MILFORD — Two area businesses are using cash incentives and the lure of possible future employment to entice local students into the manufacturing field.
Hitchiner Manufacturing Co. of Milford and Spraying Systems Co. of Merrimack have launched the Manufacturing Exploration and Externship program in partnership with Milford High School.
Its goal is to help train the next generation of workers by offering a course that provides students with the skills needed to enter a career in advanced manufacturing.
“The challenge for us is that manufacturing, in general, has been been considered unattractive. People, I think, didn’t consider it as maybe a first choice to look at for employment,” said John Morison, CEO and chairman at Hitchiner. “These internship programs give us the opportunity to introduce high school students to what manufacturing is all about.”
There has always been a demand for manufacturing jobs, according to Morison, who said that demand became more focused as the economy improved. As a result, companies are competing for fewer skilled resources.
“The focus is on finding people who have the skill and the interest to use and apply in our process,” he said.
The new Manufacturing Exploration and Externship program provides Milford students with a semester of classroom instruction and a two-days-a-week externship in which students will get hands-on experience at Hitchiner Manufacturing or Spraying Systems. Participants will earn $12 an hour for their work.
“We have constantly, over a long period of time, been looking for ways to establish contacts with high schools to identify opportunities with the schools and kids looking to work with us,” Morison said.
His company utilizes several sophisticated measuring machines and scanners to create geometrical images of select parts, tools and fixtures. It’s a skill interns will have an opportunity to learn by starting with simple devices and progressing to state-of-the-art technology.
“For us, selfishly, the ultimate success in this program is that we identify people who are interns, have the skills and would want to work here, and we would offer them jobs,” Morison said.
Richard Paiva, director of technical studies at Milford High School, said collaborating with local businesses to enhance career readiness and other opportunities for students is a win-win.
“We are always looking to be innovative in facilitating a student’s career pathway. Milford High School and Applied Technology Center has always had a longstanding relationship with our local industry partners and this just made sense,” Paiva said in a statement.
The course will include basic job readiness preparation such as interview skills and resume writing, in addition to instruction in custom manufacturing, mass production, just-in-time manufacturing, quality control, safety and robotics, according to a release.
“With unemployment at such low levels, it’s been a challenge to fill all of our open positions,” Joe Ruelas, vice president of operations at Spraying Systems, said in a statement. “Connecting with high school students so that they can help fill those jobs just makes sense.”
The program will be offered to up to 20 upperclassmen beginning next fall.