Education may be the link for manufacturers who are facing a skilled-workforce shortage and who depend on partnerships with higher education institutions to ensure the shortage won’t be an ongoing obstacle to economic growth.
Colleges and universities across the country offer plastics-related degree programs.
The University of Massachusetts-Lowell offers a Plastics Engineering program with undergraduate and graduate-level degrees. According to Dr. Robert Malloy, professor and chair of the Plastics Engineering department, enrollment has slowly increased over the last decade. Each class has 35-45 undergraduate students, for a total of about 200 in the program.
The plastics program also has made it a priority to keep pace with technology. Curriculum continues to evolve to meet the needs of industry.
Pennsylvania College of Technology, in Williamsport, Pa., is another institution boasting a successful plastics engineering program.
Like many institutions, Penn College is responding to industry needs by offering a bachelor’s degree in Plastics and Polymer Engineering Technology.
Shawnee State University in Portsmouth, Ohio, offers a degree in Plastics Engineering Technology.
The University of Akron in Akron, Ohio, a recognized leader in polymer science and biomaterials, is at the forefront of training the next generation of engineers for the plastics industry.
The college is organized for teaching and research at the graduate level, granting a master’s degree and doctorate in either Polymer Science or Polymer Engineering. The program is the largest (with about 34 faculty, and about 300 graduate students and post-doctoral students) and broadest in the U.S., dating from 1910.
Ferris State University offers a plastics engineering program at its campus in Big Rapids, Mich. Like many institutions, the school continues to recruit candidates by demonstrating that manufacturing is not a dirty, unsafe environment that many people believe it is.
Internships are gaining popularity with plastics colleges and training centers as the students know they have a good chance of being hired by a company that they work for as an intern. This also makes them more valuable as job candidates for the plastics industry.
The number of interns is slowly increasing in the plastics industry today. It allows a company to invest less time creating a productive employee because the intern begins with some skills.
Companies from every segment of the plastics industry can use internships to develop a pipeline of qualified skilled workers.
Open houses and hosting student tours also can help the plastics industry make students aware of the opportunities that are available for high-paying jobs in plastics. The industry has many opportunities.
Another training option is Tooling U-SME, which offers online and in-person, instructor-led programs focused on manufacturing training. The Dearborn, Mich.-based Society of Manufacturing Engineers acquired Cleveland-based Tooling U nearly a decade ago.
Tooling U provides training for operators in the automotive, aerospace, defense, medical and oil and gas sectors. It also works with corporations such as General Electric, Caterpillar and Harley Davidson, as well as small and mid-sized companies and technical and community colleges.
Tooling U allows operators to take classes 24/7 in a host of manufacturing topics. Classes are interactive, include both audio and video components and provide one-on-one, synchronous training.