P&W exec: Manufacturing workforce needs more recruits
SOUTHINGTON — An economic forum held by the Connecticut Business & Industry Association Friday offered two starkly different takes on the economic state of Connecticut.
A number of panelists at the event, held at the Aqua Turf Club in Southington, spoke glowingly of Connecticut’s growing reputation as a technology and innovation hub. And Bob Leduc, president of Pratt & Whitney, said the company has enough contracts to keep its employees busy through 2022 and has no problem attracting engineers.
But even silver clouds have potential dark linings: the state’s schools aren’t producing enough technology-savvy workers, particularly in the area of advanced manufacturing, on the production line where the engines are produced.
Leduc said the company will produce 1,800 jet engines next year for commercial airlines and defense clients. It has hired 15,000 employees worldwide, including 5,600 in Connecticut, over the last four years.
But with 6,000 Pratt & Whitney workers here in Connecticut expected to retire in the next decade, Leduc said the state’s vocational technical schools and community colleges are not producing enough replacements for the needs of his company or other manufacturers.
A graduating student from one of those programs can be brought up to speed to the way things work at Pratt & Whitney within 90 days. But for someone who has to be trained from scratch, such as somebody switching careers, Leduc said it takes nine months for that individual to become a productive employee on the production floor.
“We need a comprehensive STEM approach in schools across the state,” Leduc said. “We’re making some progress, but we don’t capture a wide enough net (of the potential workforce in the state).”
Tom Kennedy, a senior global fixed income strategist with JPMorgan Chase, said a slowing global economy could impact Connecticut. Kennedy said trade wars and other issues are problematic for businesses.
“Uncertainty is not good for businesses,” he said. “And uncertainty is quite high right now.”
Kennedy said he’s not convinced the nation will fall into a recession.