Filling the human resources pipeline with qualified candidates is one of the greatest challenges in manufacturing. Many plastics processors have established outreach efforts to assist in educating their local communities about the opportunities available for careers in manufacturing, but communication silos exist that keep other manufacturing companies across the US from recreating successful peer efforts.
To share knowledge and celebrate success, the Manufacturers Association for Plastics Processors (MAPP) held the first Educational Outreach Contest in recognition of manufacturers who work to engage young people in the manufacturing industry. Member companies were asked to provide a description of how their organizations are working with local schools, programs or students to raise awareness and build interest in the plastics industry. The association membership voted online after reviewing the entries, and winners were announced in coordination with Manufacturing Day on Oct. 7. The contest is set to become an annual event.
The winner of the first place award is Bemis Manufacturing, Sheboygan Falls, Wisconsin. TASUS Corporation, Bloomington, Indiana, received second place, and Plastikos of Erie, Pennsylvania, was third. Selections from each company’s submission information follow, providing an insight into outreach efforts by fellow plastics manufacturing companies.
First Place: Bemis Manufacturing Company, Sheboygan Falls, Wisconsin
Bemis Manufacturing Company has not only been engaged in working with local middle and high schools in providing students with skill sets needed to succeed in the new economy, but also is providing the leadership to promote the plastics industry.
Scott Kuehn is the new chairperson for Project GRILL. Project G.R.I.L.L. stands for Growing Readiness in Learning & Leading and showcases manufacturing career opportunities to high school students through real world design, production and distribution. Its unique blend of cooperation among manufacturers (sponsors), high schools, teachers, students and parents creates a learning environment where students truly experience the manufacturing process. The journey begins with students creating a “mini” organizational chart, determining who will lead the team and who will take care of the finances, inventory of materials, etc. It continues through design, purchase and fabrication. This effort concludes 10 months later with a fully functional barbecue grill. Learn more at www.projectgrill.com.
Bemis has provided opportunities for high school students to participate in youth apprenticeships through Lakeshore Technical College. Students go through an interview process for the specific area of interest, (i.e., finance, engineering, manufacturing, etc.). Once the students are selected, they are assigned to a Bemis mentor, and for the next 10 months they will spend in excess of 200 hours during the summer and an additional 250 hours during the school year learning and applying lessons learned through the mentor and associates in the given field of interest.
Bemis has concluded its third year of Teacher Externships with Sheboygan Falls High School. For one week, nine teachers participated in a Monday through Friday immersion. The week involves 25 Bemis associates who participate by presenting and discussing their specific responsibilities. The importance of quality tool design, engineering, customer relationships, supplier importance, quality, processing and other topics are covered in detail. On Wednesday, a day coined as “Supplier Day,” local suppliers to Bemis are visited. The teachers get an inside view of other manufacturers in the area, demonstrating the importance of the supply chain. The week ends with a “graduation” of sorts, thanking the teachers for their time and efforts. These externships have changed how teachers are approaching their lesson preparations. Example: A math teacher has developed story problems simulating actual challenges that engineers and quality employees face each day. Cost of plastic, size of part, cycle times and screw geometry are just a few of the criteria now being factored into lessons to produce a quality injection molded part.
Bemis works with and has invested in Red Raider Manufacturing (RRM), which will support all students attending either Sheboygan North or South high schools with the technical curriculum necessary to succeed in this new economy. Welding, engineering, design and robot programming are some of the skill sets students will learn. The credits they earn can be applied to a post-high school technical college.
Working with a machine partner from Cincinnati, Bemis secured a 33-ton Roboshot injection molding machine from Milacron for Sheboygan Falls High School. This may be the first injection molding machine consigned to a high school in the country. Working with SFHS technical education instructor Ed Hughes, who has developed curriculum around the machine cell, students have the ability to learn about mold building, machine operation, chemistry, engineering, processing and related skills.
