Education has to extend beyond the high school and college kids to middle school as well as to the parents of those students.
Middle-school students make course and elective selections with the encouragement of their parents. Those courses can include advanced math and science courses as well as pre-engineering and technology courses.
The No. 1 factor in the selection of those courses is the parents. The parents' impressions of job security and advancement opportunities sway what their kids want to try and how they perceive that particular industry.
By the time the student reaches college level, the selection of a major is usually set, so reaching out to students, parents and organizations that engage the age groups between 12 and 14 is critical.
The Society of Manufacturing Engineers realizes this and offers a “Young Engineers Camp” for middle-school students, as well as outreach to schools and underserved populations. The Society of Plastics Engineers offers teaching materials, sponsors the Plastivan programs into many schools, offers equipment grants through various divisions as well as curriculum grants.
However, industry has been slower to partner with schools. As a result, these youngsters form their opinions on career choices based on the media, groups that paint plastics in a negative light, as well as their parents' perceptions.
Plastics people have to be out and about to spread the word about career opportunities and the extent of plastics manufacturing.
Manufacturing as a whole needs to be making the same points, since all the news lately is about layoffs and plant closures.
Let's realize that the impressions of teenagers, pre-teens and their parents compose some of the largest barriers to overcome — and those perceptions have been formed by the media and others.
Fort Worth, Texas