Gov. Ned Lamont and Pete Finnigan, a senior fellow of composites at Pratt & Whitney Credit: Hugh McQuaid / CTNewsJunkie

EAST HARTFORD, CT — State officials and manufacturers including Pratt & Whitney hope a composite training center unveiled Tuesday at Goodwin University and funded with public and private dollars will help Connecticut manufacturers meet workforce needs in the coming years.  

Gov. Ned Lamont toured the recently-completed Advanced Composites Technology Center during an afternoon stop at the university. An imposing robotic arm looms large behind safety barriers in the center’s white-walled room. The arm will help students master modern technology used to etch airplane components from composite materials. 

Pete Finnigan, a senior fellow of composites at Pratt & Whitney, said the technology in the lab was used to manufacture state-of-the-art parts for airplane engines. While the equipment is designed to automate the creation of those parts, Finnigan told reporters it would help create a new generation of manufacturing jobs. 

“It reduces the number of man hours required to do it, but it doesn’t eliminate jobs per se because you need people to make the equipment, run the equipment, maintain the equipment, program the equipment,” Finnigan said. “It’s a different skill set.”

Shane Eddy, chief operations officer at Pratt & Whitney, said the collaboration would be essential to training Connecticut’s future manufacturing workforce and help the engine manufacturer conduct research. 

“We expect that this lab will enable Pratt & Whitney to better perform government-sponsored research by bringing together universities, materials suppliers, government laboratories and industry in one central facility,” Eddy said. 

The lab was funded through a public and private partnership. Ron Angelo, president of the Connecticut Center for Advanced Technology, said the public share of the project’s funding totalled around $5 million. 

“These are the types of partnerships that are going to define Connecticut’s manufacturing ecosystem, not just in the state but in the region, in the decades ahead,” Angelo said. 

Lamont said students working in the composite center would have access to state of the art manufacturing equipment. 

“When it comes to defense and aviation you can’t stand still,” Lamont said. “You’ve got to stay far ahead of the competition. For Connecticut, I gotta tell you, we’re going to do everything we can to support you and that’s what this partnership’s all about.”