Think, for a moment, how many workers your company needs to hire just to keep up with the growth that you're forecasting for the next three years.
Now multiply that figure by the number of other plastics processors and mold makers in your area that also have ambitious expansion plans.
Is the number in the dozens, or the hundreds? Do you have any idea where those workers will come from? Do you expect someone else to train and educate them for you?
That is exactly the exercise that the Berkshire Plastics Network undertook about 18 months ago. The Pittsfield, Mass.-based group discovered that the region's plastics companies would need to hire 400 people by the year 2000.
If you think hiring 400 people isn't a major undertaking, then you haven't been dipping into the employment pool lately. In most areas unemployment is at or near record-low levels.
The Berkshire group realized right away that if it didn't take action, its members would fall far short of the 400-worker goal. So the group expanded its mission beyond its traditional role of marketing its member firms to potential customers. The group worked instead to market itself to a new group — potential employees. It placed its members on school advisory boards, attended career fairs and sponsored visits by the National Plastics Center and Museum's PlastiVan at local schools.
What the Berkshire group did is unusual, but not unique. Other regional, state and national groups of processors and mold makers are getting more involved with education issues. They're not doing it for altruistic reasons. They're doing it to protect the future of their companies.
Getting involved with local schools can be tiresome and difficult. If you choose to get involved, you may find yourself lost in a bureaucracy where no one seems to care about your needs and concerns. If you don't think so, just try to convince a local community college to offer classes at night or on weekends, or to start a new training program that no one in your area has tried before.
But the effort also can be exhilarating and rewarding. If you don't think so, imagine how you'll feel if you actually get the local college to offer classes at night or on weekends, or to start a new program to train people for your work force.
The bottom line is, processors need to work with local educators. Companies are only as good as their employees. If firms expect to sustain the growth that the plastics industry has experienced in the past decade, involvement is essential.