At Governor’s Residence reception, Gov. Ned Lamont talks up workforce development in Connecticut

Sipping wine and eating hors d'oeuvres, corporate and university leaders gathered Monday under a glittering chandelier at the Governor's Residence in Hartford to help Gov. Ned Lamont push forward his plans for workforce development in Connecticut.

Less than a week after he unveiled a workforce council, Lamont invited about 50 business executives, academic officials and others to a festive reception that served as a backdrop to promote his efforts to train workers to fill thousands of aerospace, insurance, engineering, technology and other jobs.

"We got to bring our workforce into the 21st century," the governor said "We have tens of thousands of jobs in advanced manufacturing we're having a hard time filling right now."

Lamont cited submarine construction at General Dynamics Electric Boat and jet engine manufacturing by United Technologies Corp.

"These are thousands of jobs. And if we can't fill them they go elsewhere for these jobs," he said. "There's a global search for talent and I want to make sure you don't have to look any further."

James Loree, chief executive officer of Stanley Black & Decker Inc., said he was impressed with Lamont early on when the former Greenwich cable businessman approached executives and asked, "What can the governor of Connecticut do?"

"That was refreshing," said Loree, a member of Lamont's workforce council.

Garrett Moran, a former nonprofit leader, said he's "really psyched" at his assignment as chairman of the council, though he said the governor's plan needs a communications strategy.

"We all know that companies are hungry to hire talented young people. We know that there are young people hungry for interesting careers," he said. "And we know we have a big mismatch."

Part of the reason, Moran said, is an education system that "hasn't caught up with the dynamism of the economy."

Trinity College President Joanne Berger-Sweeney described the work of the Hartford liberal arts college to partner with Infosys, the tech company setting up shop in Hartford. The college and company announced last year a collaboration establishing a Trinity-Infosys Applied Learning Initiative for students and offer training for Infosys employees.

Trinity and Infosys "realized there was a bit of a gap between the skills set" of liberal arts students and the needs of the technology workplace, she said.

Yale University President Peter Salovey said he's optimistic about efforts to boost Connecticut's workforce. Executives at Fitbit, the wearable device maker being bought by Google for $2.1 billion, are Yale alumni who live in California, he said.

"The next Fitbit CEOs will be right here," Salovey said.