As the New Haven Manufacturers Association celebrates its 100th anniversary in 2013, the future is looking up for an industry that has long been seeing at its heyday in the rear-view mirror. There has been greater recognition that high tech manufacturing brings opportunities to attract and maintain jobs in Connecticut, and heightened connections between higher education and the manufacturing industry is reflecting the new approach.
That was evident when a fledgling initiative between NHMA and Southern Connecticut State University quickly filled to capacity in its pilot year. NHMA and SCSU teamed up to sponsor a three-day program acquainting area science teachers with modern manufacturing and materials engineering methods this summer that officials hope will become an annual program.
The Materials & Manufacturing Summer Teachers' Institute, a collaboration that also includes Platt Technical High School in Milford and CRISP (Center for Research on Interface Structures and Phenomena at Yale University and Southern), attracted 30 science teachers from grades 7 to 9.
The program was designed to enable teachers to better educate middle school students about the relationship between STEM and manufacturing and what types of careers are available in the manufacturing field. Officials say that grade level was specifically targeted because students often decide as early as the middle school years whether or not to pursue math and science in high school, college and even in terms of career paths. More than 40 Connecticut teachers applied to attend the program, which could only accommodate 30 this summer.
Christine Broadbridge, chairwoman of the Physics Department at Southern and education director at CRISP, says area manufacturers and academics have been working for the past year to bring teachers, engineers and scientists together in more effective ways.
"We've learned from the teachers that they value relationships with industry," Broadbridge says. "At this institute, the teachers have found out about potential careers for their students as they learn about engineering and cutting-edge science. It has given them an opportunity to network with industry leaders and to gain hands-on knowledge about manufacturing. We hope they can bring that excitement back to their students."
Gregory W. Gray, the recently installed President of the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities, which includes 17 institutions across Connecticut, told the Connecticut Post this week that he wants the community colleges to take on a more aggressive workforce-development mission by expanding a manufacturing technology program that exists now on a few campuses, including Housatonic Community College (Bridgeport), Naugatuck Valley Community College (Waterbury) and Quinebaug Valley Community College (Danielson). The program expanded a year ago, based on a very successful program offered at Asnuntuck Community College in Enfield.
There are almost 5,000 manufacturing companies in Connecticut, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, and Connecticut manufacturing employees are 20 percent more productive than competing states, data from the state’s Department of Economic and Community Development indicates, as featured on the ConnSCU website.
The New Haven Independent recently reported on a New Haven company that is very much a part of the future of New Haven manufacturing. That future lies in specialization, in the rapid turnaround of high-tech niche parts, the Independent reported, according to Bill Neale, head of the New Haven Manufacturers Association and vice-president of operations at Radiall manufacturing on John Murphy Drive in the Fair Haven section of the city. The factory isn't trying to compete with massive operations in places like China and India, Neale said. It’s advantage lies not in productivity, but in speed and specificity.
Governor Malloy announced in June that state’s Advanced Manufacturing Centers at the three community colleges will receive $7,325,000 in funding for facility and equipment upgrades that will allow the centers to enhance and develop their educational opportunities. The funding was approved by the State Bond Commission. According to ConnSCU, the funds would be allocated:
- $1.5 million for Housatonic Community College to add a welding lab to their manufacturing center. HCC continues its work with its Regional Advisory Board to confirm the need for skilled welders in the region, including the review of options for virtual equipment and the pursuit of appropriate faculty expertise for student learning.
- $825,000 for Naugatuck Valley Community College to add additional manufacturing equipment to the existing advanced manufacturing center, retrofitted to support local industry needs including the purchase of a deep draw press.
- $5 million for Quinebaug Valley Community College to build an advanced manufacturing center on their campus in Danielson. For the first year, QVCC has worked with nearby Ellis Technical High School to utilize existing space until the college could grow the program and obtain funds for construction on its own campus. The funding will be used for construction, as well as for the purchase of machinery and other manufacturing equipment.
NHMA was founded in 1913 as the Employer's Association of New Haven County. Today the organization serves businesses, especially manufacturers, in the entire Southern Connecticut region and beyond. They’ll be celebrating a century of operations - looking forward - with a gala on September 19 at Housatonic Community College in Bridgeport.