NVCC President Daisy Cocco De Filippis, Ph.D. and CCSU President Mark E. Ojakian welcomed Lt. Governor Susan Bysiewicz, Waterbury Mayor Neil M. O'Leary, and several elected officials including State Senator Joan Hartley (D-Waterbury) and State Representative Geraldo Reyes, Jr. (D-Waterbury); as well as leaders from area manufacturing companies, students, faculty, and staff for a roundtable to discuss how to narrow the State’s skills gap in Advanced Manufacturing. The morning roundtable, which provided a forum for collecting information from current advanced manufacturing students and area manufacturers on their experiences and respective needs, was held at NVCC’s Technology Hall which houses the College’s Advanced Manufacturing Technology Center (AMTC).
“We as a system of higher education continue to be productive partners in delivering the workforce of the future,” said President Ojakian in his welcoming remarks. “There are relatively few career opportunities right now that have the possibilities of advanced manufacturing,” he said noting that many of the Advanced Manufacturing programs at Connecticut’s Community College’s, such as the one at NVCC, train students in about one year and tout a 100% placement rate.
Lt. Governor Bysiewicz talked about the challenge of finding a skilled workforce to fill the surge of 35,000 job openings in advanced manufacturing that will become available over the next few years. She also noted the importance of educational and industry partnerships. “I’m here to find out what more we can do,” she said in her opening remarks.
President De Fillippis described the many initiatives the College has undertaken in the last year to grow and advance the advanced manufacturing program along with expanding and strengthening its partnerships with dozens of manufacturers across the state. Some of the initiatives she mentioned included the recent awarding of a $73,000 CHEFA grant that NVCC will use to enhance its advanced manufacturing program by including welding technology in its Danbury service area; the College’s recognition as one of ten national finalist for the 2019 Bellwether Award in the area of workforce development; and, the expansion of an incumbent worker program that will be located on the campus of Western Connecticut State University.
Following the opening remarks, Paro Ramsarran, Russell Pinto, and Bridget Bioski, all students currently enrolled in NVCC’s Advanced Manufacturing program shared their stories with attendees.
Ramsarran works third shift so he can concentrate on his studies when he’s not working. “Manufacturers now demand quality products,” he said, “they want you to make a quality product the first time and every time, and the program at Naugatuck Valley emphasizes that.”
Pinto said that his experience in the military and his love of doing something “hands-on” made his decision to pursue advanced manufacturing a natural fit. “It allowed me to push myself as far as I could go,” said Pinto about his first semester in the program. “And, before the end of the first semester I was able to program some of the machines on my own by seeking extra help from the instructors.”
Bioski said she was introduced to the program at NVCC through the Department of Labor. She said one of the things that drew her to the program at NVCC was that students could apply the credits they earn in the AMTC certificate program towards an associate degree in Technology Studies. “That was important to me because I wanted to know that what I was working towards was going through where I could actually set a higher goal.”
The consensus among the three was that the program would benefit from more instructors.
After hearing from the students, some of the area manufacturers spoke about their needs. Douglas Johnson of Marion Manufacturing, a Cheshire-based company that specializes in stamping and precision metal components, said that finding and retaining a skilled workforce are his top concerns and noted that he was pleased that the challenges the manufacturing industry faces are being widely discussed in legislative circles. “We have to find a way to turn out a lot more candidates or we’re going to miss the opportunity to turn this big ship around,” Johnson said.
The roundtable concluded with tours of NVCC’s Advanced Manufacturing Center. Along with the other community colleges across the state, NVCC will be hosting an Open House on April 27 for those who wish to learn more about the advanced manufacturing programs available. For more information on the program, visit: nv.edu/amtc.