January 22, 2018

Lincoln Tech, employers match pupils' training with marketing

HBJ Photo | Steve Laschever
HBJ Photo | Steve Laschever
Hoffman Auto Group service manager Elliot Matos (left) is the dealership's lead in recruiting fresh talent coming out of vocational-technical schools like Lincoln Tech. (Right) Hoffman Audi technician Andrew Richard.
Photo | contributed
this automotive classroom at Lincoln Tech’s East Windsor campus reflects corporate sponsor the Hoffman Auto Group of East Hartford.
PHOTO | Contributed
This automotive classroom at Lincoln Tech’s East Windsor campus reflects corporate sponsor German marque Audi.
HBJ Photo | Steve Laschever
Hoffman Auto Group hired Andrew Richard, of Berlin, as an Audi technician as soon as he graduated almost four years ago from Lincoln Tech in East Windsor. The for-profit educator is adding training in operation of computer-numerically controlled (CNC) machines to its curricula.

Lincoln Tech is launching Feb. 19 its first vocational training on computer numerically controlled (CNC) machine tools and programming at its East Windsor school in response to manufacturers' growing demand for workers with CNC skills.

But along with new CNC training, one of the nation's leading for-profit vocational-technical educators also has exposed its deepening relationship between its pupils and employer-sponsors who covet a first crack developing and hiring fresh talent.

Lincoln, present in Greater Hartford since its 2009 purchase of former Baran Institute, says local and national employers increasingly want a hiring pipeline that taps the next generation of advanced manufacturers, auto mechanics, plumbing, electrical and heating, ventilation and air conditioning technicians, and healthcare aides.

To that end, employers like East Hartford's Hoffman Auto Group, Matco Tools and CNC-technology provider Haas Automation are cementing groundbreaking sponsorship ties with Lincoln Tech and other vo-tech educators. At Lincoln's New Britain campus, for example, its heating-ventilation-air conditioning (HVAC) lab's "Green Technology Room" is sponsored by Massachusetts HVAC wholesaler-distributor F. W. Webb Co.

In return, employer-sponsors like Hoffman Auto Group get first dibs at mentoring, and later hiring, some of Lincoln's best talent, said Elliot Matos, service manager for Hoffman Audi, who helped his employer and the German luxury automaker cement ties with Lincoln Tech.

Matos, who is president of a coalition of Audi service managers in southern New England, describes Hoffman's and Audi's sponsor relationship with Lincoln as "mutually beneficial.''

"Its value to us is immeasurable,'' Matos said, "simply because that … is a program that is respectable and puts out good graduates.''

Jonathan Hoffman, a fourth-generation family member who oversees service, parts and the body shop, said Hoffman Auto is looking to grow partner relationships with other educators like Porter & Chester Institute, which also offers automotive-repair training, East Hartford's Goodwin College, and Massachusetts' Universal Technical Institute.

Hoffman said the Lincoln classroom branding, and events like "Hoffman Auto Days,'' burnish the Hoffman name with prospective hires as well as potential car buyers.

"We want to be the employer of choice,'' Hoffman said.

Such relationships also benefit Lincoln Tech's quest to provide enrollees with more and diverse job opportunities after graduation, said Lou Vendrell, the school's vice president of product development.

Lincoln launched its CNC curriculum largely in response to manufacturers' pleas in 2013, opening training centers in Grand Prairie, Texas, and Indianapolis, Vendrell said. Later, its CNC curriculum debuted in Mahwah, N.J., contributing to Lincoln's 555 CNC graduates so far. In Connecticut, Lincoln's other campuses are in New Britain and Shelton.

Lincoln's East Windsor campus also offers hands-on career training and professional development in automotive, diesel, collision repair, welding, HVAC, electrical and renewable energy. Its New Britain campus offers training for medical assisting and practical nursing, plus HVAC and electrical. In Shelton, it offers medical assisting and practical nursing, along with culinary arts and electrical.

Last year, Lincoln says more than 1,100 graduates from its three Connecticut schools went to work for more than 750 employers.

Hoffman Auto Group has hired at least 22 Lincoln Tech graduates in the last three years, Matos said. One is auto technician Andrew Richard, 25, of Berlin, hired "literally the day after I graduated'' from Lincoln Tech's East Windsor campus 3 years ago, Richard said.

Richard said his Lincoln instruction and his ongoing training from Audi are preparing him to one day own his own auto-repair business.

"I know a lot of people … who went to college and graduated but can't find work in their career field,'' Richard said.

Technology, brand showcase

Present in manufacturing for decades, Lincoln and other experts say workers with CNC skills have grown in demand as America's production floors become increasingly automated and new advanced manufacturing technologies, such as 3-D printing and additive production, make inroads.

Along with that, said Lincoln CEO Scott Shaw, more manufacturers and the providers-developers of newer technologies finding their way onto shop floors, want direct engagement in training those who will use their tools.

It's also, Shaw and others say, an opportunity for end-users of the technologies and talent to promote their products and services.

Take machine-tool distributor Haas Automation, for instance. Based in Oxnard, Calif., Haas' machine-tool lineup includes what it claims is the largest line of CNC machines in North America. Used by Connecticut manufacturers for decades, CNC machines can be automated to cut, grind or intricately shape raw metal into finished parts for aerospace, automotive, heating-ventilation air conditioning, medical-devices and consumer-products markets.

Haas, which has a sales/customer-support office on Day Hill Road in Windsor, has helped Lincoln Tech identify which U.S. manufacturing markets have the greatest demand for CNC-skilled workers, Shaw said. That is how Lincoln knew there was opportunity for CNC training — and employment — in Connecticut. Haas also provided Lincoln's East Windsor campus with CNC training equipment and helped develop the CNC curriculum.

"Everything we do at Lincoln,'' Shaw said, "is predicated on employment opportunities. … We're always looking for growth opportunities. And this has been a good program as more people understand manufacturing is not dead in this country.''

Toni Neary, Haas' education director, said they have been committed to the success of advanced manufacturing programs for many years, with encouragement from founder Gene Haas.

"[He] understands,'' Neary said, "that the skills gap is real, that the pathway for individuals varies, and that supporting diverse programs for CNC training is how we work together to help develop the much needed workforce."

"We see Lincoln Tech offering an opportunity,'' she said, "for short-term and flexible training that is much needed throughout the country and specifically New England."

Classroom training, too, also affords Haas Automation and Hoffman Auto sponsorship-marketing opportunities.

In the automotive training area, walls in one of the East Windsor classrooms is emblazoned with Hoffman Auto's logo and a mural of a swift-moving sports car, a nod to Hoffman's Porsche dealership.

It was, Hoffman and Lincoln officials say, Hoffman's reward for sponsoring renovation of the automotive classroom.

Hoffman's Matos says the muraled classroom reinforces in pupils' minds not only that Hoffman is a place to buy a car but a worthwhile place to work.

"A picture's worth a thousand words,'' he said. "Basically what we want them to see is our ever-presence.''

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