U.S. Secretary of Education, and Meriden native, Dr. Miguel Cardona toured Thames River Magnet School and Ella T. Grasso Technical High School in Groton Friday.
Cardona traveled to the schools with Rep. Joe Courtney (CT-02). They spent the second half of the morning learning about Grasso Tech's manufacturing programs and the state's manufacturing pipeline initiative.
Grasso Tech offers 11 trade programs. Cardona and Courtney visited the welding program where the students learn and train on similar equipment to what is used at General Dynamics Electric Boat.
"If they qualify they will actually be able to leave from here and go directly to EB," said Richard Deming, the welding instructor.
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Manufacturing companies in Connecticut need skilled workers.
According to Courtney, as of yesterday, there were more than 600 job openings at EB. The need is only expected to grow.
In the next decade, EB will need to hire about 18,000 workers.
"That just screams out how we have to accelerate programs like this," said Courtney. "It closes that skills gap and that's the name of the game."
In addition to the training programs in Connecticut's 17 technical education schools, there are training programs in conventional high schools and for adults who have already graduated high school.
The Manufacturing Pipeline Initiative was launched in 2016 and offers no-cost training to adults. The program was designed to address the industry's hiring needs in Connecticut and has since placed about 2,000 people in jobs.
After a successful first several years, the MPI expanded with a Youth Manufacturing Pipeline Initiative. The coursework is now being taught in several high schools in Connecticut.
"The growth from manufacturing in the next decade is going to far exceed what we did in the last few years," said Mark Hill, who oversees the MPI.
The students in Groton said they are excited by the anticipated growth in the industry and are thankful that they have access to training now.
"It's the greatest experience of my life, really," said Tyler Robinson White, who is from Lisbon and hopes to work at EB after high school.
Cardona said he would like to see more career technical education programs across the country.
"With the American Rescue Plan and the funds in education that we are seeing now, I would love to see an investment in more clear pathways connected to workforce partners that are out there," said Cardona.