Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-Connecticut) toured Vinal Technical High School in Middletown Thursday to understand how manufacturing technology classes prepare students for highly skilled and high-paying jobs in Connecticut's engineering and technology sectors.
She was joined by local manufacturers including Pegasus Manufacturing of Middletown, Whelen Engineering of Chester, The Lee Company of Westbrook, Fenn Technologies of Newington who have hired tech ed graduates, state Rep. Matt Lesser, D-100th, Middletown Mayor Dan Drew and Vinal teachers.
"We're here today to look at that partnership between education and training and industry and local manufacturing and how that partnership is the way to the future for strengthening our economy and also providing these young men and women an opportunity for a profession, a good wage, and economic security for them and their families," DeLauro told the employers.
Such training of young people just beginning their careers in these precision technology companies is vitally essential to Connecticut's stake in the nation's financial future.
"This puts us on economic growth glide path instead of moving backward in our economy today," DeLauro said.
The Congresswoman heard from students learning manufacturing technology, computer-aided drafting and design and electromechanical technology skills about how their training will being used when it's time to apply for a job.
They included Josh Belval, Adam Tarnacki and Alexa Wilcox of the manufacturing technology department and Kirsten DiStasio, Alexandria Ellis, Dylan Iovene, Constance Kelleher, Jamie Pizzuto and Angela Sidorski of Computer Aided Drafting Design.
Thursday's visit was part of a series of events focused on what Congress should do to increase Americans’ and Connecticut’s pay. Greater investment in job training and vocational education are a key part to ensuring Americans can compete for skilled manufacturing jobs that pay a good wage, DeLauro said.
The legislator wasn't able to meet Vinal's 10 senior students — that's because nine of the 10 in the class of 2014 had been placed in jobs.
"I really admire what you're doing and how this kind of education and training leads to terrific jobs that are high-paying jobs," DeLauro told students gathered around lathes working on projects. "Manufacturing is very, very important in Connecticut."
In 2009, Vinal received a $143,000 appropriation from Congress as part of the Workplace Development for Student Training and Manufacturing program to upgrade and replace outdated equipment with current technology, which included three Mini Mills and one lathe students showed DeLauro.
"She was instrumental in getting money where it was needed the most at Vinal," said Michael Faenza, Dean of Students / Work Based Learning.
"I hear so many people tell me manufacturing is dead. Manufacturing is so alive and kicking in Connecticut. We need the business community to speak up loud and clear," DeLauro told employers gathered around.
Technical job training at Vinal, Faenza said, is even more essential now to businesses looking to hire highly skilled young people to replace an aging workforce. "They're all going to be retiring in five years," he said.
As one student demonstrated a high-tech industrial lathe mill with a ruby-tipped probe, Drew stopped by. "This type of precision manufacturing is the future of the economy," he said. "It's going to give you a leg up in the workforce."
Following her tour, DeLauro held a roundtable discussion with the employers to talk about stagnant wages and the inability for Connecticut workers to enjoy upward mobility.
"Productivity and profits have soared over past 30 years but we've seen the vast majority of Americans who are taking home less pay and that's an imbalance in my view," she said. "You help to tip that balance for young people."