New Haven Manufacturing Training Program Launches
Almost nine in 10 manufacturers have difficulty finding and retaining workers, according to CBIA’s 2022 Connecticut Manufacturing Report.
Now, there is a new effort underway to grow manufacturing jobs in the New Haven area.
The Manufacturing and Community Technical Hub—or MATCH—is a public-private nonprofit manufacturing facility that provides hands-on training, mentorship, and jobs.
Manufacturers Teaching Manufacturers
Marcia LaFemina is the board chair of MATCH.
She is also the president of Penn Globe, the oldest outdoor lighting manufacturer in the country.
She said the idea for MATCH came out of her work with the Workforce Alliance Board and ManufactureCT.
“I was learning about employers looking for people,” she said.
“I was learning about people looking for jobs, and I was watching all these good intentioned people trying to get stuff done and generally speaking, running into the same roadblocks.”
A big roadblock was finding training programs and people to teach manufacturing courses.
“And to me, commonsense said, ‘well, you know, wouldn’t it make sense if you put a training center where the people are?’” she said.
“And what if you had manufacturers teaching manufacturing?”
Coming to Fruition
LaFemina said the idea didn’t come to fruition until two years ago when Penn Globe got a contract from the city of Philadelphia to manufacture and replace thousands of light fixtures.
She said she realized that would be a perfect opportunity to start a training program and have manufacturers teach people in a real-life setting.
“I said, all right, that that’s the bones we could start a training center with an order like that,” she said.
“It would be enough to give credibility to the idea, like real product for real people, real processes, real orders and purchasing, and all those things that have to do with manufacturing.”
LaFemina brought the idea to New Haven’s Economic Development Administration, who she said supported the concept.
Building in New Haven
LaFemina worked with the state’s Community Investment Fund and groups like the Workforce Alliance, The Community Foundation for Greater New Haven, and others to build support.
MATCH became an official company last year with Mark Lahner serving as president and CEO.
LaFemina said it was important for her to build the facility in New Haven to help grow manufacturing and jobs in the area.
“What I’ve learned is that people don’t know those jobs are even available, and they sure don’t know they’re available in New Haven,” she said.
The organization signed a lease on a building in the Fair Haven section of the city on June 1, and is planning to welcome its first cohort of trainees in September.
That first cohort will be made up of eight men from New Haven Healthy Start’s men’s consortium group.
“They’re actually going to wind up doing the work to help us outfit the building,” LaFemina said.
The program will provide contract manufacturing services and train people on various aspects of manufacturing, including areas like machining, assembly, electrical and wiring, and fabrication.
There will also be training for things like operations, engineering, sales and administration, even soft skills like interoffice communication.
“Everything is a training opportunity,” LaFemina said.
“If they have to send an email, that’s a training opportunity. Because in an office email is different than when you text your buds on the phone.”
Opportunities for Everyone
Trainees will be paid and work about 25 hours a week.
LaFemina said it was important to have people work from 9 am to 2 pm.
She said that shift allows parents to be there when their kids leave for school and when they get home.
They’re also working to help with transportation and making it as easy as possible for people to get there.
LaFemina said all training will be bilingual, and there is a focus on being as inclusive as possible.
“It’s not just the color of your skin or the language,” she said. “It’s, you know, it’s gender on top of it.”
“I do not know what it is to be a young Hispanic woman living in New Haven with a baby.”
Just the Beginning
LaFemina said MATCH is looking to grow new partnerships with area manufacturers on projects and contracts for the program.
“If they have something that they’re having made offshore now, say for like $3.50, let us make it for them for $3.40,” she said.
The goal is to then be able to place those trainees with some of those same employers.
MATCH recently launched an online platform to connect job seekers with opportunities in greater New Haven and across Connecticut.
“We’re telling everybody this is not the end game,” LaFemina said.
“This is the beginning. This gets you through the door. It gives you a reason.”
LaFemina said they are also working to help people understand that they can aspire to a rewarding career in manufacturing.
“Do you like to fix cars? You could do this,” she said. “Do you like to play video games? It’s linear process solving skills.
“People have the bones to build on. They’re hearing me say ‘we believe you can do this and we can help you get there.’”
LaFemina said the support and excitement from the community has been inspiring.
That even includes the Yale College of Arts painting a mural for the building.
“It’s the right people doing the right things,” she said. “And there are so many good people out there trying to do so many good things, and so we’re very fortunate.”
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