Bridging the Gap – Need to Fill Manufacturing Positions on the Rise
On a July 2013 field trip, Goodwin’s Summer Bridge Manufacturing Technology Program, a six-week, full-scholarship program that introduces students to a collegiate setting where they are able to earn up to six transferable college credits, ventured to Alpha Q, Inc., a manufacturing company in Colchester, Connecticut.
Richard Hurley, CFO and General Manager of Alpha Q’s AQ division, led the 10 eager students as they toured the clean facility with the whir of machines and workers executing their jobs with speed and grace in the background. Alpha Q manufactures parts for a variety of aircraft mediums as well as land engines, working with companies such as Rolls Royce, General Electric, Honeywell, and Sikorsky.
“Manufacturing is a great industry. There are a lot of well-paying jobs in Connecticut. It’s a strong business, and I highly recommend you pursue it as a career,” Hurley explained.
Positions in manufacturing range from highly educated engineers to students who begin work right out of high school, with a wide variety of jobs in between including assembly work, precision inspection, machining, and controlled lab work.
“To work in manufacturing you must communicate well, work hard, and be prepared, positive, and always willing to learn more,” Hurley commented.
On the tour, students watched a groove being cut into a stainless steel part, studied an operation process sheet, and examined tools, turning centers, and grinding equipment — all while asking thought-provoking questions of both Hurley and Tim Duggan, Continuous Improvement Manager.
While some students were interested in the power of the machines, others focused on the precision of the workers in charge of the robots.
“Machinery and operations interest me the most,” said Summer Bridge student Randy Menard, 18.
Currently, four Alpha Q employees are enrolled in the Certified Production Technician Program at Goodwin College to enhance their abilities and increase their opportunities for advancement. Danielle Moorcroft graduated from a tech high school, began her career in the tool crib at Alpha Q, and is now furthering her education at Goodwin.
“Manufacturing is not a male-dominated industry. We need females in this field,” Hurley noted.
Moorcroft made it evident that females can do this type of work just as well as men. As recent high school graduates, this trip brought light to the fact that a manufacturing career is an attainable goal.
“The students got a healthy and positive dose of reality. They were able to see people their own age working in this setting,” said Michael Wolter, Assistant Professor and Organizational Studies Co-Director.
Manufacturing is steadily on the rise and Goodwin is in full support.
“The average age here is 50. A lot of people don’t go into trades anymore. We need the next generation to step up and become interested,” Hurley noted.
John Millette, a machinist who has been doing this work for almost 20 years, attested to the benefits of working in the field: “This job is one of the best places I’ve worked. You can make a great career here.”
Organized and precise, employees show great pride in their work, cleanliness and productivity. Employers strive to support and mentor new employees.
“Alpha Q is heavily focused on mentoring, guiding and teaching new employees,” said Al Pucino, Manufacturing Management Director for the Department of Social Science, Business, and Education.
Hurley encouraged the students to be proactive in all aspects of life, including their education and career. “Take advantage of the opportunities at Goodwin. Be open to learning new things and have a desire to advance your career,” he said.
Taking the students to a manufacturing site proved to be extremely beneficial. “It really brought the classroom experience to life,” Wolter observed.
Not only was the trip a success, but it was also an opportunity to network.
“Six of the 10 students enrolled in the Summer Bridge Program said they planned to join the Manufacturing Program at Goodwin. It was a really positive experience for everyone,” said Chip Thermer, Manufacturing Program Administrator for the Department of Social Science, Business and Education.
Ashleigh Custer, 17, graduated from Howell Cheney Technical School in Manchester and is hoping to make manufacturing a career in the near future.
“Manufacturing is something I want to look into. I had a good experience in high school. I think it would be a good career choice for me,” Custer said.
Thermer left his students with a bit of wisdom as the trip came to an end: “The only thing that will stop you is yourselves. You are at a point in your lives where you can do anything you want.”
Goodwin College hopes to facilitate the growth of those who want to pursue a career in this highly essential field through quality training and education.
By: Hannah Stacy