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William Lachenmeyer:
Vice President, Human Resources, Smith & Wesson.

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"Precision manufacturing is one of the strengths of this region - it's still a viable career, contrary to what many people believe. Here at Smith & Wesson we have a hard time attracting people with the skill sets we need, so we see the need for education. The CEO and I both joined the company within the past five years, and we've talked about what we consider to be important in the community. We both have kids in school so we have a personal as well as professional commitment to education. The sweet spot for us is building bridges to educational institutions that will provide employees for the future; we donated $200,000 to STCC to develop a technical center that will train people for a career at Smith & Wesson, among other companies. We are already hiring graduates from this program. We also support Asnuntuck College in Connecticut and we donate to our local high school. Several of our employees volunteer in reading and mentoring programs in Springfield. The city has many social problems - all of them can be addressed by education because a good education leads to meaningful jobs and careers. So we know that teachers fill a critical need.

A bridge to higher education is extremely important. I went to community college, then a state college, then graduate school, so I have a warm place in my heart for community colleges. Those first steps to take people from education to becoming meaningfully employed and contributing to society are huge. The support of a program like Bridge to College provides that first step that gets people thinking, "Maybe I can go to college, maybe I'm not too old." Having someone mentor you is so important. I am sitting at this desk today because I had responsible adults, the parents of a friend, who fanned the spark in me and made me believe I could go to college. The Bridge to College program acts like a surrogate mentor - you are helping people take that first step into higher education."






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