Novi, Mich. — More than 1 million jobs in plastics may go unfilled over the next decade as a result of baby boomer retirements and a lack of qualified young professionals to fill those open positions, industry experts with the Society of Plastics Engineers say.
The shortage of qualified workers and the skills gap were just two of the larger problems mentioned during a panel discussion Sept. 7 at SPE's Automotive Composites Conference & Exhibition in Novi. International collaboration between the composites industry and research institutions is imperative to finding solutions, panelists said.
Patrick Farrey, who succeeded Willem De Vos as CEO in June, was celebrating nearly 75 days in his new leadership position with SPE as well as the organization's 75th anniversary. He addressed audience members prior to the panel discussion and said the society "considers the development of the future workforce an important priority."
"Our celebration of the past though was tempered by the realization that the next year for SPE and for plastics professionals are going to be quite challenging," Farrey said. "Living large among those challenges will be the predicted talent gap: the gap between plastics industry jobs and available people to fill those positions."
Two SPE initiatives are in place to help "close the gap," which includes PlastiVan, a roadshow bringing plastics technology and education to middle and high school students; and the SPE Foundation, which Farrey said awarded a total of nearly $200,000 in scholarships to 60 students last year.