Connecticut's Labor Department is trying to put people back to work as it looks to fill thousands of manufacturing jobs.
The state says manufacturing companies are hiring. The problem, officials say, is finding workers with the advanced skill set to fit those jobs.
“What we’re hearing from our manufacturers is that we don’t have enough skilled workers," said Lieutenant Governor Nancy Wyman.
That's where Connecticut State Colleges and Universities' Advanced Manufacturing program comes in.
“Having the degree per say has opened many many doors of opportunity for me. It’s incredible," said Pedro Rivera, who now works in the aerospace industry after earning his degree from the program in 2013.
Rivera said he’s already lived two lives. After serving in the Army for six years he became a printer. When he was laid off Rivera says he stopped looking for another job and started looking for a career.
“I was able to sit back for the first time in my life and actually analyze what I wanted," Rivera said.
He attended a 10-month advanced manufacturing program at Asnuntuck. His job search didn't last long.
“It took three days. Within three days I was hired," he added.
Connecticut State Colleges and Universities President Mark Ojakian said Rivera’s story is not unique. He says 98% of students who enroll in the program find good paying jobs when they graduate.
“These are jobs that pay $60, $70, $80, $90,000," he explained.
Now, the Department of Labor is hoping that spread that success, targeting the state’s unemployed and underemployed. They’ve opened up a database to funnel those looking for a new career path into the advanced manufacturing program at a community college nearest to them. Those who sign up get weekly emails about the program and financial aid options.
“We’ll be able to cover the full cost for these folks to attend the manufacturing program," added Ojakian, pointing out that in addition to traditional federal and state aid programs, the Connecticut Department of Labor also has skilled labor grants to cover tuition costs..
Rivera said the program gave him options, and financial stability.
"It’s incredible knowing when you’re going into a place knowing that you can actually get that job and not having to fight for it," added Rivera.
You can sign up for classes in the fall or spring, but you must add your name to the database at www.cthires.com before the end of summer.