NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — The manufacturing industry is desperate for workers with engineering and building skills. Thanks to a new program, high school students in New Haven now have the chance to learn college-level manufacturing skills.

“It’s a partnership between local universities, community colleges, and industry leaders to fill entry-level technical positions in the manufacturing sector,” explained U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Appropriations Committee Chair).

DeLauro helped secure $2 million for the program, which basically lets students go to high school and college at the same time.

“In four years, students will earn 65 college credits,” Dr. Ilene Tracey, superintendent of New Haven Schools. “I wish I had that when I was going to school.”

Each student will end up with a two-year associate’s degree from Gateway Community College as well as a high school diploma.

Teaching public school students manufacturing skills is not just good for them and good for the economy, but it is good for the country. as well. During the past two years, we have seen all kinds of supply chain issues because so much of our stuff is made in other countries. The thinking is, there will now be a push to make more of our stuff right here in the U.S.

As major employers like Sikorsky Aircraft promise to stay and hire in Connecticut, a recent survey finds it is tough for manufacturers to find qualified employees.

“Seventy-nine percent cite an inability to attract and keep a high-quality workforce,” Jamison Scott, the executive director of ManufactureCT. “Eighty-nine percent had unfilled positions in their companies and were struggling to fill them.”

It is largely because manufacturing is now less about nuts and bolts than about computer code and robots.

“It’s an investment in our kids, it’s about their future,” DeLauro said. “It’s about their jobs, but it is about sustaining Connecticut’s industrial economy.”

The district is looking for current 8th graders to sign up for Manufacture New Haven Pathway right now.