Plastics companies face some tough challenges when it comes to recruiting talented young workers. But there are signs of hope.
The challenges are well known. First, many young people — and perhaps as important, their parents and guidance counselors — don't even consider manufacturing to be a promising career.
Compounding the problem, bad publicity and negative attitudes may discourage young people from joining the plastics industry.
But some companies are doing a great job at discovering and nurturing the careers of the next generation of industry leaders. I've visited many processors in the past year where I've seen young professionals, apprentices and interns doing amazing work.
Earlier this month, Bill Bregar and I visited Intertech Plastics Inc., one of our Processor of the Year finalists, and met some super-smart apprentices who are still in college but work part time at the Denver-based injection molder. The company recruited some of them from local high schools that have robotics clubs. Now they're expanding their skills by helping to automate molding cells.
It's amazing to see the great work that these young people can do when they're given the opportunity — and some encouragement.
I mention all this because we're doing some recruiting of our own right now. We're looking for our seventh annual class of Rising Stars, who will be profiled in our April 13 issue. (Yes, we've been featuring talented young people for so long that the first group isn't young anymore!)
We're looking for people ages 35 and under who are on the path to becoming plastics industry leaders — or who are already there.
You can apply yourself or nominate your favorite millennial coworker. Visit www.plasticsnews.com/risingstars and answer a few questions to get the process started.
Some of the criteria we'll consider include:
• Industry and public service. Are you involved in plastics or community groups?
• Leadership potential. How are you showing that you have some?
• Career advancement. Are you taking on responsibility, learning skills and advancing technology?
• Sustainability. What is your philosophy related to plastics and sustainability? What steps have you taken to improve plastics' sustainability, either in work, your community or personal life?
We'll be doing more to highlight young people in the industry later this year, with our July 20 special report on plastics training and apprenticeships. And I don't want to hear any whining from baby boomers about it. For plastics to have a sustainable future, they need to recruit the next generation of leaders.
Loepp is editor of Plastics News and author of the Plastics Blog. Follow him on Twitter @donloepp.