Next Generation of Manufacturing

Next generation of manufacturing touted at Three Rivers Community College

Norwich — Federal, state and local officials used National Manufacturing Day on Friday to celebrate the $1.3 million U.S. Department of Labor grant that Three Rivers Community College received Monday to launch an advanced manufacturing training program.

The grant is part of a $15 million allocation to 13 colleges in Connecticut to help meet the growing demand for high-tech manufacturing employees.

“It’s not your grandmother’s manufacturing,” U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal said to more than 50 staff, students, legislators and employers gathered at Three Rivers.

It was a theme repeated often during Friday’s press conference. New advanced manufacturing “is not dirty,” as Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman put it. It is computer-driven with precision machinery requiring high-tech skills. Another theme was the return of manufacturing to the United States and Connecticut in particular, thanks in large part to new submarine contracts at Electric Boat in Groton.

The jobs are real for three graduates of manufacturing programs at Three Rivers and Quinebaug Valley Community College in Danielson who attended Friday’s celebration.

Daryl Jackson, 40, of Norwich, was referred to a possible second career in manufacturing after he was laid off as a shift manager in the poker room at Mohegan Sun. After a fruitless eight-month job search, he turned to the state Department of Labor’s CTWorks program and from there to the Eastern Workforce Investment Board, where he obtained a scholarship and grants to attend Quinebaug Valley’s existing advanced manufacturing program. He now works for Westminster Tool company in Plainfield.

Ryan Craven, 19, of Norwich earned his high school diploma at Norwich Adult Education and received a 300-hour pre-manufacturing certificate at Three Rivers Community College. He works at Sound Manufacturing in Old Saybrook and plans to return to Three Rivers for the new advanced manufacturing program being designed with the grant money.

And Ryan Sanders, 22, of Lisbon, a Norwich Free Academy graduate, hopes to turn his pre-manufacturing and advanced manufacturing certificates from Quinebaug Valley into a career in engineering. He now works at Collins & Jewell, a machine fabrication company in Bozrah, and is gaining both experience and expanded machine operation skills.

Marjorie Valentin, associate dean of workforce and community education at Three Rivers, said the grant money would be used to bring instructors, equipment, curriculum and renovations to the college’s manufacturing labs.

Classes are expected to begin next fall, with 20 students entering the program annually. Scholarships would be available through CTWorks and EWIB and qualifying students could receive other financial aid.

U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, said the need is clear for advanced manufacturing training. Among the openings posted on EB’s website Friday were 390 manufacturing positions.

There could be 10 times that many jobs available among the array companies that supply materials to EB, said Ray Coombs, president of the Eastern Advanced Manufacturing Association.