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First Annual “Manufacturing Exploration Day” Connects High School Students with Employees at Leading Connecticut Companies

Junior Achievement Goes Virtual to Showcase Manufacturing Careers

Nearly 250 Connecticut high school students, attending Pathways Academy of Technology and Design in East Hartford, Somers High School and Hamden High School, recently participated in Junior Achievement of Southwest New England’s first annual Manufacturing Exploration Day, hearing directly from employees of some of Connecticut’s leading manufacturing companies in a variety of industries.

The day-long virtual program was interactive and engaging, and had even the most ‘zoomed-out’ students paying close attention!

Junior Achievement is the global leader in providing cutting-edge, hands-on financial literacy, entrepreneurship and work-readiness education for students in grades K–12. This latest initiative reflects Junior Achievement’s continuing commitment to bring pioneering and dynamic programing to Connecticut students throughout this academic year, despite its challenges.

It quickly became evident that for students participating in the inaugural Manufacturing Exploration Day, it was a hit!

Sudhi Bangalore, Chief Technology Officer, Global Operations at Stanley Black & Decker served as keynote speaker, sharing with students real-world explanations and career opportunities in Connecticut. Bangalore manages the company’s Advanced Manufacturing Center of Excellence and leads automation efforts with technologies such as the internet of things, cloud computing, artificial intelligence, 3-D printing, robotics and advanced material.

Following Bangalore’s presentation, a design team of engineers and the Stanley Makerspace Manager joined the program for a live demonstration. Students watched as on-site Stanley employees received instruction and direction. The group also moderated a panel and spoke with students about their own pathways to success.

“Students were able to learn about today’s manufacturing industry and job pathways directly from individuals who are have built successful careers,” said Jeremy Race, CEO of Junior Achievement of Southwest New England. “There’s nothing better than hearing directly from people actually working in manufacturing industries for students to see themselves in those roles, and learn what it takes to get there. We greatly appreciate the participation of these leading Connecticut companies.”

Charles Daniels, Chief Financial Officer of Wepco Plastics in Middlefield, CT shared a virtual job shadow with the nearly 250 students online. Wepco also showed an impressive video, narrated by workers who were proficient in mold manufacturing. Daniels spoke to the increase in productivity during the pandemic and plastics production. He highlighted the innovative technology being used in manufacturing, the sustainability of today’s products and the future of the industry.

Students also heard directly from employees at Pratt & Whitney, a division of Raytheon Technologies. Andrew Frere explained key concepts and terminology during his presentation. Frere is a Data Analyst at Pratt & Whitney, working as part of a multi-disciplinary team responsible for gathering, transforming, and analyzing data across the entire Pratt & Whitney enterprise. He is a longtime supporter and volunteer with Junior Achievement, and brought two colleagues to the program. Robert Tomastik taught Manufacturing Management and Jesse Boyer shared an interactive presentation on Additive Manufacturing and Printing in Aerospace.

The program concluded with remarks from Chris Heyl, Vice President of Operations at CiDRA Corporation, headquartered in Wallingford, providing customers with the ability to convert data to knowledge to action. Heyl is a member of the Junior Achievement Board of Directors and Chair of JA’s New Haven Advisory Board.

Working with schools statewide, JA offers programs that promote career readiness and provide students with opportunities to learn first-hand about career paths in manufacturing. Junior Achievement of Southwest New England is proud to partner with Stanley Black & Decker, Wepco Plastics, Pratt & Whitney and CiDRA in promoting Connecticut as a Manufacturing hub in the United States.

Even amidst the pandemic, JA has continued to provide quality digital programs, working closely with schools and volunteers from leading companies to continue connecting professionals and students virtually. The focus throughout this school year has been to remain supportive and flexible in meeting students, teachers, and volunteers where they are.

“We’re working diligently to prepare local youth to succeed – especially as they navigate the new norms brought about by the pandemic and look beyond,” Race added. “It has been, in every sense of the word, a team effort.”

Providing children from kindergarten through 12th grade with positive adult role models who illustrate ways to build self-confidence and develop financial literacy, entrepreneurship and work readiness skills, is a hallmark of Junior Achievement. JA volunteers come from all walks of life and use their personal experiences to make the varied JA curricula practical and realistic, helping to empower students to own their economic success.

Media contact: Jeremy Race
860-525-4510, Ext. 224,

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