CBIA survey finds Connecticut businesses struggling to find quality work force
By SEAN O'LEARY, Hartford Business Journal Staff Writer
March 03, 2008
Connecticut businesses, now more than ever, are finding it harder and harder to secure a work force that meets their needs. The problem was crystallized in the findings of the 2008 Availability of Skilled Workers in Connecticut Survey, conducted by the Connecticut Business & Industry Association.
The crux of the problem is two-fold: the state is challenged by the declining population of young people while the baby boomer generation is preparing for its retirement. The result is a diminished skilled workforce population that is becoming a critically important economic issue.
Lots Of Blame
“If the state is to remain an economic leader,” said John Rathgeber, CBIA president and CEO, “policymakers, educators and the business community must all work together to address the issues that are challenging our ability to produce enough skilled workers and sustain our competiveness.”
Of the 563 businesses surveyed, 82 percent said they had experienced difficulty in finding quality workers.
The blame for the lack of workers was placed everywhere. In the survey, 83 percent blamed the high cost of living, 73 percent cited high housing costs and 44 percent pointed out the perception that the state’s educational system isn’t preparing students for the job market. Other factors mentioned were transportation issues and the emigration — the “brain drain” — of young workers from the state.
Overwhelmingly, the businesses surveyed believed housing affordability was a key cog in replenishing the work force.
CBIA vice president and economist Peter Gioia said the survey “clearly shows” companies are unable to fill high-tech positions “necessary to sustain productivity and income levels.”
Because of the worker void, 55 percent of businesses reported they were enticing older employees to work beyond traditional retirement age with incentives and 85 percent said the key to the future was improving public education.
In the report, Ken Flanagan, president of Glastonbury-based Flanagan Industries, said the manufacturing business has become more sophisticated and competitive.
“In our business, we can buy the technology, the software and the machines, but we can’t buy the workforce,” he said.