Capital Community College, Whitcraft Collaboration Creates Pipeline Into Manufacturing

The program aims to help people build meaningful careers while also filling a need for skilled workers in Connecticut

NBC Universal, Inc.

There is a new path to a manufacturing career in Connecticut. It is through a partnership between Capital Community College and Whitcraft, an aircraft parts manufacturer.

The program aims to meet a huge need for skilled workers and help people build meaningful careers.

Joseph Chester and Justin Santiago are machine operators now, but just a few months ago they had very different careers.

“I was doing barbering and I was doing a little bit of direct care,” Chester said.  

“I was a farmer,” Santiago said. “It’s a big difference!”

“You start from zero, you see the part be made. It is 100% hands-on,” Santiago said.

They both recently graduated from the manufacturing training program at Capital Community College, run in partnership with Whitcraft.

“They're willing to train, the ceiling is extremely high. It's just a great opportunity and a great field to get into,” Chester said.

After graduating, Santiago has been working at Whitcraft since April, and Chester since the beginning of the year.

“I've seen that it was an up-and-coming industry, that had a little bit more longevity and a higher ceiling,” Chester said.

They are just two of 40 some students who have taken part in the program since it launched last year. Graduates have jobs waiting.

“We've hired about a dozen employees from the program. We intend to continue to have a role or a job for them when they complete the program,” Jacqueline Gallo, Whitcraft’s chief operating officer, said.

She said that Whitcraft offers a job to every graduate, and she hopes to hire the 10 students currently in training.

“The students who come through our five-week training program are able to hit the ground running,” Dr. G. Duncan Harris, CEO of Capital Community College, said.

Capital Community College launched the program with the help of federal funding tied to COVID relief. It is the first time the college has had a manufacturing program since 2002.

“We saw an opportunity for folks to come and complete a short term training program, and immediately be able to get a job that allows them to earn a wage that provides for themselves and their families,” Harris said. “There's probably no better industry right now than then manufacturing, and so we responded to that need.”

There is indeed a big need for a pipeline from the classroom to the floor. Right now in Connecticut, there are 15,000 open manufacturing jobs.

“Every manufacturer that I go out and visit is basically telling me that they have a lot of backlog that there's a lot of work out here in Connecticut,” Paul Lavoie, chief manufacturing officer for the State of Connecticut, said.

Lavoie said that was partially driven by the pandemic, when Connecticut’s manufacturing workforce lost about 50,000 people.

“We’re looking for reasons why people have left the workforce, and we're trying to get them back into the workforce,” he said.

The state is working to meet needs like child care and transportation for workers. Lavoie said the first step is training, like the bridge from Capital Community College to Whitcraft.

“This is what I encourage every manufacturer to do,” Lavoie said. “We want to be able to give people hope, and opportunity to really have a life changing career in manufacturing.”

It is already life-changing for Chester.

“The sky's the limit for him, really,” Gallo said.

And as his career takes flight, Chester also finds personal joy knowing his work is making an impact.

“I took a flight the other day, and I was telling my daughter, she asked me what I do every day. I tell her, ‘I help make engines for airplanes,’” Chester said. “She looks at me, and she says, ‘Daddy, are you going to tell the pilot that you can help make the plane?’”

Right now, Whitcraft is also offering a $5,000 bonus for graduates from the Capital Community College manufacturing program who join the company.

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