Long Beach, Calif. — A Molding 2018 Conference panel attempted to dissect the plastics industry's challenges to find, train and retain employees.
Numerous ideas to deal with the vexing challenges were aired, but no clear cut solutions appear easily available.
“It's a good time to bring back apprenticeships for all industries,” said Jason Holbrook, Toledo, Ohio-area-based regional sales manager for Krauss-Maffei Corp. With the plastics industry's technical talent averaging 50 years of age, “we don't have time to get new employees educated.”
Holbrook noted that current economic and social evolutions are “changing expectations that employees have. What kind of systems do we need to assure we have employees” in the future?
In mid-2017, injection molder Sussex IM Inc. needed staff and successfully tried a series of unorthodox recruiting advertisements on Facebook. The messages targeted at-home moms and technical college students able to work four-hour shifts.
“Within a month, we had more than 100” candidates, said John Berg, Sussex IM director of marketing. “We hired the best and kept the others part time.”
Sussex IM's location in southeastern Wisconsin is experiencing a talent shortfall as Amazon.com Inc. sets up a nearby distribution center and Foxxconn Technology Group establishes its North American headquarters and a major manufacturing capability.
Berg noted that the state of Wisconsin operates a state-certified program requiring 10,400 hours of training en route to a person's journeyman's papers.
Michael Engler said, “We can find talent,” but employees are “being lured away.” Engler is president of AMA Plastics Inc. in Riverside, Calif.
At AMA, “we try to give them a path” with a good salary and benefits and “the possibility of working from home,” Engler said. “We must make it appealing [for them to work] at a small company.”
Engler said he relies on “mechanical aptitude and common sense” in evaluating candidates for employment. “We need to get them from the [shop] floor,” he said. Then “we help them move along.”
Other panel members were Rao Neelam, Comar LLC plant manager in Garden Grove, Calif., and Alex Beaumont, director of business development for Beaumont Technologies Inc. in Erie, Pa.
Attendees added thoughts.
To reach grade school pupils, “we need a more collaborative effort,” said Michael Smith, western region manager with CBW Automation of Fort Collins, Colo. As an industry, “we have the resources, but we don't have the motivation.”
Suhas Kulkarni identified an industry challenge, “How do we get kids [to be] creative?” Kulkarni is president of FimmTech Inc. in Carlsbad, Calif.
Corie Yodis said companies should “donate old equipment to schools” in an effort to reach students. She is lead process engineer with injection molder Extreme Molding of Watervliet, N.Y.
One suggestion was to recruit among military veterans who often can offer skills and discipline. It was mentioned that the federal government has a program to pay the final six months of a retiring member's service to a company willing to hire the individual.
Gardner Business Media Inc.'s Plastics Technology magazine organized the Molding 2018 Conference that drew 187 attendees and more than 30 tabletop exhibitors to a hotel venue in Long Beach.