Teachers test-drive, share latest manufacturing tools, practices

By Lesia Winiarskyj

Jim Cardin (left), a manufacturing technology teacher at Windham Technical High School, spent four weeks training with project manager Jim Thibeault at Tri Town Precision Plastics.

This summer, seven Connecticut high school and college instructors from Danbury to Deep River traded in their textbooks for laser engravers and fabrication tools. The teachers worked as externs in advanced manufacturing facilities.

Now in its eighth year, the externship program gives manufacturing instructors hands-on experience in contemporary work environments so that they can pass along fresh information to their students about industry practices.

CBIA's Education Foundation administers the program on behalf of the Connecticut Community Colleges' College of Technology's Regional Center for Next Generation Manufacturing (RCNGM) a National Science Foundation center of excellence.

Bringing Business and Education Together

Advanced manufacturing is the state's greatest source of exports, a major producer of high-paying jobs, and a significant multiplier of economic activity across other sectors.

CBIA's 2012 Survey of Connecticut Businesses, released this month, finds that while 55% of the state's manufacturers have hired or plan to hire full-time workers this year, 58% are having difficulty finding qualified workers.

"The job opportunities are there," says Judy Resnick, executive director of the Education Foundation. "What's missing are the qualified people to fill them."

"This program helps teachers engage and motivate the next generation of workers, providing students with the education and skills needed to successfully pursue careers in manufacturing," says Dr. Karen Wosczyna-Birch, executive director of the RCNGM.

"A Real Advantage"

All seven teachers spent 160 hours at manufacturing sites and are now implementing work-based learning projects, which give students a more thorough and realistic understanding of how classroom learning is applied on the job.

"During my externship," says Jim Cardin, "I created two fixtures comprised of 16 different manufactured parts: all created virtually paperlessly from solid 3D modeling."

Cardin, who externed at Tri Town Precision Plastics in Deep River, teaches manufacturing technology at Windham Technical High School in Willimantic.

"I got hands-on experience in additive manufacturing, including rapid prototyping, and helped with preventative maintenance in molding operations, which gave me knowledge of how molding works and the nomenclature used in describing molding processes and the parts of a mold. My own students will use Mastercam software in 3D design and manufacturing, and my experiences will also be shared at department meetings, Trade/Technology Advisory Committees, and state curriculum steering meetings."

Andy Giannettino, an electromechanical teacher at Platt Technical High School in Milford, learned about machine repair and preventative maintenance at T & T Machine Services in Bridgeport and Fuss & O'Neill in Manchester.

"Machine service was just added into our curriculum and is kind of a hard area to teach," said Giannettino. "This experience gave me a real advantage. I was able to shadow the owner of T & T, going out to different companies with a field technician to do diagnosis, analysis, troubleshooting, and equipment repair."

He added, "What fascinates me, though I've been hearing it over the years, is that manufacturing is as big as it is in Connecticut: and growing."

Connecticut is home to nearly 5,000 manufacturers employing 165,000 people.

In addition to Cardin and Giannettino, the following teachers completed summer externships:

  • Jonathan Encarnacion of Eli Whitney Technical High School studied advanced computer-aided design (CAD) at Goodrich Corporation.
  • Savva Savvides of Bristol Eastern High School worked on engineering processes at Pratt & Whitney.
  • Greg Szepanski of Tunxis Community College studied robotics at ABB Mechatronics Corporate Research Center.
  • Ravindra Thamma of Central Connecticut State University explored automation design at Avtex International.
  • Jared Welcome of Lewis Mills High School in Burlington studied lean manufacturing at Okay Industries.

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