Connecticut's manufacturers are facing a significant hiring shortage, and a large part of the struggle is finding qualified teachers to train the next generation of manufacturing employees.
Our state’s manufacturers literally have hundreds of openings in well-paying careers that include CNC machinists, CNC programmers, engineers, tool-and-die makers, mechanical/manufacturing technicians, welders, and much more.
As one generation of skilled manufacturers retires, a new generation of trained workers is needed to replace them. That’s a gap that Connecticut’s technical high schools can help fill.
While our technical high schools are a great example of the quality education available in Connecticut, the legislature can take steps now to make those institutions even stronger, to better serve our students and employers.
Streamline Teacher Hiring
First, the administrative process for hiring a new manufacturing teacher at the technical high schools must be streamlined.
This is a high growth industry in the state, so we must all pull in the same direction to get our students trained and into the workforce.
Delaying filling teacher openings or using substitute teachers who lack the right experience is unacceptable.
Next, we must also address certification requirements.
As one generation of skilled manufacturers retires, a new generation of trained workers is needed.
But professionals with eight years of industry experience typically earn a salary worthy of their advanced skills. Unfortunately, the technical high schools can’t afford a similar salary, which lessens the chance of getting teachers with industry experience.
But allowing an industry professional with five years of experience to teach would provide students with a trained professional whose earnings would be more in line with a teaching salary.
Expand Continuing Education
While we’re at it, we should also address continuing education requirements.
Continuing education is an important piece of teacher training. But the existing requirements on technical high school teachers are inflexible.
The required training is only offered at Central Connecticut State University, which makes it difficult for many teachers because of travel or scheduling issues.
Instead, alternatives should be offered such as online classes, or weekend boot camp models.
Lawmakers should also recognize that Connecticut’s community colleges are attempting to help manufacturers fill the skills gap by training students for these challenging, well-paying jobs.
But they, too, are facing obstacles in hiring qualified teachers and are also looking to expedite the hiring process.