Thursday, June 15, 2017

Sen. Linares and Rep. Siegrist Congratulate VRHS Grads Receiving Apprenticeship Certificates

State Senator Art Linares (R-33) and Representative Robert Siegrist (R-36) may have spent June 7 at the State Capitol in Hartford, but their hearts were with the eight Valley Regional High School students who received apprenticeship certifications from the Department of Labor (DOL) during a senior awards ceremony.

The certificates are the culmination of a cooperative effort between the high school, DOL, and local manufacturers and trades people. Students received certificates endorsed by DOL and recognized by manufacturers and tradespeople that credit them with apprenticeship hours toward advanced manufacturing and engineering & drafting.

“I just want to congratulate the students who earned these apprenticeship certificates,” Sen. Linares said. “As high school graduates, they can use this certification to go to work and continue their apprenticeship with a manufacturer in the state.”

“Another option these students have is to continue their education in drafting, engineering, or advanced manufacturing at a community college,” Rep Siegrist said.
“They can do this while continuing to work with a local manufacturer, if they choose, and they can be assured they will be able to find a well-paying job when they graduate.”

Sen. Linares said he and Rep. Siegrist pursued this cooperative effort between government and local businesses as a way to address both the exodus of young people from the area and the lack of skilled workers to fill positions in manufacturing and the trades.

“Time and again, we have heard from businesses that they have jobs they need to fill, but they cannot find the skilled workers they need to fill those jobs,” Sen. Linares said. “We also hear that there is a drain of young people who cannot find good paying jobs in Connecticut, especially after they have put themselves into significant debt to gain a college degree. Often that expensive degree doesn’t prepare them for the jobs our local manufacturers need.”

Rep. Siegrist said the programs developed at Valley Regional High School allow the new, certified graduates to start working at one of the businesses that have trained them. The students can continue with their apprenticeships that way, or they can work for the manufacturer while going to a community college to enhance their learning while also earning a paycheck.

Region 4 Superintendent Ruth Levy said two students received certification for completing 200 hours that can be applied toward their apprenticeship requirements in advanced manufacturing. Another six students received certification for completing 400 hours that can be applied toward the apprenticeship requirements for advanced engineering and design.

“We are so excited. This is just a wonder opportunity,” Superintendent Levy said. “This is an opportunity for students to have a career option that will keep them in Connecticut; that will keep them in our area, and will mean having the skilled labor entering our workforce to meet the needs of local businesses.”

Valley Regional High School Principal Mike Barile said the program shows students that today’s manufacturing environment is not the dirty work environment of the past. In fact, many manufacturers require an extremely clean environment.

“It is highly skilled, high technologic and that what we are teach student in these programs,” Principal Barile said.

Superintendent Levy said that by partnering with local businesses, students are able to get exposure and experience on the latest technology that businesses are using at the businesses that are using it.

The program has been so successful, Levy said, that the school district is looking to expand. Plans are in the works to bring business leaders in to discuss the skills they need in workers, so a curriculum can be developed that will prepare students for those jobs.

“We have to thank Art (Linares) and Bob (Siegrist) because they have pushed this forward so well,” Levy said. “Ever since they helped to set up the meeting with the Department of Labor, we have just been moving forward with lightning speed.”

DOL Program Manager in the Office of Apprenticeship Training Todd G. Berch said Valley Regional High School was the perfect place to start the apprenticeship-training program because it is one of the few high schools still offering shop classes. This provided fertile ground to produce a new generation of skilled workers.

“We have an entire generation of workers exiting the workforce,” Berch said. “Unfortunate we have an entire generation we ignored training because every said manufacturing was going away. In fact, advanced manufacturing is more highly in demand than ever.”

Sen. Linares and Rep. Siegrist said they hope the success of the Valley Regional High School can be a model for creating similar programs in other Connecticut high school.

“I strongly believe apprenticeships can be the future of manufacturing and education in Connecticut,” Sen. Linares said. “It can certainly provide a bright future for young people who will be able to get well-paying jobs in our local communities.”

“I am thrilled for the students that are participating in this program,” said Rep. Siegrist.  “This is a wonderful opportunity to help prepare them for their future, especially those who are passionate about pursuing interests in various trade fields.  I wish these students the absolute best as they pursue advanced degrees, and encourage them to never give up.”

Sen. Linares represents the communities of Chester, Clinton, Colchester, Deep River, East Haddam, East Hampton, Essex, Haddam, Lyme, Old Saybrook, Portland and Westbrook.

Rep. Siegrist serves the communities of Chester, Essex, Deep River and Haddam.

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