PLAINVILLE — U.S. Rep. Elizabeth Esty attempted to clear up misconceptions about manufacturing jobs Tuesday while touring Connecticut Tool and Manufacturing.
“It’s not dirty, dark and dangerous,” said Esty, a Democrat representing the 5th Congressional District. “We’re trying to get the word out.”
Esty recently authored the Promoting Women in Entrepreneurship Act to encourage women to enter science and technology fields, including manufacturing. The bill passed the House last year. She also worked to pass the Manufacturing Universities Act to help schools with manufacturing programs collaborate more with local companies.
“We focus so much on book smarts and quick retention,” Esty said. “The people that work with their hands, we’ve kind of lost that.”
Mike Greenwald, executive vice president of Connecticut Tool and Manufacturing, said the Corporate Avenue company hires graduates from local schools such as Manchester Community College and Central Connecticut State University. Students are also given opportunities to get experience while still taking classes.
“We’re not looking for perfection, we’re looking for aptitude,” he said.
The Plainville facility produces parts for the aircraft industry. Sikorsky is one of its main customers.
“It’s not about costs, it’s about value,” Esty said while viewing parts made by the company. “It’s got to be quality.”
Greenwald said the company was primarily a supplier for military contracts when it moved to Plainville in 2001, but has since branched out. The company had $42 million in revenue last year and expects revenue of over $50 million this year.
“Young kids don’t know what we do,” Greenwald said.
For the last two years, the company has been reaching out to high schoolers and middle schoolers about career opportunities. Greenwald said Plainville High School has had students visit the company.
“It’s exciting and empowering for people to see what they’re capable of doing,” Esty said.
In touring the plant, Esty said she had never seen so many “young faces” working at a manufacturing company.
A 3D printer on site helps the company develop tools before using more expensive metals.
“We’re investing in technology,” Greenwald said.
Esty said she is working on reaching out to guidance counselors and parents to break the misconceptions about manufacturing careers.
“They’re keeping the jets in the air,” she said of the industry. “We should be growing our own talent.”
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