Ironwood Plastics Inc., a family-owned injection molding company in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, has donated about $125,000 to create a plastics technology program at Northern Michigan University in Marquette.
The gift includes annual scholarships, a 45-ton Engel injection press, regular donations of resin and an Ironwood employee who teaches some courses.
``This program will provide graduates with the knowledge and technical skills needed for entry-level employment in the plastics injection industry as a machine operator, maintenance technician or mold technician. There are good jobs in this field, including at Ironwood Plastics,'' said Tom Meravi, a professor in NMU's Department of Engineering and Applied Sciences.
Scott Stephens, vice president of administration and a 1991 NMU graduate, said the company wants to give young people reasons to stay in the area, known for iron and copper mining and timber. Hiring has declined in both of those sectors. He is a son of company founder Gordon Stephens.
Ironwood employs 150 at its headquarters facility in Ironwood, Mich., a town of about 7,000 people.
``A lot of the young people in the UP feel there's not good jobs here,'' Stephens said.
Ironwood will sponsor six scholarships per year for the new plastics program, four for $500 each and two, $2,000 scholarships.
The certificate program will consist of courses totaling 31 credits. Most students will be able to complete the program in two semesters. Courses will include injection molding, manufacturing processes, power transmission, industrial measurement and fabrication, geometric dimensioning and tolerances, and drafting using computer-aided design.
Students will get on-site training at Ironwood Plastics.
Ironwood Plastics has a strong connection to the Upper Peninsula. Gordon Stephens was born in the town of Iron Mountain, about 100 miles south of Ironwood. His family moved farther south, to Detroit, to work in the auto industry, and Stephens learned the plastics trade.
He returned home to start Ironwood Plastics in 1979. In 1987, the company opened a second plant, in Two Rivers, Wis.
Gordon Stephens' sons, Scott, Mark and Rob, work at the company.