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New Milford-Danbury Community Ready to Address Manufacturing Skills Gap

Workforce training conversations begin at First Annual Manufacturing Summit

Local manufacturers in the New Milford-Danbury region came together for the area’s first Manufacturing Summit on Tues., June 3 at Kimberly-Clark Corporation in New Milford. The event was jointly organized by Kimberly-Clark and NVCC to address the local skills gap in manufacturing companies, and to begin preparing to train an up-and-upcoming workforce.

Congresswoman Elizabeth H. Esty attended the event and was encouraged by the conversations toward improved private-public partnership in support of area manufacturing.

“Manufacturing is the backbone of Connecticut’s economy, and we have real opportunities here in our state to be on the cutting edge,” said Congresswoman Esty. “I was proud to be part of NVCC’s Manufacturing Summit earlier this month. I applaud NVCC for its leadership and for bringing together manufacturers, educators, and local leaders to find collaborative, sustainable solutions to close the skills gap and help workers better match their skill sets with jobs in demand. I look forward to continuing to partner with NVCC as we help move our state forward.”

One of the major challenges that emerged was the need to quickly replace an aging workforce in high-skills positions.

Emily Hutter, reliability strategy leader for Kimberly Clark, said the Company’s approximately 350 workers average 49 years of age and will soon retire from positions that can take up to 5 years to fully develop a worker in.

Michael Iassogna, president of Tier ONE, LLC in Newtown estimates that approximately 75% of the company’s 70 employees are older than 50 years of age. Replacing these workers can take up to 10 years of on-the-job training.

In its early stages as a newly-recognized full-service campus in Danbury, NVCC is well-positioned to work with the community on addressing these challenges. The next step will be to form a regional manufacturing advisory council to guide programmatic and workforce development from concept to action.

“Four years ago the Waterbury manufacturing community asked for a way to replace an aging workforce, and together with Governor Malloy and the Connecticut Board of Regents for Higher Education, we responded with the NVCC Advanced Manufacturing Technology Center – a Center that has placed dozens of new manufacturers into the workforce,” said NVCC President Daisy Cocco De Filippis, Ph.D. “With that model of public-private partnership, and as we begin to develop plans for a new physical campus in Danbury, we are ready to work with New Milford-Danbury area towns and businesses to create customized manufacturing training programs.”

The Honorable Pat Murphy, Mayor of New Milford, expressed gratitude for having these preliminary conversations take place in her town.

"I think Naugatuck Valley Community College is a great resource and community partner for providing training opportunities to our local workforce to expand and enhance their skill-sets, making them more valuable employees,” said Murphy of the event.

United States Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro, who couldn’t attend, sent a letter of support acknowledging a “generational economic challenge to address the stagnant wages in this country.”

“Unless we work to close this skills gap, families looking to move up the economic ladder through hard work will be denied access to good, well-paying, high-skill jobs,” she explained. “If the workforce does not exist here, those good jobs will go someplace else. That is why technical education is so important.”

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