Manufacturing program helps Fairfield man land ‘dream job’


Housatonic Community College Advanced Manufacturing Program graduate and Fairfield native Chris Heun, left, chats with state Sen. Beth Bye, while Gov. Dannel P. Malloy checks out some of the machinery in the new Regional Advanced Manufacturing Lab. Completing the program enabled Heun to land a job at Bridgeport’s Schwerdtle Stamp Co.

When Fairfield native and Housatonic Community student Chris Heun learned the college was starting a manufacturing program, he jumped at the opportunity to join it.

It was a decision he does not regret. In less than a year, he went from aspiring student to graduation to a position in the toolmaking department at Bridgeport’s Schwerdtle Stamp Co.

“I always liked working with my hands,” said Heun, who grew up in a manufacturing family. “But finding an affordable manufacturing program was a problem.”

Heun decided to pursue another path that would allow him to work with his hands, creating works of art. Then he learned of the Housatonic program

The two-certificate program, which is accepting applications for the fall semester, prepares students for advanced manufacturing positions that include machine operator, CNC (computer numeric control) operator, CNC programmer, assembler and quality control inspector.

The year-long program, which requires a 35-hour-per-week commitment from students, leads to two certificates, a basic manufacturing certificate and an advanced manufacturing certificate. Both certificate tracks are financial-aid eligible.

The basic manufacturing certificate track, which is offered in the fall,  includes courses in computer-aided design (CAD), blueprint reading; drill, press and saw operation; grinding; bench work; lathe operation; milling; and CNC. While providing the foundation to pursue the advanced manufacturing certificate, the basic certificate will also include training in math for manufacturing, lean manufacturing, metrology, computer applications and careers in manufacturing.

The advanced certificate, offered in the spring, includes advanced courses in manufacturing math and blueprint reading, principles of quality control and advanced manufacturing machinery courses in lathe operation, milling and CNC.

Heun praised the program for its versatility.

“The program prepares you for a wide variety of jobs and careers, including such things as CNC operator, CNC programmer, assembler, quality control inspector and even sales,” he said.

A fellow student with a strong sales background got a job in manufacturing sales, Heun said.

“With his understanding of the manufacturing process, he could go into a company and talk business and shop,” he said, “It’s just a nine month program but the job possibilities are endless.”

Once he enrolled in the program, Heun was determined to succeed. He knew that success meant not only doing homework, but that it meant much more than that.

“I did a lot of ‘extracurricular work,’” he said. “I went around to people saying I’d work for free. I wanted to learn as much about manufacturing as I could.”

Heun did his internship at Schwerdtle and, when a full-time job became available, he applied for and got it. Assigned to the toolmaking department, he realized he found his niche. It presented him with the opportunity to use his hands and follow a career path.

“It’s exhilarating to know that one of the dies I make can make a million parts,” he said.

Heun also found a career path.

“I’d love to become a journeyman toolmaker,” he said. “That’s a quality job.”

For now, Heun enjoys what he is doing.

“I really love the job,” he said. “When I wake up in the morning to go to work, I know I can do what I want to. That’s a great feeling.”

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