Opening Doors: Youth Pipeline Program Unlocks Manufacturing Careers

“Learning every single day.” Collins & Jewell‘s Grace Baptiste.

“I had no idea what I wanted to do in 11th grade,” says 20-year-old Grace Baptiste, a welder at Collins & Jewell Company in Bozrah.

Baptiste said when she was a student at RHAM high school in Hebron, she had a conversation with her guidance counselor, who steered her to the Youth Manufacturing Pipeline Initiative training program. 

“I knew I didn’t want to go to college,” Baptiste said. 

“My guidance counselor had come to me and asked me if I wanted to get into the YMPI program. That got me a foot in the door.”

Skills Development

Through the YMPI, the Eastern Connecticut Workforce Investment Board partners with ReadyCT to grow students’ interest in manufacturing, and support career readiness skill development. 

ReadyCT fosters relationships between high schools and employers to help provide students  work-based learning opportunities with local companies.

“I went to the YMPI class,” Baptiste said. “It did give me a lot more hope for getting out of school and finding something.”

“Right out of the gate, you know, she seemed like she was good clay.”

Collins & Jewell’s Christopher Jewell

After completing the program, Baptiste started working at Collins & Jewell

“She started out through the YMPI to learn those basics to learn those soft skills of what we’re looking for,” said company president Christopher Jewell. 

“Right out of the gate, you know, she seemed like she was good clay.” 

Employer Support

Jewell said Baptiste has had an interesting trajectory with the company. 

“When she came on board, we started her in our CNC plasma table, and she expressed interest in learning about welding,” said Jewell.

“I told them that when I first started this job that I wanted to go to welding school,” Baptiste said.

“I’ve gotten support from most of my co-workers. So they were all very willing to help.” 

Collins & Jewell’s Grace Baptiste

So Collins & Jewell helped put her through EWIB’s full Manufacturing Pipeline Initiative welding program. 

“I’ve gotten support from most of my co-workers,” Baptiste said. “Because I came here really not knowing anything. So they were all very willing to help.” 

“The MPI is the core training program for manufacturing in Eastern Connecticut,” said EWIB senior talent acquisition manager Dave Allard. 

Successful Partnerships

Allard said the program trains anywhere between 500 and 1,000 people each year and feeds employers like General Dynamics Electric Boat and their local supply chain, including Collins & Jewell. 

“The Youth Manufacturing Pipeline was born from the adult version,” Allard said. “It was designed by the community colleges in the region with partnership from the employers.”

“We’re telling them what we need as employers, and then they’re doing their part in that senior year to really prepare those students to come into the workforce and be successful,” said Jewell.

“We need to have the jobs to put people in.”


The YMPI program is currently participating in 18 high schools in Eastern Connecticut. 

Jewell said the demand for jobs in the state is a key piece of the program’s success. 

“We need to have the jobs to put people in,” he said. 

“You can train everybody in the world, but if you don’t have jobs to put them in at the end, the program is going to collapse on itself.”

Beyond Training

Allard said the YMPI is more than just a training program. 

“It’s really a community of partners and stakeholders that understand and appreciate the value of what this is doing for the future workforce,” he said.

“It’s really opening up doors to people who never saw this as a pathway for themselves,” added Jewell.

“It’s really opening up doors to people who never saw this as a pathway for themselves.”


“We’re seeing people that are succeeding that had no manufacturing experience. They’re non-traditional people. They’re not the people in manufacturing we’ve seen for generations.”

As for Baptiste, she says she’s just getting started. 

“It’s been a great experience,” she said. “I’m learning every single day.”


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