Millennials have found early careers in manufacturing to have large salary jumps and educational opportunities

For years Connecticut’s manufacturing industry struggled through the recession and a shrinking global economy – a struggle causing a generation to arch its eyebrows in both suspicion and curiosity over the industry’s stability. Today, Connecticut’s manufacturing companies are growing and it’s good news for Millennials who are paying attention.

Take it from Darnell Silvestre, an injection molding technician who started his manufacturing career when he moved to Connecticut some 10 years ago. Since then, he’s worked at Seitz where he enjoys working on diverse product components for smoothie machines, medical devices, computers and more.

“I knew nothing about manufacturing but an opportunity fell into my lap. I was young and willing to learn so they (Seitz) took a chance on me,” Darnell said.

Darnell Silvestre

Age: 30
Title: Injection Molding Technician
Company: Seitz LLC
Location: Torrington
Residence: Winsted
Education: High School Diploma
Salary: $22 an hour
Fun Fact: The company Darnell works for actually manufactures McDonald’s smoothie machines!

Finding good talent is like finding a diamond in the rough; when companies find it, they hold on.

“I see it all the time,” he said. “These engineers come in with their degrees, and they don’t even know how to work the machines. That’s a problem in this business. No one is trained to work on the floor, and that’s what the industry needs.”

Darnell says having hard skills is vital and, more than once, he’s been offered higher-paying positions from his company’s competitors.

Like Darnell, Patricia Cancho, who works at Floyd Manufacturing, took a chance on manufacturing.

“My [technical] high school offered exploratory classes, and I picked manufacturing because I was fascinated by how you could create something out of a block of useless material,” she said. “Even though I tried other trades, I just loved manufacturing.”

Patricia attributes her new love for the industry to her willingness to take risks.

“You’ll never know what you’re capable of until you try. So many people have asked me why I’ve chosen a ‘male trade’. Don’t settle for a career path that you think you should be on. Try new things, you might surprise yourself!”

Patricia Cancho

Age: 21
Title: Quality Assurance Assistant and Engineering Intern
Company: Floyd Manufacturing Co.
Location: Cromwell
Residence: Hartford
Education: Currently attending Manchester Community College. Previously attended Asnuntuck Community College.
Salary: $15 an hour
Fun Fact: In high school, Patricia was awarded a manufacturing scholarship to Asnuntuck Community College.

Patricia’s role at Floyd has been diverse. She’s currently working as a quality assurance assistant where she inspects parts, making sure they are completed to the customers print. She enjoys the precision and attention to detail that it requires and says she’ll have a hard time deciding between engineering and quality assurance when it comes time to declare her major at Manchester Community College.

Adam Lagassie, setup technician at Technical Industries Inc., wears hard work, dedication and on-the-job experience like a badge of honor, proudly exclaiming the formula for success in manufacturing is simple: Hard work plus grit provides vocational satisfaction and financial security.

“I woke up one morning and realized I wasn’t happy. So, I quit my job at Taco Bell and started working for a local manufacturing company as a temp-to-hire,” said Adam.

“I had the lowest job you could get, but I was willing to learn. I also noticed that there was a need for skilled workers.”

Adam Lagassie

Age: 25
Title: Setup Technician
Company: Technical Industries, Inc.
Location: Torrington
Residence: Winsted
Education: High School Diploma
Salary: $25 an hour
Fun Fact: Adam’s friends and family commonly refer to him as a “robot doctor” because his job requires him to quickly fix the machines if their processing alarms go off.

It took Adam less than four years to double his starting pay – without any formal education. And his hard work and on-the-job education landed him his current job at Technical Industries, a company he says continues to generously invest in his education.

“Talent is so scarce that companies will actually bid on you, out paying competitors in order to retain you. You can go anywhere when you work in this industry; it’s a steady, reliable profession … period.”

Adam, whose job includes dealing with real-time processing issues, says getting your foot in the door is the biggest step.

“Find a role that you find interesting and then work hard. Put in the hours and communicate with your superiors about your goals.”

Angela Boccuzzio

Age: 20
Title: Air Foil Cell Production Operator
Company: Pratt & Whitney
Location: East Hartford
Residence: Southington
Education: Currently attending Middlesex Community College, intends to transfer to Central Connecticut State University to pursue a B.S. in engineering.
Salary: $32.16 an hour + Pratt & Whitney covers education costs
Fun Fact: Angela’s dream is to become a NASA engineer. Her inspiration to work in the manufacturing industry comes from both her grandparents and father, who worked at Pratt & Whitney before her.

Unlike Adam, some Millennials were born with manufacturing in their blood. As a third-generation Pratt & Whitney employee, Angela Boccuzzio knew she would be an engineer from the day her dad brought her to Take Your Child To Work Day.

“I’ve always wanted to work at Pratt, just like my dad,” said Angela “He brought me to work with him when I was seven, and I’ve been fascinated ever since.”

Angela is an air foil cell production operator at Pratt, running grind lines for commercial airline blades to ensure everything is cut correctly.

“I love creating theses blades,” said Angela. “It’s amazing to watch an engine come to life!”

Pratt & Whitney covers the cost of Angela’s higher education. With her heart set on becoming a NASA engineer, it’s an opportunity she does not take for granted.

Not sure if you’re cut out for manufacturing?

Meet Kyle Nelson, sales and marketing coordinator for Wepco Plastics, Inc. Kyle identified his love for business and his knack for math early in his high school career, a powerful combination that has positioned him perfectly for a strong career in manufacturing.

“Many people only think about the shop floor, but you can really set yourself up for a solid future if you learn some of the office tasks,” says Kyle.

Kyle Nelson

Age: 17
Title: Sales & Marketing Coordinator
Company: Wepco Plastics, Inc.
Location: Middlefield
Residence: Hebron
Education: Attending Bentley University in the fall
Salary: $11 an hour
Fun Fact: Kyle chose Bentley University because of his love for the city of Boston. He intends to study technology in business.

Kyle notes roles in purchase fulfillment, shipping, and accounting are vital to the on-going success of any business, especially one in advanced manufacturing.

Kyle has been accepted to Bentley University where he will study technology in business. He advises his peers to reconsider manufacturing when considering a career path – engineering and mechanical skills are not the only necessary talents in this industry. ◾