David Torres was one of many teenagers milling around the Connecticut Convention Center Nov. 7 for the annual Aerospace Alley Trade Show and Future Workforce Opportunities Fair sponsored by Aerospace Components Manufacturers.
ACM was formed out of necessity many years ago when small and mid-size aerospace companies in Connecticut and southwestern Massachusetts organized to help one another and attract the business of large aerospace and defense contractors.
ACM Executive Director Paul Murphy said member companies realized early that it was up to them to find the skilled employees they need.
That's why when ACM holds its annual trade show, the morning session is devoted to exposing the next generation of employees to advanced manufacturing and all it has to offer—including challenging work and good pay.
"The first time we invited the students in, we had about 40," Murphy said.
This year 17-year-old Torres, from New Britain, was among some 600 students who attended the show.
"This a great event," said Torres, a student with Job Corps, a tuition-free training and education program that connects eligible young people with the skills and educational opportunities.
"It's an opportunity to explore and get some useful information."
Deshawn Ramos, a Rockville High School junior, is interested in music but came to the trade show to explore other options.
"I liked what I saw," said Ramos, 17. "I like to work with my hands so this is definitely something to consider."
Throughout the convention center, 86 manufacturers set up booths staffed with workers who were there to meet and greet the students.
Kyle Keeley, Amanda Harris, and Tim Madore staffed the booth from Bloomfield-based Kaman Corp.
"Anytime we can interact with students, showing them what we do, is fantastic," said Keeley, an application engineer at Kaman.
Keeley said one thing he, Harris, and Madore try to stress is that advanced manufacturing in 2018 is clean, safe—and requires brain power.
"It's definitely challenging, especially when you're dealing with tenths of thousandths of an inch tolerance," Keeley said.
Mike Scotto, vice president of business development for ACMT Inc., of Manchester, always attends the trade show morning with students.
"It gives us an opportunity to talk to teachers and students and tell them about our internships over the summer and winter breaks," he said.
"We've had good success with this show," Scotto said. "We have interns we recruited here who now work for us full time."
Scotto said his company even works with state colleges, including Manchester Community College, to tailor their curriculum to meet the needs of Connecticut's aerospace manufacturers.
Thanks to the annual trade show, ACM has established informal relationships with several schools and educators, Murphy said.
"What we want to do now is formalize those relationships," he said.
That includes meeting with school officials and parent-teacher organizations, arranging for manufacturers to present to students, and having students and educators tour manufacturing facilities.
"What we have to do is change the perception of manufacturing," Murphy said.
That means, Scotto said, stressing the opportunities, the challenges, and the money to be made in manufacturing.
"We really enjoy this show and meeting our next generation of workers," he said.
For more information, contact ACM's Paul Murphy (860.513.3205).