Gov. Dannel P. Malloy didn’t necessarily criticize school superintendents and education officials Wednesday when he welcomed them back to school, but he told them firmly that they need to do more to prepare the state’s future workforce.

“We can’t afford to fail any of our students,” Malloy said. “The demographics actually tell us that.”

“We are one of the most rapidly aging states in the nation. Our labor force is even more rapidly aging,” Malloy said. “I’m not convinced we’re properly preparing them for the challenges that laid out before them.”

In a nation that shared in the creation of over 20 million jobs, Connecticut shared in none of those over the past 20 years. Malloy said that’s got to change.

Malloy told schools officials they need to start making the link between education and job growth.

He said what he hears most often on his tour of various employers is “they want to see a pre-K thru 12 education system, a community college system, a four regional institute system, a UConn system, and a private college system that does a better job of preparing what they need to be successful.”

Over the years, Malloy said he’s heard guidance counselors and teachers actively discourage students from going into manufacturing when a job in manufacturing means bringing home a pay check of $60,000 to $100,000 a year.

“Manufacturing in Connecticut requires the ability to run a piece of equipment worth $2.5 to $3 million,” Malloy said.

To add insult to injury, Malloy said he just learned this week from a member of the manufacturing association that there are 1,000 unfilled jobs in the state that has a 9.1 percent unemployment rate.

That‘s “because we have failed to prepare the workers for that job,” Malloy said.

The statistic was startling.

“If you had told me that two years ago I wouldn’t have believe you,” Malloy said.

What if we all had a common goal? Malloy wondered out loud.

“What if we measured not simply how well someone did on a test, but how well our state was in winning jobs, in filling jobs, in growing its tax base?” he said. “What if we all saw ourselves as part of that system that allows us to do what North Carolina has done for the better part of a generation and a half. That’s the box that I want to drag you to. That’s the box that I want everyone to understand we can win at.”

He wondered what good it does to educate a child for 13 years, if you’re not able to predict what the outcome of that education will be. He said the state should not tolerate that which it can change.

The 20-minute speech received applause from the close to 200 school officials gathered at Rentschler Field in East Hartford for an annual event where they learn about the newest laws and policies.

With a $3.5 billion deficit behind him, Malloy said he’s anxious to get to work on education policy.

As part of the 2012 legislative session Malloy said he will ask the legislature to tackle teacher evaluations, school funding, and the creation of a less bureaucratic state Department of Education.

“What we need to do is be more focused on our weaknesses and address those weaknesses,” Malloy said.

“Any teacher that goes to a building where they’re not proud of a colleague, we’re actually putting someone in a situation where they can’t be as happy at their job, work as hard at their job or feel as enriched by their job as they should,” Malloy said. “We should work with all teachers to make sure that they live up to our standards, if after a period of time they’re incapable of living up to our standards then those teachers deserve a new colleague in their building.“

Regardless of tenure? “Yeah, of course regardless of their tenure. This is about the quality of the teaching not the length of ones experience,” Malloy said. 

Malloy will also have a hand in appointing the new education commissioner.

“I think it’s getting close,” Malloy said Wednesday. “We reviewed the resumes and found a number of interesting candidates. I expect that in a matter of weeks we’ll be in a good position, I’m hoping we’ll be in a good position of naming a commissioner.”

Earlier this week Malloy announced his appointment of a 12-member task force to evaluate the school financing system. The recommendations are due by Jan. 2, 2012 and its final report by Oct. 1, 2012.