Expo Highlights Manufacturing’s Leaner, Greener Side

04.01.2011
Workforce

Students learn about careers made possible by high-tech products, processes

By Lesia Winiarskyj

Nearly 300 high school students attended a day of workshops and exhibits highlighting job opportunities in high-tech manufacturing and green technology. Lean and Green: Next Generation Careers in Technology was held on Feb. 11 at Manchester Community College.

“Manufacturing has evolved into a lean, clean, high-tech work environment,” says Dr. Karen Wosczyna-Birch, executive director of the Connecticut Community Colleges’ College of Technology’s Regional Center for Next Generation Manufacturing (RCNGM), which sponsored the expo through funding from the National Science Foundation. “This evolution not only demands more sophisticated skills from workers,” says Wosczyna-Birch, “but it also brings greater career opportunities.”

CBIA’s Education Foundation administered the event.

Old School Is Out

Dr. Robert Emiliani, author of numerous books and peer-reviewed papers on lean management, delivered the keynote address. Emiliani, who heads up the Technology Management master’s degree program at Central Connecticut State University, noted that lean concepts were developed by industry leaders, not academics.

The ingredients for successful lean management, he said, include “dry stuff” (technology, tools, methods, and formulas) and “wet stuff” (people, ideas, energy, and enthusiasm). He urged the audience to continue exploring lean principles beyond their academic careers and pointed out that most students today are schooled in conventional leadership principles rather than a more holistic, progressive approach that considers the needs of all stakeholders: customers, community, suppliers, investors, and employees.

Following the keynote address, students, teachers, and college faculty toured the expo’s exhibits and chose from 16 workshops in three breakout sessions. Topics included fuel cell, geothermal, solar, and laser technologies; green building; forging processes in aerospace manufacturing; sustainable products for the office environment; sustainability and the greening of manufacturing; workplace efficiencies and employee engagement; and lean strategies for small businesses.

Lean and Green: A Way of Doing Business

“Sustainability is not perceived as a cost of doing business but a way of doing business,” said workshop presenter Yvonne Hickey, of Xerox Corp. “Businesses have to be relevant to what customers want in the marketplace: and customers want to protect the environment.”

Customers also expect quality products at reasonable prices: which requires that businesses not only green up but lean up. Mark Toussaint, of Kaman Precision Products, led an interactive two-part workshop, Lean 101, in which students experimented with lean processes firsthand. Under strict time limits and other conditions, they were charged with assembling airplanes from batches of Lego blocks. Observers: including fellow students and industry experts: documented product defects, scrap material, idle time, and other inefficiencies and pointed out opportunities for improvement. By the end of the session, the class had revamped its entire delivery and assembly system to maximize flow and minimize waste.

Attending the expo were students from Hartford’s Academy of Engineering and Green Technology; Bacon Academy in Colchester; Greatpath Academy in Manchester; and East Hartford, Glastonbury, Manchester, New Britain, Rockville, and South Windsor high schools.

Careers, Not Just Jobs

“Events such as these provide students: as well as their teachers, counselors, and parents: a look at the potential for long-term careers in the local aerospace manufacturing industry,” says Allen Samuel, executive director of Aerospace Components Manufacturers (ACM). “They help young people understand the future workforce needs and expectations of the manufacturing sector, including the background and training required for successful careers.”

Samuel emphasizes, “These are high-tech, high-skill, well-paying careers, not just jobs: and not the types of opportunities typically being outsourced.”

Judy Boyle, human resources manager at Stowe Machine in Windsor, chairs ACM’s Workforce Development Team. She says that community colleges’ manufacturing programs are doing an excellent job of preparing students for these types of careers: but that more work needs to be done to raise young people’s awareness of what’s available in manufacturing.

Asnuntuck Community College, which is in our service area,” she says, “has seasoned instructors, up-to-date manufacturing equipment, and curriculum that’s regularly reviewed by industry professionals.” She notes, however, that outside of technical high schools, students are not adequately exposed to information about “the benefits manufacturing has to offer or the wide variety of jobs under the manufacturing umbrella. These include positions in administration, quality assurance, production control, maintenance, engineering, and precision machining.”

Randy Plis, vice president of business development for Metals Testing Company (MTC) in South Windsor, says that his company has increased its workforce by 10% since the beginning of the year and is expecting further growth in the future. At MTC: a lab-based inspection facility for the commercial and military aircraft, aerospace, power generation, and automotive industries: new hires have been made in all areas, from ultrasonics, etching, and processing work cells to shipping and receiving.

“This is significant for a small company such as ours,” says Plis, “because we’re unlikely to grow our workforce unless there is a clear and demonstrated need for more personnel.” This is representative of an industrywide growth period, he says, pointing out that ACM has also added member companies in recent months.

Lean and Green: Next Generation Careers in Technology was made possible through the support of several Connecticut businesses as well as state colleges and universities. Participating companies were Barnes Aerospace and Xerox Corp. (Windsor); Dolphin WaterCare (Essex); Electric Boat (Groton); ESPN (Bristol); CNC Software (Tolland); GE Aviation (Manchester); Haley & Aldrich, Horst Engineering, Pratt & Whitney Power Systems, Quest Global Services, and Sunlight Construction (East Hartford); Hamilton Sundstrand (Windsor Locks); Kaman Precision Products (Middletown); Rockville Bank and UTC Power (South Windsor); Sunlight Solar Energy (Milford); Trumpf, Inc. (Farmington); Whitcraft (Eastford), and Massachusetts-based Advanced Educational Technologies.

ACM will be hosting a similar event, ACM Future Workforce Opportunities Fair, Oct. 19 at the Marriott in Windsor. See photos from last year’s event at aerospacecomponents.org; details about the 2011 fair will be posted to the site as they become available.

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.

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