After John Danielczuk’s job in the insurance industry was outsourced last year, he enrolled in a community college hoping to break in to the manufacturing field. On Wednesday morning he had the chance to interview with about 20 manufacturers looking to hire.
He was one of around 20 job seekers to attend the Connecticut Manufacturing Job Match at the Marriott Hotel in Rocky Hill. The new initiative by U.S. Rep. John Larson’s office and the state Labor Department works to pair already qualified candidates with expanding manufacturers.
Danielczuk said he graduated from Asnuntuck Community College on Dec. 22 and had just begun his job search.
“We finished our final exams and now is my time to search for jobs,” he said. “This opportunity comes right at the right time.”
Mike Appel, another applicant, said he had been in the manufacturing industry for years but has been downsized out of a job twice over his career. The job hunt has been a slow process but Appel said it had been a productive morning. By around 10 a.m. he had already interviewed with 15 different employers.
“The opportunities are great because I can get myself out there, advertise myself and talk to the front line, so to speak, of potential employers,” he said.
One of those potential employers was Jody Miceli, the human resources manager at Turbine Controls, Inc. in Bloomfield. Miceli said conducting so many interviews in one morning was a little like speed dating, forcing the applicants to stay on their toes. But she said she was impressed by the quality of the candidates she met.
“This is probably one of the best job fairs I’ve attended due to there are qualified people here,” she said.
Miceli said her company, which makes aircraft components, has between five and 10 open positions for machinists, plasma sprayers and technicians, but has a hard time finding people suited for the work.
She isn’t alone. Last year, a survey of 151 Connecticut manufacturers conducted by U.S. Rep. Chris Murphy’s office found that 87 percent were having trouble locating qualified workers to fill positions.
Larson said the program, which he’s hoping will serve as a federal pilot program, offers a solution to the problem by identifying people with specific skill sets and matching them to employers in the manufacturing sector looking for those skills..
“Let’s come up with an end product that actually leads to a job. Let’s try to be more solution-oriented than saying, ‘Let’s have jobs fair, throw it against the wall and see what happens,’” he said.
The three-tiered initiative works with the Connecticut Center for Advanced Technology, the Connecticut Board of Regents for Higher Education and Capital Workforce Partners to help train less qualified candidates and guide individuals looking to break into the field, he said.
The candidates who interviewed Wednesday morning were in the first tier, meaning they were qualified, ready-to-hire applicants, he said. Larson said four or five people had already been hired.
“We’ve got the critical mass here and what we want to do is continue to provide solutions and actual jobs. So rather than going to a jobs fair and seeing what might be out there, you actually come away from this experience with a job,” he said.
The program also helps out small manufacturers who don’t have extensive human resources departments to identify and recruit talent, he said. Though the initiative began with the manufacturing industry, Larson said the model could easily be expanded to other fields.
Taking a break from their interviews, Danielczuk and Appel were both optimistic about their chances of landing new jobs. They have good reason—Christopher Licata, Larson’s spokesman, said there were actually more companies at the Jobs Match looking to hire than there were candidates.
Danielczuk was happy for the opportunity to start a new career even though he acknowledged the pay wouldn’t compare to what he was making in the insurance industry.
“I worked in an office for a long time, I thought it would be fun to not just be doing office work anymore, but to do something with my hands for a change,” he said.