Amidst the flurry of activity that marked the end of the 2007-08 legislative session was the passage of a bill that may have a profound effect on Hartford long into the future.
“An Act Concerning the Charter of the Metropolitan District of Hartford County” is primarily concerned with making it easier for minority and local firms to obtain contracts on the Metropolitan District Commission’s massive Clean Water Project. Of at least equal importance – if not more – is a passage at the end of the bill which stipulates that the Metropolitan District Commission (MDC) “...shall make a grant in the amount of two hundred thousand dollars to an entity, that the district determines to be qualified, for the purpose of training residents of member municipalities to qualify for employment in projects of the district.”
State Senator John Fonfara, who put the training stipulation in the bill, said the training should ideally serve “minorities and those from the Greater Hartford area, especially Hartford itself.”
Many community leaders see the Clean Water Project as a way of bringing solid, good-paying jobs to the many city residents who are currently unemployed or stuck in low-paying jobs with little hope of advancement.
Hyacinth Yennie, President of the Maple Avenue Revitalization Group (MARG) has had MDC officials speak at the group’s last two meetings. “We wanted to talk to them and make sure this project will be creating jobs for people in Hartford neighborhoods...and we wanted them to know if something was in place to train people. That’s the important thing,” said Yennie.
While other major projects have provided jobs, the Clean Water Project could make a real difference due to both its length (the project has just begun and isn’t scheduled for completion until 2022) and its cost ($1.6 billion, or $2.3 billion when adjusted for inflation, according to MDC Chairman William DiBella).
Fonfara, whose parents met while working at the old Royal Typewriter Factory, said “Hartford had at one time had many jobs that offered opportunities for people who were not strong on education but had a good work ethic. But when the factories closed down, the opportunities closed down with them... This training can help a lot of people get those kinds of jobs again. Once you learn a skill, no one can take it away from you.” He added that, if the training program works with the MDC project, “we can use its success to justify more [state] dollars going toward training programs.”
While the MDC must chose a training program through a competitive bidding process, one such program is already in place here in Hartford. Last summer, Michelle Brown, who has over 24 years of experience in the construction industry, and Rudy Daniels, a state-certified instructor with over 40 years in the business, set up the Connecticut Training Academy (CTA), which is currently operating out of Prince Tech High School (see Hartford News, September 26, 2007). The CTA was formed in response to the MDC claim that there is a shortage of minority workers with the professional skills necessary to work on the Clean Water Project.
The CTA provides the 144 hours of classroom training necessary to obtain a P-6 license. 2,000 hours of on-the-job training is also required. Most jobs on the Clean Water Project would require a P-6 license.
Daniels and Brown have been running their program on limited funds and hope to graduate nine students next month. Daniels said 242 people have already applied for the CTA P-6 program.