P&W exec: Manufactur­ing work­force needs more re­cruits

The News-Times - - BUSINESS - By Luther Turmelle [email protected]­medi­act.com

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.

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