fair is always a special event because it reflects Connecticut’s ongoing commitment to return the favor, even in a small way, to the men and women who represented this country in the military.” Employers interested in exhibiting at or finding out more about the next Heroes 4 Hire Career Fair should e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

 WETHERSFIELD – A February bounce in workforce activity seemed to point to the weather – as opposed to the economy – as the culprit for the prior month’s slump, according to the latest data from the Department of Labor’s Office of Research. Following a January decline, Connecticut added a total of 800 non-farm jobs in February. In addition, the unemployment rate dropped to seven percent, down 0.2 percent from the previous month. “February’s job report seemed to confirm that weather was partly responsible for January’s sharp decline as we saw recovery in several of the industries that stumbled,” explained Andy Condon, director of the Office of Research, in a release. “The continued decline in Connecticut’s unemployment rate driven by growing household employment signals that we continue on the path of job recovery.” The gain puts the state at 1,653,400 nonfarm jobs as of February. That includes an addition of 10,300 jobs since February 2013. While the monthly net job gain was good news for Condon, there was a clear public-/private-sector distinction. The private sector increased by 2,700 positions, while the government supersector declined by 1,900 jobs.

 STAMFORD — Ladies Who Launch of Southwest Connecticut will present a talk by Linda McMahon on successful entrepreneurship from 6 to 8 p.m. March 20 at Safavieh, 230 Atlantic Street. McMahon, of WWE fame, will discuss the highs and lows of her entrepreneurial journey in the professional wrestling arena. She is also a two-time former U.S. Senate candidate. In association with Ladies Who Launch, McMahon has agreed to fund $4,000 in scholarship money for female entrepreneurs. For more information, visit ladieswholaunch.com.