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Hamden starts work on engineering academy

Education

HAMDEN, Conn. (WTNH) — Students in Hamden will soon have a new way to learn manufacturing and technology skills. The first branch of the Hamden High School STEM Academy took an important step forward Wednesday morning.

The space had been Hamden High School’s auto shop, but it is about to be part of the Hamden Engineering Careers Academy, HECA for short.

“It’s going to be amazing,” said freshman Jack Gaffney. “We’re going to learn so much and have an amazing time doing it, too.”

Gaffney is one of 35 students who will be learning high-tech skills related to manufacturing, engineering, and computer programming.

“You know, coding is the language of the 21st century. I mean they taught me French,” said Governor Ned Lamont (D-Connecticut). “French is great, bonjour, but you guys and women are going to be learning the language you need.”

The governor and lieutenant governor say manufacturers in the state are projecting as many as 30,000 job vacancies over the next couple years.

“What’s the problem?” asked Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz (D-Connecticut). “No smart, trained people to fill them.”

The state and manufacturing groups say the answer to that lies with schools. Hamden’s Superintendent agrees.

“There are so many jobs in advanced and clean manufacturing in the state of Connecticut, what could Hamden do?” asked Superintendent Jody Goeler.

They’re going to start with some remodeling. The governor delegated the ceremonial wall-breaking to Gaffney, who expertly put a sledgehammer through the wall. The real breakthrough, however, is in preparing students not just for today’s technology, but also tomorrow’s.

“Internet of things, augmented reality, virtual reality,” said New Haven Manufacturing Association executive director Jamison Scott. “This is manufacturing today and into the future.”

Maybe most important, the academy will also be a way to earn a two-year degree from Gateway Community College while still in high school. That was the big selling point for Gaffney.

“The amazing opportunity to earn your associates degree here in high school, and also the amazing opportunity to learn all about engineering and manufacturing in the new world,” Gaffney said.

The school was created as a collaborative effort between the Hamden public schools, Gateway Community College and the New Haven Manufacturing Association. Governor Lamont sees it as a template for other towns to help fill all those vacant manufacturing jobs.

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