Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont announced that the Connecticut Manufacturing Innovation Fund Advisory Board has voted to approve the release of $8.3 million in funding to support a series of technology and workforce initiatives designed to strengthen the long-term competitiveness Connecticut’s manufacturing sector, including several new programs.
The funding was approved through the state’s Manufacturing Innovation Fund, which received $20 million over the biennium in the budget signed into law by the governor this summer.
“Connecticut continues to make smart investments in its economic future,” Governor Lamont said. “We know the critical role manufacturing plays in our economy when it comes to jobs, exports, innovation, and productivity. These new programs demonstrate the comprehensive approach we are taking to ensure our manufacturing base is positions for success over the long-term.”
The new initiatives, which will receive a total of $3.7 million, include:
- Increasing Engineering Internships for Connecticut Resident College Students: Engineering is named in more open Connecticut manufacturing job postings than any other category. Connecticut colleges and universities graduate a large number of degreed engineers, but a significant number of these graduates leave the state to begin their professional careers elsewhere. This initiative will provide grants or stipends to cover up to half the wages for summer engineering interns, who must be Connecticut residents. Increasing the number of interns employed at Connecticut manufacturers increases the likelihood that students take full-time positions in the state upon graduation.
- Matching Grants for Digital Readiness and Cybersecurity Assessments: Connecticut manufacturers have may choices and factors to weigh when adopting new technologies. The Smart Industry Readiness Index (SIRI) helps companies assess their readiness for incorporation of Industry 4.0 technology, assess their current capabilities for digital transformation, benchmark their current status in key areas against other like manufacturers, prioritize areas for focus/investment, and provide a roadmap to incorporation. This matching grant program will underwrite up to 50% of the cost of such an assessment to lower the cost for manufacturers to access such an analysis. In addition, this program will be used for cybersecurity assessments and roadmaps.
- Retain an Organization to Facilitate Matches Between Connecticut Innovators and Connecticut Manufacturers: Recently there has been an increase in requests from Connecticut innovators to be matched with Connecticut companies to manufacture their product and help bring the product to market. Currently there is no structured way to match these groups. The state is in discussions with a third-party vendor to create a two-year program to address this unmet need.
- Advertising Campaign Highlighting Career Opportunities in Manufacturing: Access to a skilled workforce is the top issue for Connecticut manufacturers. Between state funding and federal funding, significant investments have been made in building out advanced manufacturing training centers across the state over the last decade. A sustained advertising campaign will drive up awareness, interest and enrollment and contribute to a stronger workforce talent pipeline in the future.
- Comprehensive Manufacturing Website: Currently there isn’t one website where manufacturers can find answers to the myriad of issues and challenges they face. To address this need, the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development will work with the Department of Administrative Services to develop and maintain a comprehensive website organized around specific issues facing manufacturers such as workforce needs, access to capital, marketing, environmental issues, and technical support.
- Regional Career Fairs: Career fairs have proven very successful in educating students about the many benefits of a career in the manufacturing sector. The Manufacturing Innovation Fund has agreed to make funds will be available to multi-employer manufacturing organizations to support regional career fairs in the coming years.
The Manufacturing Innovation Fund Advisory Board also approved investments in ongoing programs that provide valuable support to Connecticut manufacturers, most notably the Incumbent Worker Training Program ($1.5 million), Apprenticeship Program ($1.0 million) and Manufacturing Voucher Program ($2.1 million).
“I have met with scores of manufacturers throughout the state in the past two years and their feedback has been critical in shaping and prioritizing these programs and investments,” Colin Cooper, Connecticut’s Chief Manufacturing Officer and Chairman of the Manufacturing Innovation Fund Advisory Board, said. “The Manufacturing Innovation Fund strives to use state funds as catalyst capital to spur investments in equipment, workers, innovation and technology that otherwise might not be made. Through the end of fiscal year 2020, $57.4 million of this funding has been matched with $99.5 million of private and third-party capital.”
The State of Connecticut established the Manufacturing Innovation Fund to support the growth, innovation, and progress of Connecticut’s advanced manufacturing sector. It provides financial support for a broad range of initiatives that ensure Connecticut’s manufacturers remain leaders in productivity, efficiency, and innovation. It is administered by the Department of Economic and Community Development with the advice and counsel of an advisory board comprised of manufacturing business leaders.
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