A Job or A Career – Which Would You Choose?
The Town of Berlin has seen some great changes in the form of new construction and development – Forrest Machine on Christian Lane and the ACURA dealership on the Berlin Turnpike, but behind the scenes things are also changing. One change is that firms in town are in need of workers. In particular, individuals to work at clean, high-tech manufacturing and service firms. As one Human Resource professional in town put it to me – “we are looking for people who are tinkerers, those who do their own oil changes, take things apart, put them back together and like to fix things. These are the students and people who we can train to not just be workers, but to have a career right here in Berlin”.
With this in mind, the Town and Economic Development have been working hard to find ways to connect the students at Berlin High School to the business community. This is being done in a few different ways. The first is working closely with Junior Achievement to do job shadowing days, as well as tours of businesses in Berlin. To date, this has been done very successfully on an annual basis at Comcast, but in the fall of 2017 into 2018, we will be creating more opportunities for students to see, touch and feel different types of companies that call Berlin home. Planning is now being done with the partnership of Economic Development, Patty Pires, the School Counseling Supervisor at Berlin High School and Jeremy Race, the Chief Operating Officer of Junior Achievement of Southwest New England, and myself.
The second way is the creation of an advisory board for the Technology Education Department at Berlin High School. This advisory board will be made up of representatives from the manufacturing, automotive and construction/contracting industries. This board will help advise the teachers on curriculum, assist with determining the right tools/machines to teach our modern-day students as well as advocate on behalf of funding. In addition, letting people know the importance of technical education to Berlin’s business community. Discussions have just begun and we are looking for firms interested in being part of laying the groundwork for better prepared students within the Technical Education Program at Berlin High School.
“The partnership between Berlin High School and the Berlin business community is a key facet to the long-term success and growth of our town. Berlin High graduates beginning careers here in Berlin will help keep resources local and help everyone”, stated Mayor Mark Kaczynski.
The last piece of the puzzle is being in the school to interact with students. On May 18th, I and four businesses in Berlin did a presentation entitled the Changing Face of Careers to the entire 11th grade. As these students head into their senior year in the fall of 2017 and soon into the workforce, higher education or a combination of both, they must focus on having a CAREER, not just getting a job. I believe a job is something you do to make a buck, and a career is a vocation or profession that allows you to CREATE A LIFE.
We discussed the perceived route after college for some student which historically would be in the fields of technology/media, insurance, banking, health insurance and local or state government. But, these industries are in a mode of losing jobs through mergers, closings and downsizings including ESPN, the Hartford, and budget crunches at both the local and state levels. In actuality, the future is in industries that cannot be off-shored or where our knowledge base makes our location an asset. These fields are aerospace, engineering/technical, information technology, medical industries/services, professional services and business services. The presentation was done with the assistance of firms which call Berlin home and fit within these targeted fields.
“In today’s competitive, fast-paced, ever-changing technological employment landscape, it is more important now than even to be certain that our students are afforded real world opportunities outside of the Berlin High School building. Partnerships with the Berlin business community will allow us to extend our students’ skill acquisition beyond the written curriculum, allowing them to have authentic experiences that will not only inform their learning, but also create fertile ground for career possibilities within and beyond our town. This is a promising and exciting endeavor, making this partnership a highlight within our program”, added Berlin High School Principal Fran Kennedy.
The first, Tim Cote who is an engineer at Berlin Steel and is a Berlin High graduate, explained the role of Berlin Steel including his current work on the MGM project in Springfield. He showed other construction projects that Berlin Steel has been part of including the UCONN Medical Center, the Connecticut Science Center and the Fenway Residence Inn in Boston. He stated that the employees of Berlin Steel range from metal workers/fabricators to engineers and planners, but all of them need to be able to think on their feet.
Michael Lane, Vice President of 568Systems gave an overview of the work that 568 does including their specialization in the design, installation and service of structured wire cable systems that support telecommunications networks. They have provided cable system design and installation services for many of the leading public and private organizations in the fields of healthcare, manufacturing, finance, education, R&D, technology, retail and construction. He expressed his desire to find people who are willing to learn, have a strong work ethic and are problem solvers.
Jennifer Lubbe, a Human Resources Generalist from Okay Industries, described the work that Okay is doing as a leading medical manufacturing company with unsurpassed expertise stamping and machining a wide range of metals, including stainless steels, implantable titanium and nitinol. Okay also specializes in medical, automotive, defense/firearms and industrial markets – engineering components and rethinking the ordinary to deliver extraordinary solutions that meet customers’ manufacturing and business needs. They have a number of different employment opportunities including Finishing & Assembly Operators, CNC Machining Operators/Set-Up/Programmers, Quality Assurance Inspectors/Engineers, Toolmakers/Wire EDM, Engineers Mechanical/Die Design/Automation, Maintenane, Finance and Administrative. Their Berlin location serves as a technology center with state-of-the-art work being done every day, but does not have enough people to meet their growing needs.
Joshua Berger, the Director of Product Development with The Music People, presented an overview of the business including its two different business lines – TMP Pro Distribution, which provides their customers access to virtually every major line of pro-audio product, and On-Stage, which is a brand designed and manufactured by The Music People with help from musicians and production professionals from throughout the Globe. In total, they carry thousands of products from more than 170 of the finest pro-audio brands in the industry, including Shure, EV, Telex, AKG, Tascam, Sennheiser, Crown, Atlas Sound, Audio-Technica and many more. Joshua said that he got a 2 year degree in a occupation that no longer exists, but his love of music and being creative has given him the chance to do something he loves at The Music People.
A career in Berlin (not just a job) is not just a possibility, it is a REALITY! Berlin has a very diverse business base with over 400 firms in different industries including major employers – Eversource, Comcast, TOMZ (medical manufacturing), Assa Abloy (hardware manufacturing), Premier Limousine, Euro-American Home Care, and TIGHITCO (aerospace manufacturing). Berlin firms want to educate the future workforce about their firms, the work they do and the career opportunities they have. Locally owned firms have made major investments in town in buildings, equipment, homes, and they take care of their employees like family. Right here in Berlin there are careers with very diverse skill sets in blue collar, white collar and entry-level up to high end engineering and C-level positions.
We see our role to make those connections between business leaders that are creating a future through their firms and those who are starting their future after high school. As you can see, the relationship between Berlin High School, the Town of Berlin and the business community is vital to the future success of not just our businesses, but more importantly, our students!