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WASHINGTON — The Society of the Plastics Industry Inc. is preparing to survey 6,000 machine operators to develop an industrywide employee certification program.

The organization is looking for 600 thermoplastics processors to volunteer 10 of their best operators each, to complete a survey describing how they do their jobs, said Drew Fleming, director of work force development for Washington-based SPI.

``The key is that this is a chance for the companies to put their 2 cents in about the content and the structure of the exam,'' he said.

The program aims to boost skill levels and professionalism, and combat what some say is a labor shortage. The SPI wants commitments from companies in four categories — blow molders, extruders, injection molders and thermoformers — by March 15.

The survey will help determine if machine operator positions for each type of processor are similar enough that one exam would serve them all.

SPI hopes to have the exam available by May 1998.

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