With the latest figures from City Hall showing 12.9 percent of New Haveners without work, the city has begun the first stages of a “pipeline” intended to help funnel Elm City residents into jobs.
The pipeline — a term Mayor John DeStefano Jr. adopted from some of the Board of Aldermen’s new labor-backed representatives — includes a January proposal to open a vocational school, and focuses on improving employment prospects for the city’s jobless residents. Central to the pipeline’s success, supporters have argued, is the city’s success in reforming its public schools, which city officials say do not adequately prepare students to enter the workforce upon graduation.
“There is a mismatch in some instances between the jobs growing here in New Haven and the skills of New Haven residents,” City Hall spokeswoman Elizabeth Benton ’04 said. “We think there is a role for the city to play in connecting New Haven residents to local employers, and in facilitating coordinated training opportunities for New Haven residents.”
Last week, aldermen approved the creation of a pipeline working group, staffed by representatives from City Hall, local businesses and the public, which is tasked with returning a plan to the board within three months.
According to Benton, the proposed vocational school would focus on technical skills and skills in growing industries in the city, such as culinary arts or biotechnology. It would also house some of Gateway Community College’s programs, such as automotive repair, and could act as an “incubator” for new city businesses by providing a space to work and plan before the business is opened.
This would offer New Haven students stronger training programs not available in other cities’ schools, Benton said. The benefit of having a college, high school and incubator located together is that students would receive a internship and job experience, which she said would improve the city’s jobs picture.
“The mayor’s been pretty clear when he talks about growing jobs — he always talks about the importance of school change,” Benton said. “The tech high school is a component of that, making sure we’re giving kids the choices, resources, tools that they need to be successful.”
New Haven has asked the state, which began its three-month legislative session last week, for a planning grant of $750,000.
Rebecca Bombero, DeStefano’s legislative director, said New Haven will also ask for $750,000 for its workforce development initiative. That initiative, she said, would increase the scope of the Commission on Equal Opportunities, whose efforts are presently focused on construction.
“[The funding] would expand the purview of the [Commission on Equal Opportunities] and make other opportunities available for job development,” Bombero said. “They have some terrific results in terms of construction and we’re looking to beef that up.”
New Haven schools enroll more than 20,000 students.