Unintended Role Model: Stephanie Fluker Forges a Career in Manufacturing
Stephanie Fluker would glance around her engineering classes at Central Connecticut State University to see that she was the only woman in the room and, often, the only minority.
“I can say being a woman entering the engineering/manufacturing field is hard, and I felt out of place most of the time,” Fluker says.
Despite being perhaps the only young woman from Hartford’s North End pursuing an engineering/manufacturing career at CCSU, Fluker was not discouraged.
She continued to push herself from her comfort zone and nudge everyone else from theirs because, to her and many of her classmates, engineering wasn’t just a subject, it was a calling.
Fluker graduated from Hartford Public High School’s Academy of Engineering and Green Technology, then from CCSU before launching her career at Pratt & Whitney in East Hartford in the Supplier Quality Department.
On June 1, she will be among the many noted panelists at CBIA’s When Women Lead conference at the Infinity Music Hall in Hartford.
The Talent to Move Forward
Fluker is an example of the collaborative work CBIA’s Education & Workforce Partnership does with Hartford Public Schools and Connecticut manufacturers, including Pratt &
Whitney, to help provide the next generation of workers.
Those organizations work with NAF, a national network of education, business, and community leaders that coordinate their efforts to ensure high school students are college or career ready.
Together, they help provide America’s—and Connecticut’s—manufacturers with the talent they need to move forward.
That’s how Pratt & Whitney found Fluker.
Stephanie’s story is just one of many from the Education & Workforce Partnership.
"Stephanie’s story is just one of many from the Education & Workforce Partnership,” says CBIA's Dayl Walker, a partnership program manager.
At the Academy of Engineering and Green Technology, there is an emphasis on worked-based learning.
Students are constantly exposed to various career options, either through professionals who visit their class or via field trips to places like Pratt &Whitney.
Schoolwork was always important in the home Fluker shared with her mother, two sisters, and a brother.
Although her parents lived apart, they were loving and supportive, she says. "My parents always shared the importance of education," Fluker says.
An honors student, Fluker wanted to be a teacher until seventh grade, when she participated in the University of Hartford's IT Community Support Project.
It was her first introduction to STEM—science, technology, engineering, and math.
"I met a lot of amazing people in the program, and I am still friends with a lot of them today," she says.
Her father helped influence her career choice.
"I remember my Dad being more excited to learn about STEM," Fluker says.
She entered Hartford Public High School and its Academy of Engineering and Green Technology. Through CBIA's Education & Workforce Partnership, she got an internship at United Technologies, Pratt & Whitney's parent company.
Hard work, determination, and dedication enabled Fluker to land her dream job at Pratt & Whitney, but she admits she never would have succeeded without the support of her teachers.
Teachers of Influence
At the Academy, she took a computer-aided design course with teacher Felix Giordano, who challenged her thinking. She recalls once instance when he placed a cereal box on a desk. All she saw was the box.
"But by the end of the year, we learned about the top, front, right-side, and isometric views," she says.
Giordano is not surprised by Fluker's success.
"Stephanie, as most successful students, proved herself to be sincere, self-motivated, determined, responsible, and hard-working," he says.
Another teacher who influenced her was CCSU Professor Paul Resetarits.
Resetarits said Fluker stood out the minute he met her.
She changed her major to Manufacturing Management after taking a course with Resetarits.
"He became my advisor and helped me get into the Pratt & Whitney Quality Engineering Leadership Program," she says.
"Stephanie's high school experiences with the CBIA Education & Workforce Partnership, which provided her with an internship at UTC, was a key factor in her selection," Resetarits says.
"I know the combination of her previous experience, personality, and desire to work in the manufacturing field made her a perfect candidate for the Pratt & Whitney Quality Engineering Leadership Program."
The program provided a scholarship that—along with scholarships from CBIA, CCSU, and elsewhere—eased the financial burden of college on her family
Resetarits said Fluker stood out the minute he met her.
"Her interpersonal skills impressed me because in the quality engineering field you have to be able to work with people and often give them bad news in a kind way," he says.
Fluker never imagined she'd end up working at Pratt & Whitney, nor did she expect to be a role model to others.
But with manufacturers and educators encouraging more young women to enter the engineering and manufacturing fields, Fluker is a role model for many young women, including those from Hartford's North End.
"CBIA has done a great job of helping build that awareness. It is also important for minority women to have role models like Stephanie so they know that their goals are achievable," Resetarits says.
Fluker's advice to high school students is to make use of what's offered to them, especially internships.
"Become more involved in school activities and always take advantage of opportunities when they are presented."
For information on CBIA’s Education & Workforce Partnership, contact Andrea Comer at 860-244-1946. For information on the Academy of Engineering & Green Technology, contact Dayl Walker at 860.244.1935.
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