Second Place: TASUS, Bloomington, Indiana
TASUS continually strengthens and grows its relationship with the surrounding community by being involved in education in a variety of ways. Through the company’s involvement in various programs, TASUS hopes to build interest in plastics manufacturing while helping to change the negative perceptions associated with the industry. The challenge is not only changing perceptions of the students, but also of their parents, teachers and counselors. According to a 2014 study by the Manufacturing Institute and Deloitte, only 37 percent of respondents would encourage their children to pursue a career in manufacturing. However, those with high industry familiarity supported manufacturing apprenticeship and degree programs more than 70 percent of the time. Through these programs, TASUS hopes to reach students, parents, teachers and counselors to spread awareness of the great career opportunities in manufacturing, changing the perceptions moving forward.
For the past decade, TASUS has had an ongoing relationship with Hoosier Hills Career Center because of its focus on students entering STEM-related career fields. TASUS has continually taken internships from the Hoosier Hills Career Center. In 2016, Brandon, one of those interns, became a part of the R&D team. The company worked with his schedule, and he balanced finishing his senior year and interning at TASUS in the afternoon. During his time there, Brandon traveled to the TASUS plant in Alabama and helped on several automation projects. He will go to Vincennes University in the spring to pursue his engineering degree. TASUS will continue taking interns from Hoosier Hills and plans to look for more this spring.
Every year, TASUS attends the CTE (Career Technical Education) Summit. The summit connects local businesses and colleges with high school students to prepare them for possible career paths. TASUS participated in rap sessions, where students interacted with TASUS employees through games that educated them on the manufacturing industry. TASUS also participated in a career booth, networking with students. The event was successful, and TASUS will continue participating each year.
TASUS has also partnered with the Hoosier Hills Career Center for the Youth Employability Skills (Y.E.S!) Comprehensive Curriculum and Virtual Tours. The company became involved with Y.E.S! because it starts as early as the 8th grade preparing students to enter careers in the manufacturing industry after graduation. The current collaboration between TASUS and Hoosier Hills Career Center is a video tour of the plant that can be shared with students for years to come. The video will showcase what goes on in the day-to-day operations, employees’ insight on a variety of positions, as well as the great benefits of working at TASUS. Additionally, through this program the company will be involved in mock interviews and industry discussion panels at regional high schools.
Third Place: Plastikos, Inc., Erie, Pennsylvania
Over the last three years, sister companies Plastikos, Inc. and Micro Mold Co., Inc., have hosted more than 18 plant tours focused around continued education and career development for local students. During these tours, more than 100 students ranging from grade school to high school have been exposed to manufacturing operation and industry.
Plastikos and Micro Mold host facility tours for students ranging from middle school to college level. Through a partnership with CareerStreet – a career exploration and planning nonprofit program that helps bridge the gap between educators and companies within the Erie region – Plastikos provides students and teachers with touring experiences. The Minority College Experience/Women in Science and Engineering (MCE/WISE) Program at Penn State Behrend also has visited Plastikos’ facility to show up-and-coming engineers what it is like to work in a manufacturing environment. Machine and/or equipment demonstrations are performed, and physical part samples are placed on display for the students so they understand the connection between the parts Plastikos manufactures and the products they eventually will become.
Plastikos and Micro Mold offer seasonal, part-time and full-time paid internship opportunities to students ranging from high school to college level. School comes first, so Plastikos customizes each student’s internship schedule around his or her classes. Internships for high school students are less job-specific than those at the collegiate level, with a rotation program whereby a student is exposed to each department (e.g. product inspection, mold setup or production). On average, Plastikos and Micro Mold employ three to four interns each year and have created seven new full-time positions over the years for those students who excelled during the internship process.
At Micro Mold, a custom four-year apprenticeship program is available to individuals who would like to become toolmakers. The program requires 8,000 hours of on-the-job training as well as 576 hours of structured classes. At Plastikos and Micro Mold, apprentices are considered full-time employees; therefore, apprentices are fully compensated for their work during this training period and afforded the wide range of benefits that all members of the team enjoy. Additionally, the company also pays for tuition and other expenses for classes that are required outside the workplace to complete the apprenticeship program.