Push for high-tech manufacturing at technical schools


BRIDGEPORT, Conn. (WTNH) – Ten million dollars in state bond money is giving students at Connecticut’s state technical high schools a big leg-up in the field of precision machining.

A ribbon cutting this morning officially opened the latest classroom at Bullard Havens Technical High School, but it is not just any room. It is a precision machining classroom where students will learn how to make machine parts. It’s the kind of skill for which lots of local employers are looking.

“Pratt & Whitney, Sikorsky, or a lot of the smaller manufacturers,” said John Murphy, an education consultant to the Technical High School System. “It’s about precision machining.”

The equipment in the new classroom is all brand new. Robert Trefry, the chairperson of the Connecticut Technical High School Board, told the crowd at the ribbon cutting about how, a few years ago, he would look at the labels on some schools’ machines.

“I’ve seen an awful lot that were made in ‘Columbus 5-Ohio.’ and that means it was before zip codes,” said Trefry.

All the new equipment is thanks to $10 million in state bond money, which is being used to update machine shops in 13 of the state’s technical high schools, and bring back this 14th one. You see, Bullard Havens used to have a machine shop, but they got rid of it years ago because there was not enough demand from employers for graduates with machining skills.

Times have changed. Employers today are looking for students with skills to run high tech precision machines. In fact, outside of those particular employers, they have a certain kind of sign: “‘Skilled machinist wanted’,” explained Trefry. “Those signs are all over the state.”

One example is Excello Tool, a job shop in Milford. It frequently hires tech school graduates.

“We’re looking for skilled help,” explained Chris Lickteig of Excello Tool. “People with good backgrounds, good mechanical abilities, great aptitude, great ability to want to learn.”

“About 47 percent of our students who graduate go right on to work with a lot of the employers here today,” explained Murphy. “And $14, $15 an hour right out of high school is not a bad gig.”

That’s why the new room at Bullard Havens is not just any classroom. It’s where students will learn, literally, to build the future.

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