Orlando, Fla. — On May 11, the last day of NPE2018, Jennifer Kane brought students from her engineering classes at Orlando's Timber Creek High School to the massive trade show.
They were excited to see injection molding, 3D printing and robotics. They weren't disappointed.
"I explained to them you're going to see a lot of high-tech robots here. And, of course, our robotics team, they loved that. And then, when we walked in here, one of the first things we saw was a robot. And it was moving faster than I've ever seen any robot move," Kane said. "So that was pretty cool."
The Timber Creek students were among 130 Orlando-area high school students who took a field trip to NPE2018.
The students were welcomed by the Washington-based Plastics Industry Association, the show organizer. After a brief welcome from industry leaders, the students split into groups that were led by association staff, who gave the young people a guided tour of the show. They saw manufacturing, automation and more, including a behind-the-scenes look at the show's recycling operation.
The idea was to showcase the many types of jobs available in plastics. That was a message that exhibitors made clear to the high school students.
"I'm on the board of the AMBA [American Mold Builders Association], and I can tell you that we are in need of mold makers," Jim Bott, new business development manager at Incoe Corp., told one group. "That's a highly technical, high-paying job, and they will pay for you to go to school.
"Manufacturing factories are no longer dirty and dark. They are clean, neat and safe. So don't think for a minute that you have to go to college to get a really good job in the plastics industry," Bott said.