Range of manufacturing careers and need for more high-skill workers highlighted

By Lesia Winiarskyj

Hundreds of Waterbury-area students, teachers, and business leaders participated in a two-day expo on high-tech manufacturing at Naugatuck Valley Community College (NVCC) this fall.

Immerse Yourself in 21st Century Technology, held November 18-19, featured demonstrations of computer-aided drafting and design (CADD), computer-aided manufacturing (CAM), computer numerical control (CNC), rapid prototyping, laser cutting and scanning, and other direct digital manufacturing processes.

The Connecticut Community Colleges' College of Technology's Regional Center for Next Generation Manufacturing (RCNGM) sponsored the expo in collaboration with NVCC. CBIA administered the event along with RCNGM and NVCC staff.

New Skills for a New Economy

Dr. Karen Wosczyna-Birch is executive director of the Regional Center for Next Generation Manufacturing. "The purpose behind this expo," she explains, "was to show young people the kinds of challenging, rewarding careers that manufacturing has to offer and the vast array of technologies that are changing the way products are made. There is a great need for qualified people in manufacturing," she says, adding, that they must be "well-versed in the new technologies."

Seventy students from NVCC as well as 250 from Oxford and Cheshire high schools, Emmett O'Brien Technical High School in Ansonia, Wilby and Kaynor Technical high schools in Waterbury, and Pomperaug High School in Southbury attended the event.

In addition to live demonstrations, the expo featured a seminar on additive manufacturing. Presented by internationally recognized industry consultant Terry Wohlers, who has written and spoken extensively on the subject, the seminar provided an overview of how rapid prototyping and additive manufacturing have enabled companies to significantly reduce lead times and become more competitive.

Better by Design

Unlike traditional manufacturing, which requires the use of molds and dies, additive manufacturing works by depositing powders and liquids made of titanium, carbon fiber composites, and other materials layer by layer to create complex geometric shapes and lighter, stronger finished products: from jet engine impellers to video game avatars. These processes, says Wohlers, make it possible to produce anything that can be modeled on a computer.

Among the major adopters of additive manufacturing are companies in the medical, defense, consumer goods, and aerospace industries, including CBIA members GE and Pratt & Whitney.

At the expo, Rep. Selim Noujaim (R-Waterbury), president of Noujaim Tool Co., Inc., and a member of Connecticut's Commerce and Higher Education and Employment Advancement committees, stressed the importance of manufacturing to Connecticut's economy and addressed the need for a highly skilled manufacturing workforce.

Mia Samsel, director of engineering technologies at NVCC, explained that the demand for highly skilled workers was the rationale for infusing additive technologies into the college's traditional manufacturing, pre-engineering, and engineering programs. There is also a need to draw more women into the field, said NVCC's president, Dr. Daisy Cocco De Filippis, in her welcoming remarks.

Immerse Yourself in 21st Century Technology wrapped up with a briefing by Jason Giulietti, research economist at CBIA, on the state of manufacturing in Connecticut and nationwide, its impact on the economy, workforce shortage projections, and the potential for high-paying careers for job seekers with the right skills.

The College of Technology's Regional Center for Next Generation Manufacturing is sponsoring another student/teacher expo, Lean and Green: Next Generation Manufacturing Careers in Technology, at Manchester Community College on Feb. 11. CBIA will administer the event. To learn more, contact Mary deManbey, project manager for CBIA's Education Foundation, at mary.demanbey@cbia.com.

Both expos were made possible through funding from the National Science Foundation awarded to the RCNGM.

For updates on CBIA's education and workforce development programs, visit cbia.com/edf/.

Lesia Winiarskyj is a writer-editor at CBIA. She can be reached at lesia.winiarskyj@cbia.com.