South Carolina injection molders want to establish a statewide training program, possibly building on a pilot that used televised distance learning to broadcast classes.
Details have yet to be determined, but the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc. and South Carolina government officials hope to have the effort running early next year.
It's an effort to beef up training programs, after a 1996 study of the plastics industry conducted for the state governments in North Carolina and South Carolina found industry unhappy with worker training.
``In the survey, South Carolina and North Carolina did not get good marks in the resources they have available in basic skills,'' said Richard Sturgis, southern regional manager in SPI's Greenville, S.C., office.
Industry members will meet with state economic, education and technical college officials to identify needs and available state resources. SPI said the state does not know how much money it will be able to provide.
Richard Averette, president of custom injection molder Precision Southeast Inc. in Myrtle Beach, S.C., said the pilot TV project was aimed at entry level setup technicians because that is where local molders have the toughest time finding qualified help. Averette is chairing the effort.
The pilot consisted of a four-week class on basic injection molding, broadcast from Polymer Center of Excellence in Charlotte, N.C., to Mack Molding Co. in Inman, S.C., and Precision.
Twenty-seven students from Mack and Precision took classes four hours a week. The program, broadcast with the help of South Carolina Educational Television, got a very enthusiastic response from eight of Southeast's 15 participants, Averette said.
Sturgis said distance learning will probably be a part of the final program.
The group also must decide if it will focus on technicians, machine operators, or try to include both. SPI's national worker certification program is aimed at machine operators.
Averette said he'd like to have programs for everyone from operators to plastics engineers.
While some states, like Ohio, have statewide training programs for plastics, none of the 11 states in SPI's Southern Region does that, Sturgis said. There are some good local programs but no extensive statewide commitments. He said he hopes to use South Carolina's effort as a blueprint.
The program will begin with injection molding but could expand, Averette said.
Some of the molders and tool shops that have set up in South Carolina to serve BMW's Greer, S.C., factory say finding skilled labor is tough.
``What we're trying to do is grow, and there is no strong skilled labor base in the Southeast,'' said Michael Storrie, vice president of finance for Bavarian Precision Tooling LLC in Duncan, S.C. ``Those trades have tended to be in the automotive areas like Detroit.''
The state and industry need to convince teenagers that they can earn a good living as toolmakers, he said. BPT, a subsidiary of Misslbeck GmbH in Ingolstadt, Germany, also has some German toolmakers under contract who likely will start returning home next year, he said.