Whether it's Mold Maker for a Day, a seminar for school superintendents, a manufacturing program at a school or a 35-and-under advisory board, Support Plastics USA members are saying that it is important for companies to show the best that the industry has to offer.
Support Plastics USA was formed in 2013 with a mission to support and promote the plastics industry and many of its members are finding ways to get in the community and tell their industry's story.
“We find that there is a general consensus among members that we have to try to grow the workforce and sustain our manufacturing base,” said Robert Schiavone, marketing director for R&D Leverage, a Lee's Summit, Mo., design and mold making firm.
He said the Support Plastics USA membership has grown to 110 members, and that members come from many different groups and even from competing companies.
He said that community involvement is a key cog in creating youth interest in manufacturing and allowing students to see that there are good opportunities for finding good paying, clean and fulfilling occupations.
The Mold Maker for a Day program at Century Die Co. a Fremont, Ohio, machining and blow mold maker, gives a student an honest look at the industry, according to General Manager Tim Myers.
“We bring in 1 to 3 students and they start at 8 a.m. in the morning, the same as having a job, but we go through project management to engineering to purchasing to all the different machining, quality control, shipping and receiving — we give them a hands-on look,” he said.
Myers said that about 50 students tried the program last year and the ultimate plan is to have about 100 students a year partake in the learning experience.
Century Die has about 75 employees, averaging about 46 years old.
Myers said that working with the community was especially important. They run an apprenticeship program, take part in a career day for 900 9th graders through Terra State Community College, offer scholarships, and support a green soap derby. Last week, they also joined with the local Economic Development group for a manufacturing showcase bus tour of companies by school leaders and counselors.
Francine Petrucci, president of B.A. Die Mold Inc. of Aurora, Ill., is also a big supporter of efforts to attract more talent to the plastics industry.
“We're usually busy cranking out molds so we don't always have to time to be an advocate,” said Petrucci.
“No one really thinks about it, but it is our own fault if kids are not interested. When you ask young kids what they want to be — you hear many things, but rarely do you hear that they want to be a mold maker or a tooling engineer,” she said.
The average age of a B.A. Die Mold employee is about 57 and that is a strength of the company, However, she said that attracting future employees is very important.
As the Chicago-area American Mold Builders Association President, Petrucci said that they are looking at ways to provide information to students. On Oct. 7 in Addison, Ill., the AMBA held its first symposium with 325 superintendents to tell them about the industry. It will include a speed-dating type setup with an apprentice, a journeyman mold maker, shop owner and others telling their stories.
For Extreme Tool and Engineering in Wakefield, Mich, working to maintain a strong local pool of talent is also crucial.
“We really work hard on in-house training,” said Mike Zacharias, president of Extreme Tool.
He said that the employee is the key ingredient to his business and that training keeps them interested and allows them to advance within the organization. The company takes pride in that it is known as a good place to work, but they also work with schools so students can consider the industry as a career.
The Northwoods Manufacturing Program run by the Hurley School District was particularly important he noted. Extreme sends some of master molders to teach classes. Zacharias said that the program was set up for entrepreneurial development and enables students to design, build and sell their own products. So, they learn what it means to run their own company.
Extreme Tool has 90 employees with a younger group, averaging about age 28, but Zacharias notes “labor is by far one single biggest concern.”
Russell Broome, executive director of the Society of Plastics Engineers, said that it is important for all companies and organizations to promote the industry and attract future employees.
SPE has three Plastivans that visit schools and teach students about plastics. It also produces videos about manufacturing that can be seen on YouTube. SPE also offers scholarships to students already in educational programs.
“We get in touch with a lot of science and math teachers and the PTA,” he said. “I personally go to many high schools and colleges and try to recruit. We also work with our companies to speak at schools and sponsor tours.”
SPE, which has 16,000 members, has also formed a Next Generation Advisory Board consisting of members only 35 and younger to work on a strategic direction for SPE and the industry.
Broome said that it was essential for the industry to continually attract new talent.