Monday, August 30th, 2010
This week I read in a fantastic article that one of our SPI members (Bob Janeczko, CEO of Innovative Injection Technologies) and his wife donated more than $1 million for plastics engineering scholarships at the University of Wisconsin-Stout (UW-Stout). The couple noted that the donation is their way of providing long-term support for UW-Stout and strengthening a growing career field. After seeing the article and reflecting on my own niece, who just left this week for college, I began to wonder “are college students today thinking of plastics as a career?”
Although the plastics industry is the third largest manufacturing sector in the U.S., when talking with students, “plastics” doesn’t seem to be the top career choice for most of them. Even as someone with a plastics engineering background, I recognize that many of us in the industry fell into plastics versus making a conscious decision to go to school specifically in this area.
Students need to know that in the U.S. there are a number of schools with strong plastics programs, including University of Massachusetts – Lowell, the Pennsylvania College of Technology, Pittsburg State University and the University of Akron, among others. We also need to let students know that great plastics industry jobs are out there. In fact, according to information provided by Ferris State (another school with a strong plastics program), “our plastics program has consistently had 100% placement at excellent annual salaries.” We know in talking with SPI member companies that they are hungry to find more students with a plastics education.
As an industry we are working to help get the word out. The Plastics Ambassador Program was launched last year to educate and mobilize individuals within the plastics industry to discuss the benefits of plastics in their local communities. SPI is conducting a pilot of the initiative, training employees and encouraging them to promote plastics through community events such as PTA meetings, city council meetings or by sponsoring a PlastiVan™ school visit. The PlastiVan™ program travels to schools and companies throughout North America, educating people of all ages about plastic’s chemistry, history, processing, manufacturing, sustainability and application.
This opportunity is a great way also to reach out to students, to let them know about the opportunities in the plastics industry and to cheer about why plastics is a great career. Future graduates – we welcome you with open arms.