FARMINGTON - Coming this fall, Tunxis Community College will be offering advanced manufacturing programs modeled on those offered at Asnuntuck Community College, in response to demand for skilled workers in this sector.
In advance of the new offerings, Tunxis invited area manufacturers to a presentation recently to get input on their needs for a skilled workforce, in hopes of forming partnerships to help shape the curriculum, and offer workplace tours, student internships, and worker training.
The presentation began with James Lombella, who is now president of both Tunxis and Asnuntuck, talking about how Tunxis’ new programs will be modeled on those piloted at the Asnuntuck campus in Enfield.
Tunxis is currently working with architects to design a new advanced manufacturing technology lab in a 7,000-plus square foot building on the campus. The lab will feature such training equipment like lathes, grinders, Bridgeport milling machines, CNC machines and four-slide machines, he said.
Lombella said that in addition to training college students, Asnuntuck works with middle school and high school students in the Enfield area on manufacturing projects, starting in fifth grade.
“Imagine having advanced manufacturing projects coming home with students from the fifth grade through the ninth grade,” he said. “This will help parents and guidance counselors understand that manufacturing is not dirty, dark and dangerous. It is high tech, it is robotics, it is touch screens, and more.”
By 10th grade, interested students go into a program to earn 30 college credits to graduate high school “with half an associate’s degree already in their pocket,” he said. They can then finish the degree at Asnuntuck and transfer to Central Connecticut State University to earn a four-year degree in mechanical engineering, technical education, or advanced technology.
He invited the representatives from Farmington area companies in attendance at the presentation to consider collaborating to set up the Tunxis program, by offering internships and donating equipment.
Mark Ojakian, president of the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities system, said that since taking on his current role in 2015 he has seen “a tremendous growth” in interest for advanced manufacturing training.
Ojakian urged the employers present to reach out to their state legislators in this time of reduced state spending and “talk about the importance of the community colleges in training skilled workers for the future.”
Frank Gulluni, emeritus director of Advanced Manufacturing Technologies at Asnuntuck, said community colleges are unique institutions because they work with students of all ages and employment situations.
Gulluni said the community colleges need to start working with children as early as second grade on manufacturing skills, especially in urban environments like New Britain, Hartford, New Haven and Bridgeport. That way they are thinking about these jobs well before they reach the point of frustration where they are ready to quit school at age 16, he said.
Lombella also introduced two Tunxis students who would be graduating with associate’s degrees in Engineering Science in May.
Elena Bolotova said her time at Tunxis gave her not only the practical experience of working on additive and subtractive manufacturing projects, but also the “soft skills” of being a better listener and team player. She said she got the chance to travel to Paris and Washington, D.C., for education conferences and is now applying to four-year schools to further her education.
Dhrumil Shah he worked on designing and manufacturing prosthetics at Tunxis, tutors fellow students in mathematics and engineering, and is currently working at Acme Monaco Inc. in New Britain.
“The main skills I have learned are teamwork and communication,” Shah said. “Because in the real work force if you have a project that is coming up you have to communicate with your team and get it done before the due date.”
He said he plans to go on to the University of Connecticut to study mechanical engineering.
Afterward, there were breakout sessions for participants with different emphases, including aerospace manufacturing, spring manufacturing, general manufacturing and engineering.
Larry Covino, director of Bristol Adult Education, which has been developing its own manufacturing oriented programs, praised the direction in which Tunxis is heading.
“The opportunities are out there for students,” he said. “We’ve got to figure out how to get the word out to let folks know what these opportunities are.”
Susan Corica can be reached at 860-973-1802 or firstname.lastname@example.org.