Over a recent, early morning breakfast, some of the leaders of the Society of Plastics Engineers and I had the opportunity to exchange some ideas about the area of training and certification that seems to be such a puzzler for this industry. With so many groups all over the country working on training programs - both private, company-designed training and in conjunction with community and technical colleges - SPE officials want it known they have a lot to contribute to this picture.
One problem, they believe, is they are failing to get the message about their many programs out to the processors in the trenches.
Perhaps part of that problem lies in the organization's name: the Society of Plastics Engineers. SPE is an organization originally designed for engineers. But on a local level, I can count on one hand the members in our section with engineering degrees.
I became part of the SPE in 1983 while working in the industry. I was elected president of the Arizona Section for the 1986-87 program year. I've had many people say to me, ``I didn't know you were an engineer.''
Well, I'm not. I've never even owned a plastic pocket protector! I was elected because I was the only who didn't say no when offered the position.
So that morning, we discussed and wondered whether the organization's name might be inhibiting SPE's attempts at being the industry's total education arm at all levels.
When people think of SPE education programs, many of them think of ANTEC and RETEC. These conferences bring out some of the brightest and best polymer scientists in the industry. They come to present papers with titles containing words that put me to sleep - then there's sitting through the talks.
Sure, lectures on melt rheology interest engineers. But for production-floor people whose main concern is getting a good part out of the machine, it's molding and tooling basics that interest them. For that, there are only a few offerings. Let's face it, ANTEC and RETEC are mostly for engineers.
SPE's latest efforts in addressing the needs of production personnel come in the form of in-plant training programs as well as video tapes and workbooks so individual companies can hold in-house training programs.
There's also a new computer-based training program, ``Intro-duction to Polymeric Materials and Processing,'' that addresses many plastics processing basics.
All in all, SPE should get an ``A'' for effort in the area of education. Maybe the problem lies in the message getting lost among the big, scientific words associated with plastics engineering.
Maybe the best message SPE could send out is:
``SPE: It's not just for engineers anymore.''