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February 15, 2011 / Greater New Britain Chamber of Commerce

On Valentine’s Day, New Britain can celebrate a perfect match

By William F. Millerick

President, New Britain Chamber of Commerce

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Some things just seem obvious.

New Britain has two of the state’s major hospitals, the highly regarded Grove Hill Clinic, a plethora of nursing homes, physical rehabilitation facilities and all manner of other health-care related businesses. They all have employment needs.

New Britain also has one of the state’s largest high schools, producing, every year, hundreds and hundreds of young people who may or may not go to college but who definitely need a job or to start their career.

Seems like a perfect match, if only someone would pay matchmaker.

Well, someone is.

A little over a year ago, business and education leaders organized the New Britain Academy of Health Professionals and, in just 12 months, have made remarkable progress.

The goal is relatively simple: have the health-care sector work with the schools to communicate what they need from future employees so that the schools can tailor instruction for those young people interested.

And many are, based on the great success of the first 12 months. Why not?

Some years ago former Hospital of Central Connecticut President Larry Tanner told me that he had two jobs available which they were having trouble filling that paid between $55,000 and $60,000. The people needed a high school diploma, a good work ethic and a couple of years of on the job training.

The problem was that few people knew the jobs were available.

Today, New Britain’s young people will not only know about such positions, but they will indicate their interest and begin training.

It’s more than a nice idea. The success of the New Britain Academy of Health Professions is, in part, critical to the future of the city. Businesses and organizations, with health care being the largest employment sector, need qualified employees in order to grow and expand. Meanwhile, if New Britain High graduates cannot find jobs here, they will move elsewhere. If they can find good-paying careers here, they will buy homes, raise families and contribute to the city.

It is in everyone’s best interest that this works. Clearly everyone involved understands that.

Both of the hospitals have contributed generously toward the hiring of executive director Maria Pietrantuono who was brought in to run the day to day operations, once everything was organized.

Around the table at a meeting of the executive committee last week in the mayor’s office were the presidents of Tunxis and CCSU, of Capital Workforce Partners, the two hospitals, the Community Foundation of Greater New Britain and the Chamber of Commerce. Also included were the superintendent of schools and Jason Howey, vice president of Okay Industries, who serves as chairman of the project.

A second group, a working committee, has even more community representatives who are involved in planning and implementing.

If it sounds like a groundbreaking idea, it is. There are a few successful models around the country, in North Carolina and another in Texas for example.

New Britain has all the ingredients for success, including an extraordinary commitment and belief from the participants.

Today, in its nascent stages, the Academy is a program operating at the high school. The hope is that as this initiative gains traction and support it will evolve into an actual bricks and mortar academy.

Remember, not every job in health care is a neurosurgeon or anesthesiologist.

There are not only nurses and emergency medical technicians, but people in charge of the laundry, the mailroom, marketing and the food service department. The list is endless as are the opportunities available locally. Clearly, the health-care sector has shown that whenever it can, it would like to train, hire and develop locally.

In the end, the success of the health-care academy will positively impact local employment rates and graduation rates.

William F. Millerick may be reached at bill@newbritainchamber.com

 

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