A Florida technical school will add injection molding capability in late August.
The site has the state's initial program for training apprentices in plastics technology.
A plastics processing laboratory will open at the Pinellas Technical Education Center's Clearwater, Fla., campus. Supporters include several Florida molders and vendors, the Pinellas County School Board and state apprenticeship program regulators.
PTEC-Clearwater offers the first plastics apprenticeship program in Florida, said Cindy Durant, apprenticeship-section representative with the state education department's work force development division.
The program serves the Tampa Bay region.
Ven-Tel Plastics Corp. of Clearwater is providing use of three injection molding presses and a water tower for at least one year. The equipment includes an 80-ton Demag Ergotech and a 55-ton Arburg that were moved recently from Fort Worth, Texas, and a 77-ton Arburg from Ven-Tel's shop.
Two manufacturers' representatives arranged consignments. Florida Plastics Machinery Group Inc. of Winter Park is providing a Novatec Inc. material dryer, and M/S Plastek Inc. of Tampa is supplying a mold temperature controller, a robotic sprue remover and a chiller, all from Sterling Inc. Also, Florida Plastics donated a mold temperature controller.
Ophthalmic optics molder Essilor of America Inc. of St Petersburg, Fla., donated a machine maintenance tool set.
Use of the machines and tools ``will help show injection molders in the area that our program is serious about helping them and their employees,'' said Ken McManaway, PTEC-Clearwater industry services coordinator. Tax revenues fund instructional costs without charge to participating employers or their sponsored apprentices.
The apprenticeship program started in January 2000 with basic courses but without in-house processing capability.
Ven-Tel President Ed Venner challenged other Pinellas County molders to support the program.
``All of us have said we need to train our people,'' he said. ``Now, here is our chance.''
Venner chairs an industry committee overseeing the apprenticeship program. Peggy Rohrbacher, operations manager of injection molder Summore Plastics Inc. in Clearwater, is committee secretary.
``[Processors] don't have a place down here to train people,'' said Bob Bollinger, Florida Plastics co-owner and a committee member. ``The program is starting to fall in place now.''
Sixty-two injection molders operate in Pinellas County, according to the economic development office.