Good Jobs in Growing Industries

The design speaks to the idea of transformation and speaks to the idea that people here are valued.

Stacey Brooks at her job as a medical billing coder.

Stacey Brooks was recently laid off from a home health care agency when a friend told her about the medical coding program at The Connecticut Center for Arts and Technology (ConnCAT). Having acquired a little experience with medical billing during her 10 years with the agency, Brooks decided to apply, even though it meant long days starting in the classroom and finishing at night with her job at a hotel. One year after completing the eight-month program, she has a full-time job at a medical office and a new home.

"Everything worked out," Brooks says. "Physically, I couldn't do two jobs anymore. I was renting, and now I'm a homeowner. Amazing things have happened." ConnCAT, in New Haven's Science Park, provides training in medical coding, phlebotomy and culinary arts to adults who have a history of struggling to find good paying jobs.

Opened in 2012, it was designed after the Manchester Bidwell Corporation in Pittsburgh, the brainchild of MacArthur "Genius" Award-winner Bill Strickland. ConnCAT's model focuses on developing vocational training that is relevant to jobs in growing sectors of the market, and building relationships with employers who will hire graduating students.

"The design of ConnCAT speaks to the idea of transformation and speaks to the idea that people here are valued. Everything we do is for the purpose of giving people dignity," says ConnCAT President and CEO Erik Clemons.

Yale New Haven Health is a ConnCAT partner and has hired dozens of graduates from its Phlebotomy program.

Students at ConnCAT's Culinary Academy.

Brooks felt those values when she was in the middle of her medical coding program and experienced a personal tragedy — a fire destroyed her apartment. Temporarily homeless and living in a hotel, she was also becoming worn down by going to classes while simultaneously holding down a job. ConnCAT teachers and staff, she says, checked in with her every day to offer support.

After Brooks graduated, ConnCAT placed her in an externship at a private medical office that ultimately offered her a job. In addition to serving adults, ConnCAT offers youth programs after school and during the summer. It has also launched the Entrepreneurial Leadership Academy, which teaches high school and college students how to develop business ideas and gain experience in presentations, leadership, marketing, writing a business plan and understanding business financials. Taking its work to the next level, ConnCAT has established ConnCORP (ConnCAT Community Outreach Revitalization Program) to address community and economic development issues in its low-income neighborhoods.

ConnCORP is focusing on commercial revitalization, residential housing, foodrelated and other types of enterprise development, with an initial focus on the Dixwell and Newhallvilleneighborhoods. Through mission-related investments in partnership with a local private foundation, The Community Foundation expects to provide financing toConnCORP for its development on Dixwell Avenue.

The Community Foundation was an original investor in ConnCAT and has continued to support the organization with more than $2.6 million in grants.