“Connecticut. Dream It. Do It. Manufacturing Month” is celebrated during the month of October.
Now in its fifth year, Manufacturing Month is a statewide initiative to promote manufacturing, educate Connecticut residents about the pathways to a rewarding career in manufacturing, and highlight the need for a talented and skilled workforce to help our manufacturers succeed in a global market.
As part of understanding how manufacturing has evolved, I spent some time at Platt Technical High School, the Housatonic Advanced Manufacturing Center, and one of our local manufacturing companies in Milford/Orange, Bead Industries. I am excited to have had the opportunity to be part of the celebration of those who choose to work in manufacturing.
Understanding the industry is important to setting policies and passing legislation. We want manufacturing to thrive—it provides stable, highly skilled, and high-paying jobs. The demand for qualified instructors at our Technical High Schools is high, and this year legislation was passed that would help recruit qualified instructors who have occupational expertise. We are also rolling the Technical High School System out from under the State Department of Education so that it can respond more quickly to industry changes.
Connecticut is home to seven Advanced Manufacturing Centers housed within our Community College system. These are 10-month programs that graduate approximately 500 students a year, with a 98 percent placement in industry following graduation. According to the state Department of Labor, manufacturing in Connecticut employs about 160,000 people, and this program is a vital pipeline to these jobs.
My visit with Bead Industries was the capstone to seeing how this all fits together. The day they hosted my visit, they also had a group of high-school students in to tour the facility. We talked about how manufacturing has evolved and I, along with the students, were most impressed with the cutting edge use of machines, the skills of the personnel, and the commitment of the company to continue to train those who work for them. One role that they, and many other manufacturers, find hard to fill is tool-and-die making. It is not as sexy as programming a machine, but they stressed that it is vital to the operation of the company. They are working closely with our Technical High Schools and Advanced Manufacturing Centers to make this need known, and part of the legislation that was mentioned above allows for our schools to enter into cooperative arrangements with employers to provide classes for their employees.
The intent of this new legislation is to create a more sustainable Technical High School System, which will in turn better assist small manufacturers across the state by producing a more qualified workforce. Many manufacturers support the proposal as a first step to re-energizing Connecticut’s manufacturing sector.
Let’s get this Connecticut manufacturing engine humming at warp speed.