There doesn’t seem to be enough money that can be pumped into manufacturing education.

Connecticut’s 12 community colleges and the online Charter Oak State College have been awarded a $15 million federal loan from the U.S. Department of Labor to expand manufacturing job training and education.

The Connecticut Advanced Manufacturing Initiative (CAMI) has established a consortium of the 13 schools, led by Manchester Community College, with a $5.96 million grant to bring advanced manufacturing education to every community college in the state.

The remaining money was split in individual grants to eight of the schools, including Naugatuck Valley, Middlesex, Housatonic, Three Rivers and Quinebaug community colleges.

The federal funding will be used to purchase equipment upgrades; guide and advise manufacturing students as they enter the workforce; bolster career pathways; strengthen industry advisory councils to ensure training meets manufacturers’ needs; expand partnerships with technical high schools; increase the number of teachers and instructors; increase the menu of advanced training technologies; and support apprenticeship programs.

Connecticut’s $15 million grant was part of a $450 million round of 71 grants awarded to 271 community colleges nationwide, the end of the four-year, nearly $2 billion Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training initiative, which awarded 250 grants to nearly 700 colleges. 

The state has four Advanced Manufacturing Centers at Asnuntuck, Housatonic, Naugatuck Valley and Quinebaug community colleges, the first opening at Asnuntuck in 2011.

 A pair of bipartisan bills introduced by U.S. Rep. Elizabeth Esty (D-2) aim to provide increased support for manufacturing education and STEM careers for women.

The Manufacturing Universities Act of 2014 (H.R. 5526) would establish a Manufacturing Universities program at colleges and universities to better prepare students for jobs. Schools with existing engineering programs can apply for a Manufacturing University designation, which could make up to $5 million available annually for four years for the schools to improve programs that emphasize manufacturing, increase efforts with manufacturers and support students working with those companies.

The program would be established in the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards & Technology. A companion bill in the Senate (S. 2719) was introduced by U.S. Sens. Chris Coons (D-Del.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.).

Esty’s Promoting Women in Entrepreneurship Act (H.R. 5527) directs the National Science Foundation to support entrepreneurial programs to support and recruit women in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) professions, including to have more women outside laboratory positions and in management roles.

The bill highlights congressional findings that women comprise 50 percent of the overall workforce, but only 25 percent of the workforce in STEM positions — and that just 26 percent of women who earn STEM degrees actually work in STEM-related jobs.

Both bills are the product of a workforce development roundtable Esty held August in Waterbury, during which she solicited testimony from manufacturers, educators and local leaders. The most common refrain, as has been the case in manufacturing for years now, is that companies are still in dire need of skilled workers.

“I have heard directly from manufacturers across the district who are struggling to find the highly-skilled workers they need,” said Esty in a statement. “It is critical that our students are ready for these jobs.”