Friday, January 22nd, 2010

TV Documentary, Partially Shot at NPE, Puts Focus on Plastics Careers


According to the National Association of Manufacturers‘ National Center for the American Workforce, there is a “broadening skills gap….taking an increasingly negative toll on America’s ability to compete in the global economy” and the challenge will be more severe as Baby Boomers in the manufacturing sector retire with no skilled employees to replace them. In fact, more than 80 percent of U.S. manufacturers report an overall shortage of qualified employees and 46 percent of small and medium manufacturers report that finding qualified employees is one of the most serious problems facing their company.

In an attempt to illuminate plastics careers to the next generation of students, a new episode of Degrees That Work, an award-winning documentary television series co-produced by Pennsylvania College of Technology (Penn College) and WVIA-TV, is devoted to our industry. With past episodes devoted to nanotechnology, welding and fabrication and advanced manufacturing, the series was developed to build awareness of careers that may not be familiar to the public but offer ample opportunities.

With an extensive amount of footage shot at NPE2009 last June, the episode follows a group of high school students who are enrolled in a technical education class as they design and create the plastic body for a remote-controlled car to be raced against other high schools at an annual Plastics Experience event at Penn College.  The program also features interviews with national plastics industry experts as well as a visit to K’NEX Brands, a large injection molder that produces popular construction toy kits among other products.

There are only five accredited plastics engineering programs in the country. Two of those – Penn College and Penn State Erie, The Behrend College – are in Pennsylvania.  Get more information about plastics and polymer technology majors at Penn College.  

In addition to Penn College professors of plastics and polymer engineering, other  experts interviewed in the documentary include SPI President Bill Carteaux; Dana Gier, Julie McKenna and Erica Ocampo of Dow Chemical Co.; Dennis Gros of Gros Executive Recruiters; Robert Grace of Plastics News; Greg Koski of plastics.com; Michael Araten of K’NEX Brands and Tim Womer of Xaloy Inc.

You can watch the 28-minute program right here (see above)!  It will actually premiere at 7:00 p.m. (EST) on February 1st on public television stations serving northcentral and northeastern Pennsylvania, and will air several more times on those stations in February. The program will also air on select other public television stations — find your station here and request the program. Educators are invited to download the episode for classroom use. 

This would be an excellent resource for an outreach activity in your company’s community.  Ask Andrea O’Neill, WVIA’s director of education, about free DVDs and  lesson planning guides.

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