When Housatonic Community student Chris Heun learned the Bridgeport-based college was starting a manufacturing program, he jumped at the opportunity to join it. It was a decision Heun doesn\u2019t regret. In less than a year, he went from aspiring student to graduation to a position in the tool-making department at Bridgeport\u2019s Schwerdtle Stamp Co. It was a dream come true. \u201cI always liked working with my hands,\u201d said Heun, who grew up in a manufacturing family. \u201cBut finding an affordable manufacturing was a problem.\u201d Heun had decided to pursue another path that would allow him to work with his hands, creating works of art. Then he learned about the program, a state-supported college in downtown Bridgeport. 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. These can pay in the $15 to $20 per-hour range. A one-year program The year-long program, which requires a 35-hour-per-week commitment from students, leads to two certificates \u2014 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 also will 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. Skills for a wide variety of jobs Heun praised the program for its versatility. \u201cThe 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,\u201d said the Stratford resident. A fellow student with a strong sales background got a job in manufacturing sales, Heun noted. \u201cWith his understanding of the manufacturing process, he could go into a company and talk business and shop,\u201d he said. \u201cIt\u2019s just a nine-month program but the job possibilities are endless,\u201d he said. Heun knew the program involved doing homework, but that it meant much more than that. \u201cI did a lot of extracurricular work,\u201d he said. \u201cI went around to people saying I\u2019d work for free. I wanted to learn as much about manufacturing as I could.\u201d Internship led to job Heun did his HCC internship at Schwerdtle Stamp Co. and, when a full-time job became available at Schwerdtle, he applied for it \u2014 and got it. Assigned to the tool-making department, he realized he found his niche. It presents him with the opportunity to use his hands and follow a career path. \u201cIt\u2019s exhilarating to know that one of the dies I make can make a million parts,\u201d he said. Heun also found a career path: \u201cI\u2019d love to become a journeyman tool-maker. That\u2019s a quality job.\u201d \u201cI really love the job,\u201d he said. \u201c When I wake up in the morning to go to work, I know I can do what I want to. That\u2019s a great feeling.\u201d Registration for the fall semester at Housatonic Community College is going on now. The fall semester begins Aug. 28. Students may register at www.housatonic.edu.