WESTPORT -- Business leaders complained to Gov. Dannel P. Malloy on Monday that Connecticut's workforce lacks many of the engineering skills they need to make it in the 21st century economy.

They said that new college graduates are easily lured to Manhattan, even though housing costs are higher and the salaries are comparable.

The governor promised that tax breaks for training will be a central part of the legislative agenda Wednesday when the General Assembly meets in a special session focused on job creation. He said the state's education system has been slow to realize what modern corporations need.

"We need to refocus beyond the point of being supportive of liberal arts degrees," Malloy said in response to a question from Rama Sudhakar, vice president of marketing and communications at Fairfield University.

"I don't think there's a bad engineering degree," Malloy said. "I think a liberal arts degree is a wonderful thing, but we have to insert additional exposure to what you're going to do. We want the broadest minds possible."

He said that the University of Connecticut should consider opening a department of bioscience.

"I think universities that are particularly hot in an urban environment are those that can promise an internship opportunity," Malloy said. "That's an innovation that needs to be more broadly applied. I think to the extent that the companies in this room can offer that opportunity on a no-pay, low-pay or big-pay basis, (the companies) will be better for it."

Lucy Baney, president and CEO of Access Technologies Group Inc., a provider of electronic learning tools, said that when she advertises for workers Connecticut residents do not have the experience to compete.

"It's a lack of specific skills," she said.

During an hour-long meeting with about two dozen executives gathering in the headquarters of the Terex Corp., Malloy said that the state is poised to make a $516 million investment in tax breaks on Wednesday.

Eric Cohen, senior vice president and general counsel for Terex, which manufactures heavy equipment, said, "Aside from selling our own equipment, building infrastructure in Connecticut is critical for long-term development and job growth. Getting around the state is so difficult."

Officials from law firms, banks, Sikorsky Aircraft, Nestle Waters, Pitney Bowes, Taylor Design, PFK O'Connor Davies and other corporations attended the session with the governor in a forum sponsored by the Business Council of Fairfield County.