We've all heard about the ongoing shortage of skilled workers in the plastics processing and moldmaking industries, but one large custom injection molding company is doing something about it. GW Plastics, a precision injection molding and contract manufacturing company headquartered in Bethel, VT, is leading the way in workforce training, career development and community educational outreach.
Through a series of innovative and collaborative internship programs, apprenticeships and internal training solutions, GW Plastics is working toward ensuring a sustainable pipeline of skilled workers. These innovations allow the company to remain competitive in the global marketplace while providing high-paying jobs for Vermonters.
|Tom Herbst Jr., Process Engineer at GW Plastics, instructs
students on machine functions.
GW Plastics' workforce training and development begins at the high school level. This year, the company began the GW Plastics School of Tech, where local students from Randolph Union High School in Randolph, VT, are bused to GW Plastics' state-of-the-art facilities for a semester-long course focused on manufacturing technology.
"It is very difficult to find a high school shop class nowadays that provides relevant training for our industry," said Cathy Tempesta, GW Plastics Director of Human Resources. "There are very limited ways for students to become exposed to the world of manufacturing, so we launched our own ‘school' in order to make manufacturing attractive again."
In addition, GW Plastics is also funding a scholarship program—the GW Plastics Carl Symonds Memorial Scholarship—in partnership with Vermont Technical College. Students enrolling in Vermont Tech's mechanical engineering technology program are eligible for a GW-funded scholarship each semester in addition to a paid summer internship at GW Plastics.
"Between our scholarship program and paid internship, in collaboration with Vermont Tech and the state of Vermont, it is possible for a student to completely cover the tuition cost of an associate degree," commented Brenan Riehl, GW Plastics President and CEO. "Not only are we helping to pay for their education, but we are also providing students with real-life, on-the-job training through a paid internship resulting in a job upon graduation. For students who may not have thought college and a rewarding career path were financially attainable, this can be life changing. We are fortunate to have built a strong partnership with Vermont Technical College, a leader in applied technical education for manufacturing."
GW Plastics doesn't stop at just educating Vermont's youth. The company also offers a Manufacturing Technology Leadership Program, where current employees are eligible to further develop their skills through courses at Vermont Tech. Awarded to employees who have strong technical leadership potential, GW Plastics pays for one class per semester over four years so that employees entering the industry can obtain valuable technical knowledge, paving the way to an associate degree in mechanical engineering technology. Participants receive a bonus at the end of each semester and a 10% raise upon graduation. GW Plastics also offers a formal Toolmaker Apprenticeship Program at its Mold Making Division as well as scientific molding training and certification at each of its facilities. Every apprentice is matched up with a master molder to continue expanding his or her knowledge.
The company also participates in community and national events, including National Manufacturing Day. This annual event helps to bring attention to the countrywide skilled labor shortage by encouraging manufacturers to open their doors to local students, community members and government officials to demonstrate the advantages of a career in manufacturing. By working alongside other manufacturers, GW Plastics hopes to connect with future generations and ensure ongoing interest in manufacturing. "We're fortunate to have a long-tenured and engaged workforce," said Riehl. "As such, GW Plastics and other manufacturers must be ready for pending retirements of an entire generation of skilled manufacturing workers exiting the workplace. With our company rapidly growing and serving highly sophisticated Fortune 1000 customers, we need to have an adequate bench-strength of skilled employees. Participating in these types of events is crucial to community awareness and the success of our company, our customers and industry."
GW Plastics serves the healthcare, automotive safety and consumer/industrial markets, specializing in complex injection molded thermoplastic and silicone solutions. Core competencies include product development, in-house precision tooling, scientific molding and automated assembly. Headquartered in Bethel, VT, the company's standardized ISO 9001, ISO 13485, ISO 14001, ISO/TS 16949 and FDA-registered manufacturing facilities are located in Bethel and Royalton, VT; San Antonio, TX; Tucson, AZ; Queretaro, Mexico; and Dongguan, China.