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How a fourth industrial revolution could change Connecticut’s workforce

The State Labor Department predicts jobs in the industrial mechanical and the electronic engineering field will rise by more than 20% before 2030.
Business Wire
The State Labor Department predicts jobs in the industrial mechanical and the electronic engineering field will rise by more than 20% before 2030.

The fourth industrial revolution has arrived in Connecticut. Can the tech industry’s workforce keep up?

WSHU’s Davis Dunavin spoke with CT Mirror’s Erica Phillips to discuss her article, “Tech is changing Connecticut manufacturing. Can businesses keep up?,” as part of the collaborative podcast Long Story Short.

WSHU: Erica, you say tech is changing manufacturing in Connecticut and businesses are struggling to keep up. How so?

EP: So you know, tech is changing everything. Broadband is getting faster and faster. We've got AI chatbots falling in love with New York Times reporters, we've got manufacturing sensors telling you when something's broken on a machine and what needs to be fixed. Across the board, basically, you name it, what you see changing in your everyday life is also changing on the factory floor. And what that means for businesses is that there's a lot of new stuff to learn and a lot of new machinery to consider buying, consider investing in. And then it's a lot of new skills and talent that they need to go out and find. So this is a really big shift, you know, it's being referred to as the fourth industrial revolution. This is bringing big changes to manufacturing.

WSHU: In your article, you mentioned a few Connecticut colleges and universities with programs that are training students to work in this new tech industry, this new fourth technological revolution. Can you tell us about those?

EP: Sure. So there are programs that exist in Connecticut to train folks. But what you hear from folks in the industry is that there just needs to be more. There needs to be more available certificate programs, two-year associate degree programs, to get people up to speed who can basically, as all this new machinery and technology comes along in the manufacturing sector, people who can fix it, who can troubleshoot it, who can build it. These are technicians and up to engineers who have that expertise.

You can imagine, you know, when my brand new computer iPhone comes along with all its new technology, I sure don't know how to fix it. If something goes wrong, I have to go find a person. And that same thing is happening for anyone who uses advanced machinery in manufacturing. And so there is a huge need for training permits for people who can do that. In a lot of cases, it falls to states and public universities and private colleges and universities to get those programs set up.

State to state you have a different level of investment and interest in getting these programs going. And it's another way that states are kind of competing with each other at this point. There's a sense that whoever can get people up to speed and trained in this new kind of paradigm for manufacturing is going to win that economic development to their state because they're going to have the people to do it.

WSHU: That said, it's no surprise that as you say, by 2030 the state Labor Department predicts jobs in the industrial mechanical and the electronic engineering field will rise by more than 20%. Can you talk a little about what that statistic means for the state's workforce and how the workforce needs to change?

EP: Sure, yeah, this was a report late last year, just in the number of STEM, science, technology, engineering and mathematics careers that are going to grow in Connecticut. And again, it has everything to do with everything we've been talking about, right. New technology, new skills and engineering. And so given just the changing nature of the industry, it calls for a big change in how we think about education, higher education certificates and two-year programs. So these are conversations that are happening.

These are industry groups that are pushing the envelope in one way or another and also colleges and universities that are stepping up and saying, here's what we have to offer. We have expertise in these areas. And we can work with university researchers and professors working directly with companies on a project, helping them get up to speed. So there's different kinds of collaboration going on.

Davis Dunavin loves telling stories, whether on the radio or around the campfire. He started in Missouri and ended up in Connecticut, which, he'd like to point out, is the same geographic trajectory taken by Mark Twain.
Molly is a reporter covering Connecticut. She also produces Long Story Short, a podcast exploring public policy issues across Connecticut.