The Society of the Plastics Industry Inc. enthusiastically agrees with Plastics News' May 17 Viewpoint that worker certification remains vital to the industry. As chairman of SPI's National Certification in Plastics Board of Governors, I can confirm your comments that SPI's certification program is in place and we remain committed to its future success.
In response to concerns about the skill levels of production workers, SPI's members last year completed development of a national, voluntary certification program for plant-level employees.
It was agreed that the NCP program's initial focus would be on machine operators, and certification was created with three goals in mind:
To help companies identify and recognize production workers who have attained the knowledge necessary to be productive performers.
To forge a national standard to guide development of education and training curricula, assisting schools and employers.
To increase the number of skilled production workers and promote careers in plastics.
The process is simple. Once a company decides to certify its workers, candidates register by telephone, fax or mail. Once applicants receive authorization, they schedule an appointment to take the examination at the nearest Sylvan Technology Center. To help the applicant prepare for the computer-based, multiple-choice exam, SPI provides an outline of the body of knowledge required to succeed. (A complete study guide is under development and will be available in the fall.)
The certification exam comes in four versions, with modules targeted at injection molding, blow molding, extrusion or thermoforming. It is important to note that the exams were created by workers for workers. The tests also are significant because they represent the first time the plastics industry has come to a consensus on the knowledge and abilities required for machine operators in the four processes.
Those who pass the examination receive an official certificate, patches, wallet identification card and other materials signifying their accomplishment. We've found, however, that they come away with much, much more — including a sense of pride in themselves and their industry and a rededication to their jobs and employers.
Their employers, of course, benefit, as well.
To date, 125 companies have sent a total of more than 800 workers to take part in the NCP program. An ongoing survey has shown enthusiasm for the program, with participating companies reporting increased productivity, quality, safety and morale. Employers also have found the certification process to be a good recruiting tool, as well as a helpful guide to the training their machine operators need to be productive workers.
Work force development is a crucial issue facing our industry. If companies are to prosper, they will do it by having not only the best management, techniques, technology and equipment, but also by having the most productive, safety-conscious, motivated and effective work force. This cannot happen in a vacuum. It requires commitment on the parts of the company and its workers and a process in place to make it all happen.
Reichhart, of Cherry Corp. in Waukegan, Ill., is chairman of SPI's National Certification in Plastics Board of Governors.