Polar Plastics Inc., a manufacturer of plastic disposables for the food-service industry, wants to expand its Allentown, Pa., molding operations. However, the company cannot find the workers it needs now to staff a major expansion. ``In this day where all you hear is downsizing and layoffs, here we're trying to find people,'' said Ruben Berrios, Polar's plant manager.
In November, Polar met with government and industry leaders, industrial and economic development people, community college and technical school administrators and the Private Industry Council, a nonprofit group that helps displaced workers find employment, to find a solution to its problem.
``We explained to them we're in the process of planning a very large expansion here, but because of the problems of finding trainable people ... staffing an expansion would be difficult,'' Berrios said.
``We addressed how to get the word out to the population in general about the plastics industry and the careers it offers,'' he said.
As a result of the meeting, the Private Industry Council of Allentown helped sponsor a Dec. 13 job fair specifically for the plastics industry in the Lehigh Valley. Ten companies expressed a need for employees and agreed to participate in the fair, which was the first industry-specific fair PIC has held.
About 300 people attended the job fair to fill out applications and talk with potential employers. Polar was happy with the turnout and is now in the process of contacting the applicants about employment.
Berrios said the basic response of people attending the fair was that they never realized the plastics industry represented such good career opportunities.
``I don't feel [the industry] has done enough to market and promote the plastics industry,'' he said.
Besides the Allentown plant, Polar has a corporate headquarters in Montreal, and plants in Brampton, Ontario, and Winston-Salem, N.C., employing a total of 525.
Fluortek Inc. of Easton, Pa., a tubing manufacturer, is hiring extruding machine operators at $7 an hour for people with no experience. The job market in the area is so tight that Don Andreas of Fluortek's human resources department said the firm is willing to train people for jobs.
``If someone comes in and has plastics experience, that's great, but it seldom happens,'' he said.
Andreas said he was pleased to see plastics featured.
``The industry here needs exposure,'' he said. ``People don't realize how many plastics companies there are in the Lehigh Valley. It's not just Bethlehem Steel, there's a lot more going on.''