MIDDLESEX COUNTY — The Middlesex County Vo-Tech District’s two career academies marked New Jersey Manufacturing Week with assemblies at which the entire student bodies were encouraged to take an interest in the hands-on experience of following products from conception to the assembly line.
Kevin Laughlin, CEO and chairman of Intense Inc., a North Brunswick company that makes compact lasers for use in a number of industries, told students at the Middlesex County Academy for Science, Mathematics and Engineering Technologies in Edison that he was a vo-tech graduate. He urged them to develop their communication skills to follow the products they work on “out into the field to the customers and the users.”
“You are wired for math and science,” he said. “But you may not be wired for social interaction. You have to be able to articulate your ideas.”
Laughlin told the students they had a “head start” on other students embarking on college majors in technical fields.
“You’ve got an amazing opportunity before you here,” he said, adding that their curriculum will put them “years ahead” of typical college freshmen.
“We’re on the verge of a manufacturing renaissance here in the United States,” he said. “We have to be. It’s critical.
“Be passionate about everything you do,” Laughlin said. “There’s pride and nobility in making something with your hands.”
Michael Zarvalas, acting director of operations for Lockheed Martin’s defense systems manufacturing facility in Moorestown, told the Edison Academy students that more than 500 people work there to produce sensors, radar equipment and micro-electronic devices for missile guidance, aircraft, ships and other military systems.
He urged students to “get away from the computer” and get down on the assembly floor. “You’ll feel really good about your job,” Zarvalas said.
”I wanted to be around the product,” he said. “That may be something you’re missing.
“Manufacturing goes on forever,” he added. “There’s a tremendous amount of longevity.”
Assemblyman Upendra Chivukula, himself an engineer, told students of that “manufacturing promises jobs for all levels from bottom to top.”
While engineers are adept at problem-solving, he said, they need more than technical ability to solve “people problems.” He cited the need for New Jersey to train workers in such areas as quality control and management, as well as design.
Chivukula urged students to continue learning after they leave school to keep abreast of fast-moving advances in technology. “If you stop learning, you become a vegetable,” he said.
At the Middlesex County Academy for Allied Health and Biomedical Sciences in Woodbridge, Dr. Atam Dhawan, dean of the Albert Dorman Honors College at New Jersey Institute of Technology in Newark, said the “road to manufacturing starts with innovation … starts with dreaming about it.”
Dhawan, who invented a device for the detection of skin cancer, took the students through the process of research, market assessment and manufacturing of a prototype. He urged the students to pursue “cool technologies,” such as micro-processors.
“The applications are enormous,” he said. “They are waiting for you.”
Woodbridge Academy sophomore Clayton Morris of Avenel also introduced Marissa Berkowitz, an orthotic resident at JFK Medical Center in Edison, who spoke on advances in orthotics and prosthetics, and Barbara Tursi of the New Jersey Sharing Network, who outlined the need for organ donors.
Manufacturing Week was sponsored by ManufactureNJ, a talent network of the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development in cooperation with NJIT and other educational institutions aimed at being a primary contact point for employers to help them find employees and to assist in connecting jobseekers with prospective employers and education services.
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