EHHS Builds Advanced Manufacturing Lab
Contrary to the rumor that manufacturing is dying in the U.S., in truth, the industry is alive and well, especially in Connecticut, according to East Haven High School (EHHS) Assistant Principal Amy Farotti. As a result, EHHS is now in the midst of constructing a manufacturing lab to prepare interested students for future employment in the manufacturing field right here in Connecticut.
Farotti spoke with the Courier recently, to explain both the need and the design of the EHHS Advanced Manufacturing Lab.
“The lab is brand new,” said Farotti, who inherited the project when she started working as the assistant principal a year ago. “It was already in the planning stages when I started last June, and the project was handed over to me.”
School administrators conceived of the manufacturing lab since they were aware that Connecticut offers many manufacturing jobs.
“We have so many advanced manufacturing jobs they are going unfilled and qualified workers are a big need in the state for manufacturers,” Farotti explained.
“We have Sikorsky, we have Electric Boat in the Groton area, and there are many other places in Connecticut that desperately need skilled people who know how to use the machines,” Farotti said.
“When I talk about manufacturing to people they will think of the [famous comedy] scene from I Love Lucy,” explained Farotti.
In that classic scene, Lucy and friend Ethel Mertz are sitting at a candy processing line where they have to hand-wrap each candy. As the conveyor belt speeds up, Lucy and Ethel resort to stuffing their mouths and hats with candies to hide those they cannot wrap fast enough.
“But that’s not manufacturing anymore,” Farotti said, adding, “Manufacturing today is all about computer programming and making machines to cut pieces to a very specific specification.”
“When East Haven saw the need for skilled workers in this field, they decided to invest half-a-million dollars into this lab,” continued Farotti. “When our kids leave high school after taking a series of courses in manufacturing technology, they are going into high-paying jobs right away. They’re making anywhere from $65,000 a year and up starting salary, with room for advancement.”
With this kind of starting wage, Farotti said the town and school recognized a clear opportunity to “give our kids a skill that will give them a poverty-ending job,” she said. “If someone goes into manufacturing, they will not be in poverty and their children will not be in poverty. That’s how we looked at the Advanced Manufacturing Lab.”
Electric Boat, Farotti offered as an example, “is always hiring, and they can’t find people who know how to use the machines. So, we are really hoping to team up with big companies like that, but also local companies nearby.”
Farotti said she has been in roundtable discussions with East Haven businesses to learn what their worker needs are. Those local businesses are, in turn, helping EHHS build the Advanced Manufacturing Lab. “They are telling us what things we should have included in it and what they need the kids to know when they leave the lab. We’re also working with them to establish internships for our kids as well,” Farotti said.
“The state is really supporting these moves from all [school] districts in any way possible,” Farotti noted, with state government-supported programs like Manufacture CT, which was founded in the early 20th century in 1913. Today, Manufacture CT provides a centralized place to learn about the state’s diverse advanced manufacturers and how this business sector of the state economy is adapting to technological innovations and growing in need of properly trained employees.
One of the biggest concerns for people like Farotti, is the fact that Connecticut has top-level higher educational institutions, but many people who come to the state to attend college end up leaving for work elsewhere because of the state’s high cost of living. This is also true for those young people who grow up in Connecticut, earn their college degrees here, and then move away.
“We’re trying to make sure that our kids have a skill that’s highly sought after, whether they are college-bound or career-bound,” Farotti noted. “A lot of our students who go into engineering, so we’re going to pass them through our manufacturing courses before they leave high school because that’s really what it [manufacturing] is, engineering. They’re designing a part of a plane or something along those lines and then cutting it” into a piece that fits.
“We are also putting in a metrology lab,” continued Farotti, “which is the study of the science of weights and measures, and we’re teaching them how to measure things down to hundreds of thousandths of an inch.”
Farotti said the lab, which will be completed before school opens in the fall, makes good use of space at the existing high school. “We took one part of the high school that wasn’t being fully utilized,” Farotti explained, “and we stripped what was in there,” to then rebuilt it into a state-of-the-art laboratory.
To outfit the lab, the school has already purchased seven machines from Haas Automation, which include two mini-mills, two tool room lathes, and three desktop mills.
“One machine has officially been delivered to Smedley, a rigging company, so we are waiting for the other ones to come in July, and Smedley will come in and put the machines in place in the lab,” Farotti said.
“We ran one manufacturing class this past semester, an introduction to manufacturing concepts, where students learned about measurements and what goes into the design and manufacturing process,” Farotti explained. “Unfortunately the supply-chain issue has made it really difficult because we expected all the machines to come in in February, but delivery was pushed out to July.” So the class had to do without the machines they would normally use in the classroom.
The school already has an experienced teacher, Jeff Buck, who will be handling all the manufacturing courses starting in the fall when students return to school. “He [Jeff] taught technology education in a previous [school] district, and he came to us to teach just manufacturing,” Farotti noted.
“And Dave Tuttle is a teacher at Platt Tech in Milford,” Farotti added, “but he’s really passionate about bringing manufacturing to other districts, and he’s been working with us in East Haven to make sure everything is set up correctly and he works with us on the curriculum as well.”
“It is a huge project,” Farotti concluded, “and I am so excited for next September when we get all our machines in, and the kids are finally making pieces and learning about advance manufacturing to help them establish future careers.”