Processing Your Payment

Please do not leave this page until complete. This can take a few moments.

November 11, 2021

Aerospace companies look to interest students in careers

Austin Mirmina | Journal Inquirer CCAT engineer Sam Greenbank showing students a robot that he programmed to sort small tiles.

Around 1,000 students met with some of the top aerospace manufacturers in the state Wednesday as part of an aerospace trade show at the Connecticut Convention Center in Hartford.

“This turnout is more than I could have hoped for coming off such a crazy year and a half,” Executive Director Jessica Taylor of Aerospace Components Manufacturers said. “We weren’t sure what the participation level would be, so this is just incredible for this amount of students, displayers, and partners.”

The Aerospace Alley Future Work Force Opportunities Fair & Trade Show included 90 aerospace manufacturing companies. It also featured an appearance from Gov. Ned Lamont, who walked around the Convention Center’s ballroom taking selfies with eager students and speaking to representatives from each company.

“It’s a wonderful time to be in high school and graduating. These are a lot of amazing jobs,” Lamont said. “Our aerospace industry is growing, and that’s a good place to be.”  

The two-part event began with a job fair where students from all levels could network and seek information from various aerospace manufacturers. Trying to lure students to their tables, some companies handed out candy, while others gave away pertinent items such as pens and tape measures.

A trade show took place in the afternoon where ACM-member companies could network with other aerospace companies.

The Connecticut Center for Advanced Technology, an East Hartford-based nonprofit organization, showcased a 3D-printer that produced small, lightweight objects, and a robot named “Flow” that sorted small blocks meant to replicate the assembly of aerospace parts.

“The goal in our booth is to showcase some of the industry 4.0 technologies that continue to be developed,” CCAT Senior Manager Alyce Stiles said. “We do with a lot with robots, and that’s always real eye-catching for the students.”

In addition to networking with students, Stiles said one of her missions was to influence school-age girls at the event to join an industry that is predominantly male. Stiles estimated that the percentage of women in aerospace is “in the 20s,” with most of those jobs occurring in an office.

Katelyn Dellavecchia, who is a ninth-grader and a member of an engineering group at Southington High School, said her interest in aerospace engineering began at young age.

“When I was younger, my dad had me join him in watching NASA’s rockets go up into space, and I’m like, ‘I want to help do that,’” Dellavecchia said. “I can build satellites. I can build airplanes. I can build parts of rockets. And I can help bring people into space.”

Rani Viroja works as an associate at Accuturn in South Windsor, which manufactures parts for the aerospace and defense industries. Viroja said she was embracing the unique opportunity to network with both students and companies.

Viroja, who is a person of color, said that representation is a “great way” to help encourage certain demographics, such as women and particularly women of color, to enter the aerospace industry.

“It’s great to see more and more females in higher positions, or even in the production lines,” Viroja said.

Design teacher Dana Kinel and some of her eighth-grade students at Sunset Ridge in East Hartford stopped to speak to a joint representative for Manchester and Middlesex Community Colleges’ engineering program.

“We want to make sure our students are aware of the opportunities right in our area,” Kinel said.

Luis Alvarez, 23, who is in the advanced manufacturing program at Asnuntuck Community College in Enfield, said he attended the event to network with companies and get more information about internships.

Many companies at Wednesday’s event that supply parts to other aerospace manufacturers were hurtd by the shutdown of commercial aviation last year. But Taylor said many of ACM’s member companies have seen an uptick in business as orders start to come in on the commercial side.

“We’re not where we were pre-COVID, but I think we’ll be getting there in the next couple of years.” She said

The industry’s rebound will benefit many students who will graduate and enter the workforce in the coming years.

“We’re looking to the future,” said Horst Engineering CEO Scott Livingston, whose company recently opened a new facility in East Hartford. “This is laying the groundwork. Some of these kids will graduate by then, and we hope that they enter into manufacturing careers.”

Sign up for Enews


Order a PDF