Hands-on training: Platt Tech students get head start on manufacturing jobs

Published: Tuesday, January 26, 2010, New Haven Register

By Pamela McLoughlin, Register Staff

MILFORD — U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-3, now in her 10th term, has taken part in some pretty amazing scenarios during her years in office, but what she saw Monday at Platt Technical High School left her “truly in awe,” she said.

“I’m never in my lifetime going to know what these kids know. ... I’m truly in awe,” DeLauro said, as students patiently showed her how they are learning to make parts for manufacturers on cutting edge Computer Numerated Controlled machines that are used today in many key industries, including aerospace, medical and automotive.

DeLauro had an interest because it was she who secured more than half a million dollars for the manufacturing technology at Platt at the request of the New Haven Manufacturers Association, which stressed the demand in its work force for those skilled in the technology.

And in a unique partnership with Housatonic Community College in Bridgeport, the equipment will be utilized beyond Platt. HCC’s pre-manufacturing and pre-engineering students will get hands-on experience on Platt’s technology during evening classes. In exchange, the details of which have not been set, Platt students will be able to take college level courses at HCC to jump-start their post-high school academic degrees.

“This is the next horizon for Platt Tech,” said school principal Gene LaPorta, who loves the idea of advanced technology and advanced academics being shared. “High- tech manufacturing is one of the hottest local industries there is.”

HCC President Anita Gliniecki said it’s a wonderful opportunity for her school’s students because although they’re developing a simulated manufacturing lab, until now they didn’t have access to the real deal for practice.

“With pre-manufacturing and pre-engineering (at HCC), this will be the final step,” she said.

Robert J. Klanko, New Haven Manufacturers Association Workforce Development chairman and an engineer, said Platt’s a great place for the government to invest because they teach “first-day employable skills.’’

“These students are light years ahead of the traditional high school graduate,” Klanko said. He said there are opportunities galore for them because they can start businesses or get jobs, even as they go on to higher education if they choose. Many at Platt do choose college. Invoking the names of Eli Whitney and Igor Sikorsky, Klanko said manufacturing is always hot in Connecticut.

Jerry Clupper, executive director of the manufacturers association, said NHMA partnered with Platt because they need employees in the field. He said the average yearly income for those in manufacturing is $70,000.

DeLauro, who seemed in her glory meeting girls on track to becoming engineers, said technology like the new machines at Platt will drive manufacturing jobs and “it’s more than a living wage.”

“We are in a deep economic recession. We have people out of work, people who are underemployed looking short term for work,” DeLauro said. “The long term goal, you have the answer right here. This will drive jobs. ... This is an investment by the state government, the federal government. This is public investment. This is what Congress should be doing.”

DeLauro had students walk her through the process of making a product part using the new equipment and asked lots of questions. She warned them up front: “I know nothing” and noted most of her congressional colleagues wouldn’t know what to do with a lathe, rotor and other items she saw at Platt.

Glenn Costa, a supervisor at Schick Wilkinson Safety Razor in Milford, said his company employs two Platt seniors and two juniors and he’s “amazed at their talents.”