Michigan extruder Custom Profile Inc. is working with educators in Mexico and the United States to prepare the next generation of extrusion technicians.
The Walker, Mich., company is concerned about keeping the supply of talent in both countries flowing.
“Injection molders are easier to find in the Juárez area,” Kevin Richardson, manager of Custom Profile's manufacturing plant in Ciudad Juárez, said in a telephone interview, adding that extruders are “relatively scarce.”
The company has partnered with a local public high school that focuses on science and technological studies.
Richardson said the Colegio de Estudios Científicos y Tecnológicos del Estado de Chihuahua (CECyTECH) No. 22 needed to learn about the extrusion process “and we thought it was a good opportunity to support our local community. We're always looking to partner with the community and in this case the opportunity presented itself.”
The program in Mexico started in the fall. By early January the first wave of 80 students had spent up to 15 hours at Custom Profile's Juárez plant, which opened eight years ago, employs 90 and supplies the appliance sector primarily.
“Both of us [Custom Profile and CECyTECH] are very happy” with the success of the partnership so far, Richardson said, adding that “it's very much a possibility” that some of the students will be offered work at the plant at some time in the future.
He said the students “have been great. They come in with a willingness to learn.”
Custom Profile already works with schools and community partners in the Grand Rapids area. Through Grand Rapids Community College's Leslie E. TassellM-TEC, the company participated in the Manufacturing Readiness course — a 40-hour certificate program dedicated to preparing students for entry level work in west Michigan manufacturing, according to a news release.
Custom Profile is “committed to supporting specific curriculum development and has dedicated machine hours to students who want to learn more about the extrusion process,” the company said in the release.
“We hope the community partnerships we have built prove as beneficial to our partners as they have to us,” said Custom Profile CEO John Boeschenstein in the same release.
Custom Profile also launched a Department of Labor-certified apprentice program for set-up extruder operators, which combines 2,000 hours of on-the-job training with two classes at Grand Rapids Community College. A certificate is awarded upon completion of the program.
In addition, the company has participated in a Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) program at a Kentwood Elementary school and during Manufacturing Week.
Custom Profile is a part of Blackford Capital's Michigan Prosperity Fund. The fund invests in middle-market manufacturing, distribution, and service companies that are either headquartered or maintain significant operations within the State of Michigan.
Custom Profile specializes in making extruded plastic products for the appliance, furniture, office and marine industries, using compounds such as ABS, rigid PVC, polyethylene, thermoplastic elastomers, thermoplastic polyurethane, high impact polystyrene, flexible PVC and polypropylene.