The president of Connecticut-based outdoor lighting manufacturer Penn Globe recently oversaw the launch of a long-awaited passion project: the Manufacturing and Technical Community Hub, or MATCH, a New Haven, Connecticut–area nonprofit contract manufacturing organization and training program designed to fill job openings in the sector.
Seeing a need: “I am a manufacturer, and one of the things I saw missing from the various workforce training programs available was the manufacturers themselves,” LaFemina said. “They weren’t reaching [the participants] in these training programs. So I was a bit frustrated, but that frustration was good … because it led us to create a program with manufacturers training people for actual manufacturing jobs.”
- In 2021, LaFemina and MATCH co-founder Lindy Lee Gold, senior regional manager of the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development, secured funding from partners including Lee’s agency, the city of New Haven, the Connecticut Department of Labor and numerous nonprofits.
- This past June, after LaFemina—now MATCH board chair—and the rest of the organization’s board of directors signed a lease on a building, MATCH was born.
How it works: MATCH begins with a two-week, earn-as-you-learn program, offered in both English and Spanish.
- The organization offers training in everything from basic welding to CNC machining, allowing participants to choose the type of manufacturing that interests them most.
- Then, depending on the complexity of their chosen specialty, they may spend up to six additional weeks in paid, on-the-job training before being placed in jobs with local manufacturers.
Meeting the moment: Unlike job-training offerings that expect a certain level of familiarity with an industry, MATCH starts from scratch.
- “Some places say, ‘Let’s test you on something you know nothing about,’” LaFemina told us. “We want to meet the moment. … We’re asking you to come in, give us two weeks and we will pay you minimum wage for the time that you’re here learning.”
- “We’ll figure out what you like and what you’re good at, and as long as we have the workload to make things, you’ll have a job,” she continued.
Being accessible: MATCH also prides itself on seeking out potential employees, instead of waiting to be found.
- “We wanted a building in a specific neighborhood in New Haven,” LaFemina said. “It’s where the majority of the social agencies are, the immigration services, the reentry services. I’d been hearing for two years about how people have [training] programs but couldn’t get participants because [the program locations] were difficult to get to. This one isn’t.”
Family friendly: One of MATCH’s main goals is to reach parents, many of them women, who have left the workforce due to difficulty securing child care. The program’s core hours are 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., Monday through Friday, in sync with those of most schools.
- MATCH partners are already considering using the program’s New Haven facility as a training site for day care providers, to help alleviate the shortage of workers in that sector.
- In addition, the program’s first cohort of students came from the New Haven Healthy Start’s Fatherhood Involvement project, one of several local initiatives with which the organization has ongoing relationships.
What’s next: MATCH is on track to be financially self-sustaining in three to five years—and LaFemina predicts big growth after that.
- “I see multiple MATCHes down the road,” she said. “There’s already a call for more. My biggest goal is in a few years all of us older people, who leveraged our connections to make this happen, will turn it over to a younger group that will turn it into something even better than it already is.”