Identifying Barriers to Workforce Participation in Connecticut

Gianna Cacciatore June 23, 2022

Even before the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, the State of Connecticut faced a series of workforce challenges: skilled workers were taking job opportunities in neighboring states, leaving employers in the lurch. At the same time, as in many other states, unemployed and underemployed residents in Connecticut were facing significant barriers to economic mobility, including a lack of access to affordable training programs and supportive services. 

“We would not have been able to execute on developing our strategic plan without this much needed support. The team made a huge impact at a pivotal time.”

— Niall Dammando, OWS Chief of Staff

It fell to the Governor’s Workforce Council (GWC) and the Connecticut Office of Workforce Strategy (OWS) to design a multipronged plan to tackle these challenges. At Social Finance, we have a long history of working with the State of Connecticut, advising agencies on the implementation of Social Impact Bonds and a series of outcomes rate cards. Niall Dammando, Chief of Staff at OWS, turned to us to help his team get started. 

Working with OWS, other state offices, and private sector leaders, we helped the state identify barriers to workforce participation across four areas—childcare, transportation, benefits cliffs, and behavioral health services—and developed a set of recommendations for how Connecticut could enhance its existing services to increase workforce participation among residents. Among other things, our team:

  • Outlined opportunities for the state to expand transportation access to priority populations through a bulk purchasing ride program that will scale the availability of public transportation services across the state.
  • Conducted a landscape analysis to determine the value of investing in the federal government’s SNAP Employment & Training Program, leading OWS to dedicate a significant portion of its portfolio to SNAP E&T investments.
  • Developed a new compensation schedule to help the Office of Early Childhood create a vision to realign pay scales for child care providers and encourage more people to enter and stay in early childhood careers, benefiting both the state’s workforce and the providers themselves.
  • In collaboration with the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, advised on scaling the state’s use of a benefits cliff calculator to help Connecticut residents understand how various career pathways and employment decisions might impact public benefit eligibility.

The recommendations, as Niall described them, “spanned the full gamut in terms of impacting individuals and finding ways to get them connected to the workforce.”

With these recommendations in hand, OWS is poised to help address underlying barriers to economic mobility in their state. 

“The additional capacity Social Finance provided for our office was critical,” Niall later reflected. “We would not have been able to execute on developing our strategic plan without this much needed support. The team made a huge impact at a pivotal time.”

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