March 2022

New CT State Advanced Manufacturing Tech Center Opens at WCSU

Francesco Ambrosino and Mirian Rivas (center) joined Gov. Ned Lamont, CSCU President Terrence Cheng,  campus leaders and manufacturers at a ribbon-cutting ceremony to open the new CT State Naugatuck Valley Advanced Manufacturing Technology Center at WCSU
Dr. Lisa Dresdner, CEO of Naugatuck Valley Community College , speaks at the launch of the CT State Naugatuck Valley Advanced Manufacturing Technology Center at WCSU

Francesco Ambrosino, a machine operator and programmer, is earning an advanced manufacturing machine technology certificate at Naugatuck Valley. Mirian Rivas, who graduated from the certificate program, now makes microchips for machines.  

“I’m really, really proud of what I am doing right now,” said Rivas, who works at ASML, a leading manufacturer of chip-making equipment in Wilton. “I’m helping to change the world.”  

Both Ambrosino and Rivas recently joined Gov. Ned Lamont, CSCU President Terrence Cheng, campus leaders, students and manufacturers at a ribbon-cutting ceremony to launch the new Connecticut State Community College (CT State) Naugatuck Valley Advanced Manufacturing Technology Center at Western Connecticut State University (WCSU).   

President Cheng said that the state-of-the-art facility — complete with new machines, computers and technology — is poised to prepare students for the manufacturing jobs of the future. The new facility will enroll up to 24 students in Naugatuck Valley’s two-semester certificate program that prepares individuals for hands-on positions in the manufacturing sector. Students earn a total of 31 credits, which can be applied to engineering technology or technology studies associate degree programs. 

“With more than 6,000 openings presently available in the state’s manufacturing industry, this new advanced manufacturing technology center will help expand educational and economic opportunities for our students with good jobs and a rewarding career, while providing a highly educated and skilled workforce for our state’s manufacturers,” said Cheng. 

Naugatuck Valley CEO Dr. Lisa Dresdner said the college’s advanced manufacturing program prepares students for good jobs. “Students who enroll in Naugatuck Valley’s Advanced Manufacturing program are eager to learn the skills that will enable them to find good, satisfying jobs, contribute to our communities, and continue to grow with the manufacturing industry,” she said. 

Governor Lamont said advanced manufacturing is a major component of Connecticut’s economic future and can provide jobs. “Connecticut’s strong network of higher education institutions provides a great, cost-effective way for those who live here to obtain the skills that can lead to a rewarding career,” he said. “This new advanced manufacturing technology center in Danbury will be uniquely positioned to contribute to our workforce pipeline.” 

Naugatuck Valley’s two-semester, 10-month course, now has the capacity for 24 students. but as the program grows, day and weekend cohorts are planned for up to 72 graduates per year. In two semesters, each student can also earn an OSHA 10 Certificate and National Institute for Metal Working Skills nationally recognized credential. 

Ambrosino is among the first cohort of 12 students who began the advanced manufacturing machine technology certificate program in August 2021 and will graduate in May 2022.  

These students started the program in a space at Henry Abbott Technical High School in Danbury and moved to the new CT State center at WCSU in January. 

Manufacturing was an unlikely career path for Ambrosino who graduated from Central Connecticut State University with an exercise science degree in 2021. But during the COVID-19 pandemic, he was introduced to manufacturing in his fiancé’s father’s machine shop. That experience, he said, opened his eyes to a field he really enjoys. 

He now works full-time as a machine operator and programmer with conversational machines at East Branch Engineering in New Milford. The company provides precision-machined parts and components to the aerospace, automotive, power generation and medical industries.  

“With the help of my employer, I found this course which helped me understand the amazing world of manufacturing and the incredible opportunities available,” Ambrosino said 

Ambrosino finished his first semester at Naugatuck Valley with a 4.0 GPA and is currently in the second semester of the program. After earning his certificate in advanced manufacturing machine technology, he hopes to earn an associate degree in engineering technology, and then a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering. 

He said students appreciate the new space that is tailored specifically for them. “It’s a beautiful, state-of-the-art facility with classrooms, computers at every desk and the newest versions of computer-aided design software and programs,” said Ambrosino. “CNC machines are brand new, super-efficient and top of the line, which is very important, especially in this trade.” 

WCSU President John B. Clark said the university is proud to host the new CT State center on its Midtown campus and welcomes the students who study there. “The partnership between Western Connecticut State University and the Naugatuck Valley campus of CT State is a wonderful demonstration of how our students — and our communities throughout the state — can benefit when the resources of the CSCU system are fully utilized,” he said.   

“We are delighted that our partnership with Western Connecticut State University enables us to provide such an amazing facility for our students to achieve their goals, and we are grateful for the state’s support of this partnership and the Linde commitment to giving back to the community which supports our Advanced Manufacturing Technology Center students through scholarships,” said Naugatuck Valley’s Dresdner. 

Mirian Rivas is one of those students who achieved her goal in the manufacturing industry. She arrived in the United States 25 years ago and worked 20 years in the food industry. But with encouragement from her teenage son, she decided to pursue her interest in manufacturing.  

She received a scholarship from Linde Manufacturing for Naugatuck Valley’s 10-month course held at Henry Abbott Technical High School in Danbury. However, making the change from the food industry to manufacturing was challenging, she said, especially working full-time with three children and attending school. 

But at Naugatuck Valley she was offered the support, training and preparation needed for her job at ASML where she is an optical coding and cleaning technician. At ASML, she cleans, inspects, and coats delicate precision optics. “I am doing something amazing,” she said. “I love my job.” 

Currently, 21 greater Danbury-based manufacturing companies are partnering with Naugatuck Valley’s Danbury and Waterbury Advanced Manufacturing Technology Center programs, where students are placed in internships. Approximately 95 percent of graduates are placed in full-time jobs with the potential average starting salary for a machine operator ranging between $18 to $22 an hour. The program also opens doors to higher paying positions within these companies, and promotions for incumbent workers after earning credentials. 

“The expansion of Naugatuck Valley’s Advanced Manufacturing Program located on WCSU’s campus in Danbury, demonstrates the State of Connecticut’s recognition that programs like this are essential to promote manufacturing jobs as challenging and rewarding career paths and opportunities for career retraining,” said Marcy Macdonald, vice president of human resources and corporate secretary for the Memry Corporation.  

“Developing a manufacturing workforce to support high tech jobs in the greater Danbury area will help companies like Memry Corporation meet our growth objectives and commitment to the state for the future,” she said. 

Ambrosino is proud of being part of that manufacturing workforce, continually learning new technology, and making an impact with his career choice. 

“In the trades, you never stop learning and I feel very lucky to be here,” he said. “I hope with this course and my certification, I can continue my education and further my career path. It feels good to be here.” 

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