School of Computing and Engineering Connects with CT Manufacturing Roadshow ’23

April 11, 2023

Young students at the manufacturing road show

Connecticut Manufacturing Roadshow ’23 pulled into the M&T Bank Arena on the York Hill Campus on April 4, when 35 regional advanced manufacturing exhibitors connected with hundreds of area high school and middle school students.

The roadshow arrived through a partnership of the School of Computing and Engineering with lead collaborator ReadyCT and co-sponsoring organizations Connecticut Center for Advanced Technology (CCAT), Goodwin University and South-Central Manufacturing Industry Partnership (SCMIP). 

A total of five roadshows around Connecticut are being supported through an investment of the state’s Manufacturing Innovation Fund. Following the first roadshow in November 2022 at the CT Convention Center in Hartford; ReadyCT connected with Quinnipiac and the School of Computing and Engineering to bring a regional event here, said Shannon Marimón, ReadyCT executive director.  

With research showing many students make decisions about pursuing STEM careers by the time they’re in middle school, the roadshow seeks to expose young students to the variety of tech-driven manufacturing careers in Connecticut.

“We want to get there early and often so that students are not making preconceived decisions about what they can and cannot do. Having events like this is critical for them to set that vision for their own future,” said Marimón.

The roadshow also hopes to help young students begin to map a path toward a successful advanced manufacturing career in this state.

“We want to promote the idea that’s there’s lots of different paths to success,” Marimón said. “We know most paths are going to require continued education, but that can take a lot of different shapes and forms – either a traditional two-year or four-year college experience, or going direct into career, or going into a credentialing program, or doing a career and then coming back to school at another point in time. We just want to level the playing field in terms of what we define as success.” 

The roadshow has the benefit of input from state agencies including the Regional Sector Partnerships initiative of the Office of Workforce Strategies. The initiative creates structures for industry-specific and regional-specific employer groups to work together. 

Having the support of many state agencies helps to make an impact with the roadshow, said Lindy Lee Gold, a leading Senior Development Specialist with the State of Connecticut. 

Gold, who is also a board member of ManufactureCT, was at the roadshow as a board member of MATCH (Manufacturing and Technical Community Hub). MATCH is working to open a not-for-profit job training center within inner-city New Haven.

“MATCH is a training program that’s going to be very exciting for manufacturing students,” said Gold. 

Meanwhile, Connecticut Manufacturing Roadshow ’23 is providing area students with exciting opportunities to learn more about what their futures can hold, she said. 

“We’ve all spent most of our careers trying to attract students and their parents to the wonderful opportunities that exist in manufacturing. If the kids don’t see it, they don’t know it; and they don’t know they can make cool stuff and find a career path that is certainly incredible,” said Gold. 

Right out of high school, students with basic training can earn an average of $38,000 to $40,000 a year in advanced manufacturing job opportunities, Gold noted. Those outside of career and technical system schools can enroll in early college courses at community colleges with Advanced Manufacturing programs. 

“So should they choose to matriculate, they get out of high school with one semester’s worth of college credit. And they may wind up with an employer who does tuition reimbursement, if they decide to continue. It’s a great opportunity,” said Gold.

Dina Natalino, supervisor of College and Career Pathways for New Haven Public Schools (NPHS), traveled to the roadshow with middle schoolers engaged in career exposure experiences, and high schoolers enrolled in the Manufacturing New Haven Pathway.

Manufacturing New Haven Pathway students enter the program as 9th graders at two comprehensive NHPS high schools, Wilbur Cross and Hillhouse.

“They will be going through a plan of study that will allow them to earn either 60 credits, which is an associate degree in manufacturing and engineering; or go straight into the workforce after graduation. So those kids are already in the pathway, and excited about manufacturing,” said Natalino. “And our middle school students have had multiple opportunities to engage in manufacturing experiences this year; and now they’re here to talk to different manufacturing agencies and different companies and learn more about the opportunities.” 

NHPS Nathan Hale School seventh-grade students Jaelyn Johnson and Gia Laverty said there was a lot to take in at the roadshow. Both were impressed by the ReadyCT interactive display, featuring a robotic arm in action and a spin around a room using Virtual Reality headsets. 

At age 13, Laverty said it’s not too early to start thinking about her career interests. 

“I feel like 7th grade and junior year are two of the most important years, and I feel like learning about what we want to do now will help prepare us for the future,” said Laverty. 

Alison Stephens, a Technology Education teacher at East Shore Middle School in Milford, Connecticut, also brought 7th graders to the roadshow. She said it’s important to expose students early on to advanced manufacturing career opportunities in Connecticut.

“We really push the opening and the need for manufacturing and engineering in our state; knowing there’s such great opportunities and well-paying jobs,” said Stephens. “Today, we brought students who are 12 and 13 years old; and I know from teaching them there are definitely a few kids that will end up going into the field.” 

Marcia LaFemina, CEO/president of Penn Globe of North Branford, Connecticut, said it makes sense for advanced manufacturing employers to connect with middle school and high school students. LaFemina also runs ManufactureCT’s Workforce Committee, which is engaged in outreach to different age groups.

“I’m really proud of the work we’re doing to reach them,” said LaFemina. “For instance, this age group would consider themselves gamers. There are real skill sets in gaming that are transferable, and they wouldn’t know that. It’s up to us to meet them in the moment, where they are, to try to let them see.”

Ashley Dupre, a Human Resources Generalist with Whelen Engineering in Chester, Connecticut, said the company joined the roadshow because it saw an opportunity for growth and making connections.

“We are a manufacturing company, and between our two locations in Connecticut and New Hampshire, every part of every product is manufactured in America,” said Dupre. “We have a great seasonal program for the summertime; so for those students who are juniors and seniors looking forward to getting that work experience, we are happy to take them in and train them. We also have great intern programs.” 

Mycah Vamm, 19, came to the roadshow with the Central Connecticut Transition Academy of Berlin, Connecticut. Vamm currently works with a packaging and shipping facility and was interested in learning about other manufacturing-based job opportunities at the fair. 

“I have no set-in-stone path yet, so I’m not 100 percent sure. There’s a lot to look at here. The aerospace table was interesting,” said Vamm. 

Kayla Brown, a senior at Ansonia High School, said she was interested in furthering her education in college; but was also learning a lot by talking with roadshow manufacturing exhibitors, including Kourtney Meredith, owner of Secured Welding LLC, in East Haven, Connecticut. 

That takeaway is a major goal of the Connecticut Manufacturing Roadshow experience, said Marimón.

“Our goal, at the end of the day, is having these roadshows be as interactive and engaging for young people as possible. They have to appeal in order for the young people to see their future in those industries.” 

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