WorkinCT #CTConfident: Steel manufacturer talks about educating CT’s future workforce

When Joe Vrabely helped to start Atlantic Steel and Processing in Waterbury in 1999, his goal was to live up to the name ASAP and bring products to his customers as soon as possible. Almost twenty years later, his company is still turning steel into pieces for products worldwide.

“If you see the big rolls of steel on the flatbed trucks as you’re going down the highway, this is what we buy. Then we have coil slitters where we slit to different widths and then we wrap the metal back up so now it’s cut,” said Vrabely.

It’s used for things like parts for watches, medical devices and automotive pieces, just to name a few.

“There’s a reason that metal funnels in from the world and is stamped in Waterbury and then leaves our area because not many people really have the workforce to be able to do this,” he said.

He says Waterbury and the State of Connecticut do. Vrabely says the skill sets of the tool and die makers here are unique, and he wants to see that grow because he’s worried about manufacturing in Connecticut.

“A lot of our workforce is aging. A lot of the business owners are looking to retire to Florida. We have a lot of work to do in Connecticut to keep Connecticut competitive,” he said. “We need to attract our youth to take an interest in these industries so that we can keep this going.”

To do that, Vrabely says students need to be introduced to manufacturing early.

“We’re constantly working with our policy makers and our educators about how we tailor education and education reform in the State of Connecticut through our technical high schools, through our advanced manufacturing programs of our community colleges to be able to teach our youth what it takes to build,” he said.

Vrabely sits on the CT Board of Education and says the technical high school programs are something he’s really concentrating on, so young people know they have the option.