(Hartford Business Journal, 10/30/17)
Q&A talks to Susan Palisano, the director of education and workforce development at the Connecticut Center for Advanced Technology Inc. (CCAT), which leads October’s annual “Connecticut. Dream It. Do It. Manufacturing Month.”
Q. How did the idea of establishing October as “manufacturing month” come about?
A. The Dream It. Do It. (CT DIDI) Manufacturing Month is part of an effort led by CCAT to develop career awareness and ensure Connecticut manufacturers have access to a robust, skilled talent pipeline. The idea was to leverage National Manufacturing Day on the first Friday of October, and use October to showcase exciting careers through events, tours and open houses.
In October, CT DIDI hosted two premier student events: “Manufacturing Mania,” with exhibits, hands-on workshops, competitions and guest speakers; and the “Making It Real: Girls & Manufacturing Summit,” focused on engaging young women in pursuing manufacturing careers through experiential activities and positive role models. Since 2012 over 2,800 students have attended these events, and thousands more have participated in other Manufacturing Month activities.
Q. What’s the most important step in developing a skilled workforce pipeline?
A. The key is to develop student awareness and engagement at an early age. Without knowledge and interest, it’s more difficult to backfill the pipeline. Also, today’s skilled manufacturing workplace requires good STEM foundational skills. So it’s critical to connect classroom learning and real-world application of STEM skills.
There has been limited attention paid to youngsters ages 10 to 14, who are making important decisions about pursuing courses necessary to prepare for skilled STEM careers. This is also when many students lose interest and confidence at succeeding in science and math. Interventions aimed at older students are often too little, too late. Students in this age group also begin to make choices about what kind of high school to go to, what core subjects they will work hardest in, what electives they will take, and what careers they will consider. Unfortunately, students typically make these decisions with limited information, which almost never includes manufacturing-related careers.