UHart teams up with government and business leaders to identify skills graduates will need for future career success.
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UHart teams up with government and business leaders to identify skills graduates will need for future career success.

The pace at which technology is changing means businesses are looking for different skills sets in graduates. Keeping a pulse on the talents they are seeking remains a high priority for the University of Hartford.

The 2017 Tech and Talent Workshop held on Friday, Sept. 22, provided a forum for the College of Engineering, Technology, and Architecture (CETA), businesses, and the state of Connecticut to explore how higher education, government, and the private sector can work together to anticipate and prepare for future skills requirements and educate the workforce of the future.

“We are aware that businesses are on the leading edge of understanding their current talent needs and of the rapid evolution of technology in their fields, and we need to stay connected to that,” said Louis Manzione, dean of CETA and director of collaborative research and economic development. “Our task is to not only prepare our students to succeed in their careers, but to help them deliver the most value to companies given the rapid level of technological change we’re seeing.”

CETA’s engineering program, the second largest in the state of Connecticut, shares accolades with MIT, Carnegie Mellon, Tufts, and Cooper Union for having the highest mid-career earning levels in the nation, according to Business Insider.

The workshop’s keynote speaker was Catherine Smith, commissioner of Connecticut’s Department of Economic and Community (DECD), who noted the state’s support of entrepreneurship--a robust segment of the state’s economy, and highlighted new initiatives like Innovation Places and DECD’s “voice of the customer” approach to responding to the needs of business, including the need for a well-educated workforce.

“We understand the connections between our great universities and businesses,” said Commissioner Smith. “We’ve helped key places in the state become “magnets for talent” through enhancement of education facilities, and we’re building on the innovation culture that’s always been here in the state.”

Commissioner Smith identified aerospace and manufacturing, insurance and financial services, and bioscience and healthcare, as key sectors of job growth for the state, while also noting the increased employment opportunities in smaller areas like green technology and digital analytics.

Common threads emerged among the four business leaders who spoke of how technology has advanced in the fields of data analytics, digital technologies, automation, and advanced manufacturing. Each highlighted how critical it is for employees to possess the skills necessary to support the rate of technological change, and how optimistic they are about job growth in Connecticut.

Sergio Loureiro, vice president of enterprise capacity and materials planning strategy, pointed out that aside from the engineering, supply chain, and technological talent East Hartford, Conn.-based Pratt & Whitney (a subsidiary of United Technologies) needs to fulfill the demand for their engines, “A very great deal of energy [and skills] is required from a very large supply chain, a good portion of which is located in Connecticut.”

Rob Thomas, senior vice president of claim analytics, finance, and operations for CNA Financial Group, reminded attendees that, “There’s a big gap between having an idea and learning something and actually applying it in business.” A large need, he believes, lies in combining technical skills and business. “I encourage an education of not just the technical aspects of how a program works, but of how a technical program will work in a real business environment, where markets change and operations expand and contract.”

“The technology in our world, in the built environment, is changing from a 2D world to a 3D representation, and beyond that, to 4D and 5D,” said Gerry Holland, vice president of estimating and marketing for construction company Bartlett Brainerd Eacott, Inc. “We rarely get a chance to build a building twice. With advanced technology like virtual reality, we can teach students how to see a building, build a building, understand the coordination in the classroom, and they are better prepared when they get out into the field,” he said.

Brian Romano, manager of Control Systems Engineering and IT for equipment manufacturer Arthur G. Russell, shared his needs for future engineers with an automation knowledge base, control system engineers, and students with data science skills. “As our systems continue to grow, we have more and more technologies that need to get applied.”

“The workshop highlighted the commitment the University has to educating today’s workforce,” said Dean Manzione. “Our workshop objective was to identify what skills companies need that they have difficulty finding, and how universities can partner to help develop those skills in our graduates as well as incumbent workers.”