Aug. 21, 2014

ANSON SMITH AT 203-332-5229

HCC Mfg. Program
Opens Doors for Bpt. Couple

Housatonic Community College advanced manufacturing program graduates Ashleigh (left) and Jim (center) Amorando share their views on manufacturing as a career with WTNH reporter Kent Pierce during the recent launch of HCC’s American Manufacturing Hall of Fame. The manufacturing program opened career doors for the Amorandos.

BRIDGEPORT ‑ Housatonic Community College’s advanced manufacturing program has opened career doors for Jim Amorando and his wife, Ashleigh.

Career wise, both have been on parallel paths since childhood. They chose the same career and the same employer. They realized they had the same educational needs and chose the same program, HCC’S Advanced Manufacturing Program, to help them meet those needs. And both feel they did the right thing.

Both came from a manufacturing background. “My dad worked in a machine shop when I was a baby,” Ashleigh recalls. “When he came home, I’d wear his work hat.”

Jim came from a similar background. “My father was a tool and die maker for longer than I’ve been alive, so I learned about this early on,” he recalls. “It’s always been something I’ve been good at, so I’ve done it.”

Both discovered they like to make things. “I enjoy putting things together and making something out of something else,” Ashleigh said.

“Making things is one way to add value to things without much time and energy,” Jim added. ”You can take a piece of steel, make something useful with it and sell it. That’s value added.”

Both learned the basics of manufacturing and both went to work for the same company, PEP Lacey of Bridgeport. Both realized that, to advance their careers, they needed to learn the high tech side of advanced manufacturing.

Jim was first. Lacey offered him the opportunity to go through HCC’s Advanced Manufacturing Program. The company would pick up the costs of the program while he continued in his job. He jumped at the offer.

“I wanted exposure to programming,” he said, “I went through manufacturing basics in high school but I have never been exposed to computer-aided design before.”

The following semester, Lacey would make the same offer to Ashleigh. She, too, would jump at the opportunity.

“There weren’t a lot of opportunities to expand my career until I came to Housatonic,” said Ashleigh, now an apprentice toolmaker. “I learned about programming, which is essential to the job I’m doing now.”

Since Jim graduated from the program, he has set up two machines that manufacture a component used in applying medical staples. “Thanks to the Housatonic program, I moved up to a new job, a new pay scale, and a new type of work,” he said.

Prior to Jim’s completing the program, those two machines and three others sat idle in the Lacey plant because people with the skills to run them couldn’t be found. This shows the demand in the area for people with advanced manufacturing skills.

The advanced manufacturing program, a one-year certificate program, was designed with needs such as these in mind. Businesses need workers with a higher skill level to meet the demands of new and expanding technologies. The two-year-old HCC program gives them these skills.

More than75 percent of the program’s graduates have found employment, starting in the $32,000-45,000 per-year range. Thus far, 81 percent of the 2014 graduates have found work.

For the Amorandos, a manufacturing career is the way to go. “Just with basic manufacturing skills, you can make enough to support yourself,” said Jim, now an apprentice toolmaker. “That’s the American Dream.”

Registration for the manufacturing program is going on now. Information sessions, which will be held at 1 p.m. and again at 6 p.m. in Room 287 in Beacon Hall, are scheduled for August 19, 21, 26 and 28, and Sept. 2, 4, 9, 11, 16, 18, 23, 25 and 30. For more information about the manufacturing program and the information sessions, contact Kimberly Wood at 203-332-5098, Mike Gugger at 203-332-5963 or Bill Griffin at 203-332-5056.