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Hartford Courant: Local Congressman Hears from Unemployed

August 5, 2014
In The News

ENFIELD — The federal law that governs about $6.2 billion in job training funds, job programs for disadvantaged youth, and support for job seekers was revised last month. It's not entirely clear how those revisions will be implemented, but Tuesday, Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, visited Enfield's CTWorks center to talk about the new law and hear from job seekers.

"It was almost miraculous this bill moved forward," Courtney said, given the partisan rancor in the House of Representatives. Both Republicans and Democrats agreed on the goals of streamlining training programs — 15 programs were eliminated, though in practice, 12 had already lost all their funding. Workforce Investment Boards, the nonprofits that receive both private and public funding, also were streamlined.

In addition, some of the accountability standards were revised. More data on Job Corps results will be collected. Also, a program called Youth Build will be changed to make sure the training is provided for jobs that are in demand. And, the revisions in the law will require that 75 percent of those served by youth programs are either high school dropouts or those who finished high school, and are not in school or working.

Federal training programs will have to start publicizing how many of the graduates find jobs, and how much they earn.

State Department of Labor Commissioner Sharon Palmer told the small group meeting with the congressman that the state always seeks to have effective job training.

"The worst thing you can do is train someone toward a job where there is no job," she said.

Charles Good lost his job in technical sales at a manufacturer almost a year ago, and while he is now working, it's at a job that pays far less and is not in his field.

Good said that while he had 15 years of sales experience, when he interviews in sales for other products, the employers are disappointed he doesn't already have customers in that segment.

Brian Daly, an experienced buyer/purchasing agent, sympathized. He told the gathering: "These highly skilled, trained employees are supposed to fall from the sky," because the companies don't want to pay for their own training. Daly said he repeatedly was rejected in interviews because he didn't have experience with a widely used enterprise software.

Daly, now 61, lost a job he'd held 10 years in early 2008 because, after the company was bought by Bain Capital and 250 of the 300 jobs were moved to Jacksonville, Fla., he decided not to transfer.

He found another, higher-paying job as a purchasing manager in four months, with the help of CTWorks, but then, after two years, a merger led to his layoff. This time, he was out of work almost a year, and had to take a pay cut. That purchasing job lasted two and a half years, but when most of the Bloomfield factory's production was moved to North Carolina, he was out again.

Monday, Daly starts a new job at a United Technology Corp. office in Wallingford, after five months of looking. The pay is the same as he made six years ago, but the benefits are superb, he said, and he thinks the Windsor to Wallingford commute will be doable.

Daly said there were 30 buyers who lost their jobs the same day he did in 2008, and he said the ones who found the best jobs took advantage of CTWorks and job clubs. Even unemployed people can help each other network, he said, and he noted that he provided Good with some job leads.

Wayne Augusto, who has been looking for work for four months, has been in the printing industry for more than 30 years, and is looking for a job in the shrinking field. He told Courtney he worries about age discrimination.

The federal government stopped paying for longer unemployment benefits last December, so displaced workers can collect a half year, and that's it.

Augusto asked: will extended benefits be restored?

Courtney said while 200 House of Representatives members asked a bill be brought to a vote, that is not a majority. The Senate had passed a bill that would bring the benefits back, but House Speaker John Boehner has not allowed a vote on the issue.

"Sadly, so much time has gone by, it's hard to imagine the Speaker bringing it up before the election," Courtney said. "The prognosis is not great right now."