Academia, industry need to tighten ties

By Bill Bregar
Senior Staff Reporter

Published: March 29, 2013 1:08 pm ET
Updated: March 31, 2013 12:16 am ET

Image By: Plastics News photo by thegallerystudio.com UMass Lowell's Robert Malloy

Related to this story

Topics Education & Training, Plastics News Executive Forum
Companies & Associations UMass/University of Massachusetts at Lowell

TAMPA, FLA. — Representatives of two leading plastics engineering colleges — the University of Massachusetts at Lowell and Ferris State University — told Plastics News Executive Forum attendees that academia and plastics companies should work together to attract more students to the industry.

They also heard an official of Bekum America Corp., a blow molding machinery maker, outline Bekum's German-esque apprenticeship program.

Robert Malloy, professor and chairman of the Plastics Engineering department at the University of Massachusetts at Lowell, said links to industry are very important. "Our goal is to produce graduates that hopefully service the needs of the industry," he said. But it's a two-way street. "We need your help in many different ways to allow us to do that effectively."

UMass Lowell is in Lowell, Mass., a blue-collar town once home to the textile industry. Ferris State is in Big Rapids, Mich., north of Grand Rapids. Another major college, Penn State Erie, is in Erie, Pa., a town that gets blasted by snow off Lake Erie.

"People are not flocking to come to these locations," Malloy said. Yet this is where the plastics engineers come from.

"We have far more jobs than we have graduates," Malloy said. "Every one of our graduates will have multiple job offers before they graduate." The UMass Lowell plastics program recruits students from the school's chemistry department, where job prospects are not as good as in plastics, he said.

Robert Speirs, a Ferris State professor and department chair of manufacturing engineering technology, echoed Malloy's comments. "We need to get more bodies in the system. I have room that I could probably triple my enrollment," he said.

Ferris State offers in-state tuition to students from 20 states.

Speirs and Malloy urged plastics processing firms to provide industry speakers to their schools, give plant tours and serve on college advisory boards.

Martin Saur, a German, is manufacturing director at Bekum America in Williamston, Mich. He is one of the founding members of the company's four-year, 8,000-hour apprenticeship program. Bekum Maschinenfabriken GmbH is based in Berlin, and the program is based on the German model, established around 1900.

Under the system, local colleges teach theoretical knowledge and apprentices also work at host factories.

At Bekum America, the company pays for the courses and books, but if the student fails to get at least a grade of B in a class, he or she will have to reimburse Bekum, then take the class over again at their own expense, Saur said.

Bekum America's apprenticeship program is approved and registered with the U.S. Department of Labor. There are four available positions: machine builder, welder/fabricator, industrial/electrician and machinist.

Bekum needs highly skilled workers to make its machinery, Saur said. "If you grow your own, you control the outcome," he said.

Saur echoed several other training speakers at the Executive Forum by saying you need to target parents of younger students to explain there are good jobs in manufacturing.

The education panel discussion was held March 4 at the forum in Tampa. Later that day, another panel on plastics worker training drew comments from Andy Routsis, president of A. Routsis Associates Inc. in Dracut, Mass.; Craig Paulson, president of Paulson Training Programs Inc. in Chester, Conn.; and Gary Chastain, training manager for RJG Inc. in Traverse City, Mich.

Routsis and Paulson, whose companies make training materials, emphasized measuring the results of an investment in training. That will show the payback and help firms improve the products, Routsis said.

Chastain said people are a differentiator. "Your competition can buy the same equipment, the same building. Your employees are what set you apart," he said.

Chastain said U.S. manufacturing needs to do more training, in a globally competitive market. Education, he said, "is our biggest strength, and we're giving it away."


Comments

Academia, industry need to tighten ties

By Bill Bregar
Senior Staff Reporter

Published: March 29, 2013 1:08 pm ET
Updated: March 31, 2013 12:16 am ET

Post Your Comments


Back to story


More stories

Image

Plastic products win Best of IBS awards

January 30, 2015 1:36 pm ET

LAS VEGAS — A year ago, inventor Jeremy Smith of Utah took his idea for an electrical outlet cover plate with LED lights on the bottom edge to...    More

Image

Plastics News Now: Losing weight with style, plastics in the Dragons' Den

January 29, 2015 6:00 am ET

A 19-year-old entrepreneur brings business to a U.K. injection molder after winning support on TV's Dragons' Den, auto suppliers combine...    More

Image

Plastics help Volt hit new target

January 28, 2015 1:54 pm ET

The 2016 Volt, unveiled at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit in January, features a sportier exterior design — GM calls it...    More

Image

It's becoming a seller's market for plastics firms

January 27, 2015 11:37 am ET

The pace of plastics mergers and acquisitions activity slowed a bit in the second half of 2014 — but market watchers have high expectations for ...    More

Image

Material Insights: PP production issues, preparing for NPE

January 26, 2015 1:38 pm ET

Production problems in Texas add more complication for polypropylene, Entek has new equipment ready to show compounders at NPE and we take a look ahea...    More

Market Reports

Plastics in Automotive: Innovation & Emerging Trends

This special report newly released by PN and sponsored by The Conair Group examines current trends in the use of plastics in automotive, materials innovations and the changing landscape. It includes a review of legislative/regulatory activity impacting vehicle development and lightweighting, market opportunities & challenges for mold and toolmakers, innovative design strategies being implemented by major OEMs and suppliers, as well as a review of key indicators in Canada, Mexico, Brazil and China.

Learn more

Plastics Recycling Trends in North America

This report is a review and analysis of the North American Plastics Recycling Industry, including key trends and statistics based on 2013 performance. We examine market environment factors, regulatory issues, industry challenges, key drivers and emerging trends in post-consumer and post-industrial recycling.

Learn more

Injection Molding Market Analysis & Processor Rankings

Plastics News BUNDLED package contains our in-depth Market Analysis of the Injection Molding segment. You will gain keen insight on current trends and our economic outlook.

As a BONUS this includes PN's updated 2014 database of North American Injection Molders RANKED by sales volume. Sort, merge, mail & prospect by end market, materials processed, region, # of plants and more.

Learn more

Upcoming Plastics News Events

February 4, 2015 - February 6, 2015Plastics News Executive Forum 2015

June 2, 2015 - June 3, 2015Plastics Financial Summit - Chicago 2015

September 16, 2015 - September 18, 2015Plastics Caps & Closures - September 2015

More Events