Ed Venner figures there is only one way to get the trained employees he needs for his custom injection molding company, Ven-Tel Plastics Corp. of Clearwater, Fla.: turn his 24,000-square-foot plant into a classroom. When St. Petersburg Junior College in Florida could not get the funds to build a plastics training facility, Venner called the school and offered his plant. Venner, the 61-year-old president and chief executive of Ven-Tel, said his generosity mainly was selfish.
``We have a problem finding good people,'' he said. ``One way to attract employees is to educate the world at large about us, and if they see we have a nice facility they'll come to work for us.''
With about 45 custom and proprietary molders in the Tampa/St. Petersburg area, the need is overwhelming to train people in, or entering, the plastics industry.
The 10-week program, the first ever in Florida, began April 20 with 18 students. Venner turned his conference room into a classroom, putting up a drawing board and installing a television, videocassette recorder and overhead projector.
Roger W. King, a plastics industry educator hired by SPJC, teaches weekday and evening classes. Other instructors are Ven-Tel's molding production manager Curtis Green and process engineering manager Bill Buisch. Hands-on lab classes are held Saturdays using Ven-Tel's molding presses.
Students in the advanced processing class, several of whom are employees of mold shops, want to become processing technicians or seek additional education.
Two classes will be held at Ven-Tel this fall because of a good response to the class. Venner also expects to create an introductory processing course for entry-level employees.
Ven-Tel's mold makers also work with students, teaching them how to break down a mold for cleaning, then reassemble it. Ven-Tel also spent $5,000 to make three spiral flow molds and a tensile bar mold for the program.
Venner said he's committed to the class because he believes education is the way to make a better life. That is why he puts up with the inconveniences of having a school in his shop.
``It's not painless, let's put it that way, but you have to work around the problems,'' he said. ``Sometimes we have to change out molds to accommodate instruction, but most Saturdays we're able to get enough presses open so that they don't disrupt the work flow.''
Ven-Tel operates 21 molding presses with 28-330 tons of clamping force in its main plant, which also offers clean-room molding. Another facility next door, with 20,000 square feet, contains secondary operations such as sonic welding, hot stamping and assembly capabilities. The company employs 50 and serves a variety of industries, from medical to aerospace to electronic.