The changing face of manufacturing

By Jennifer Holloway - Staff Writer
Enfield - posted Wed., Jul. 20, 2011
Greg Corning and Mark Kellogg are in the Manufacturing Technology Center's machining program at Asnuntuck Community College. Photo by Jennifer Holloway.
Greg Corning and Mark Kellogg are in the Manufacturing Technology Center's machining program at Asnuntuck Community College. Photo by Jennifer Holloway.

Dark, dank, dirty and dead - these are words Frank Gulluni says people often think of when they hear the word “manufacturing.” For Gulluni, director of the Manufacturing Technology Center at Asnuntuck Community College, the “four Ds” are no longer valid descriptors of what the field of manufacturing has become.

“Those jobs moved to China and the third world,” Gulluni said. “We’re in the renaissance of manufacturing.”

Gulluni is looking to give manufacturing a facelift, saying today’s manufacturing is not the repetitive and redundant field it once was. Advanced manufacturing involves a developed skill set, as well as courses in higher math, technical writing and design software, among others. Gulluni’s main quest is to find ways to get young people interested in the career field.

“Few parents will say manufacturing is a wonderful career,” he said, adding that many educators and parents overlook the option, thinking it is for students who do poorly in school. He feels that attitude could not be further from the truth, saying modern manufacturing is “technology at its fullest bloom.”

A look at the numbers supports Gulluni’s position that modern manufacturing is a prosperous career. The National Association of Manufacturing’s website, quoting a study by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, states, “In 2009, the average U.S. manufacturing worker earned $74,447 annually, including pay and benefits.”

In the eighth edition of “The Facts About Modern Manufacturing,” a document published by The Manufacturing Institute, the U.S. manufacturing sector is said to have generated $1.64 trillion worth of goods in 2008. “In fact, if U.S. manufacturing were a country by itself, it would rank as the eighth largest economy in the world,” the document states.

According to Gulluni, advanced manufacturing pays an average salary of $68,000 in Connecticut. Those who graduate from ACC’s program make an average of $40,000 their first year in the workplace.

While modern manufacturing is a lucrative field, there are few people cashing in.

“There’s a huge disconnect between the amount of jobs available and the workers to do them,” Gulluni said. “People lack the skill sets to get there.”

The Manufacturing Technology Center at ACC is working to fill that gap, training people in electronics, welding and precision machining.

“We have to get people ready for a job, but we don’t know what job,” said Chris Foster, who teaches the design software, SolidWorks.

Students get hands-on experience in the lab, as well as courses in lean thinking, metrology and blueprint reading. Many intern during their second semester.

“It’s the type of school where if you show up early and stay late, you’ll never fail,” Foster added.

Students range from current high school students to people nearing retirement. Many are dislocated workers who are learning new skills to stay employable. Currently, the center is retraining Pratt & Whitney employees for future changes in their company.

Upon graduation, students earn a one-year certificate. According to Gulluni, they graduate approximately 160 people each year, just over 90 percent of those enrolled. Additionally, about 90 percent of graduates are employed following commencement.

Once students receive their certificate, they have 30 course credits to put towards an associate’s degree. Through the Pathway system, students can then transfer credits to Central Connecticut State University for a bachelor’s degree. Some turn in credits for more class work, while others head to the field first.

This fall, ACC will begin offering an evening program in CNC machine technology to accommodate and train more people. Beginning Sept. 6, the center will offer classes from 5 to 9:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.

“We deal with the whole person,” Gulluni said. Sometimes this calls for flexibility, seen in the addition of the evening program in machining. Sometimes it means allowing a student to stay a third semester to fully grasp the needed material, or even doing some counseling in addition to teaching.

“Think about the 52-year-old who had a 30-year career and is now facing all of these challenges,” Gulluni said. He understands the transition can be difficult and handles those situations with an added dose of sensitivity and compassion.

“It’s really about changing lives,” he said of the work the center does.

Gulluni’s commitment to his students and the task of training skilled workers earned him the 2011 Tom Ahlers System Building Award from the National Association of Workforce Development Professionals.

Speaking highly of the director, Foster said Gulluni encourages prospective students to check out the program for a week.

“He leaves the door open and makes it easy on people,” Foster said. “If you’ve got a problem, you don’t have a problem.”

For more information on the Manufacturing Technology Center, visit the Asnuntuck Community College website, www.acc.commnet.edu/.

 

Contact Jennifer Holloway at jholloway@remindernet.com with story ideas and comments.

 


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