By Karen Cortés
Eddie Cajigas is preparing a new workforce for Connecticut’s emerging “green jobs” industry. As project manager of the Connecticut Green Jobs Funnel for the Office of Workforce Competitiveness of the state Department of Labor, Cajigas is overseeing the implementation of a $5.8 million federal grant that provides for programming to serve individuals interested in the construction industry. The Jobs Funnel promotes career pathways in the green construction industry for unemployed and underemployed workers.
Currently, the program is serving a freshman class of some 140 individuals seeking careers in green construction. “A laborer can move up. They’ll have the foundation to move up over time,” says Cajigas. “The program helps people get back to work at a livable wage.”
The name “Jobs Funnel,” is taken from a process individuals go through – funneling into the system to gain specific work competencies and trade-related certifications. They then funnel out to embark on a self-sustaining and rewarding career journey.
Prior to joining the state Department of Labor, Cajigas served the people of southwestern Connecticut as Assistant Vice President of Programs and Fatherhood Program Manager at Career Resources, Inc. “Joining the Office of Workforce Competitiveness gave me a greater opportunity to serve on a statewide level,” he says.
Cajigas was inspired to serve by his own father. “I wanted to be a role model for non-custodial dads who didn’t have a role model– to teach the things my own dad taught me growing up,” he says.
Cajigas has passed the spirit of giving back to his community to his nine-year-old daughter. “Anytime we are at a store, she is quick to put a quarter in a charity box. She has compassion to help the next person.”
He’s also making efforts to pass along his fishing hobby, but Cajigas has yet to prove his fishing prowess to his daughter. While given the opportunity to tell a fish tale, Cajigas modestly tells a completely believable story of catching a 46-inch bluefish while on a trip with his dad. Unfortunately, he has never caught a fish in the presence of his daughter. “First I have to establish my expertise with her,” says Cajigas. “Then I’ll be super dad!”
“I have a fundamental belief that we need to provide the best for our community. For me, it’s giving back to those who have never had the opportunity. Success comes in phases. I want to provide good services to an under served population and be the vehicle for individuals. It is important for Latinos to earn higher education credentials or become involved in trades. We need to be thinking about obtaining higher education to be competitive in the 21st century economy.”