It's encouraging to see photos of young people on the pages of Plastics News this week.
Our Plastics Education special report kicks off a summer of coverage focused on young people. We're also planning a special issue on apprenticeships later this month, our popular annual Rising Stars profiles on Aug. 5 and a feature on internships in September.
Is this overkill? Definitely not. Plastics processors tell us all the time that the biggest issues they face are workforce related. For the past few years, we've been calling it the skills gap. But to be honest, this has been the No. 1 issue for processors since we started publishing 30 years ago.
With the looming retirement of the baby boomer generation, the problem is rapidly getting worse. Manufacturers are losing workers every day and having a hard time finding replacements, especially for skilled positions. Processors want to grow, but they can't do it without talented workers.
Plastics processors face a lot of competition in the job market. A few weeks ago, I visited an injection molding company that had been trying for weeks to hire a tool designer. The CEO paid a visit to local colleges, hoping to find a promising candidate. No luck. All the soon-to-be graduates have had jobs lined up since they were freshmen and sophomores.
He's not giving up. And if you're having the same issue, neither should you. It's a matter of survival.
Our education features this week should inspire some ideas.
• Learn about how a Michigan molder, with help from a state grant, worked with Ferris State University to train its team.
• Read about how Denso Corp. spent millions of dollars on technical training centers to focus on educating workers on Industry 4.0.
• Check out how machinery companies including Wittmann Battenfeld, Engel, KraussMaffei and Coperion are partnering with schools.
• Study how Penn State Erie, the Behrend College, works with processors around the world, protecting their intellectual property while educating the next generation of plastics leaders.
These stories will inspire to you have a heart-to-heart talk with your kids, or grandkids, about the great career opportunities in plastics. In a world where young people are graduating from college with huge debts and uncertain job markets, plastics still offer great career opportunities.
Loepp is editor of Plastics News and author of the Plastics Blog. Follow him on Twitter @donloepp.