Plastikos replaces temps with refugees, wins PA employer award

Custom injection molder Plastikos Inc. (Erie, PA) was named to Pennsylvania's Department of Public Welfare's Employer Honor Roll as an employer that "best demonstrates a commitment to the Commonwealth's employment and training programs."

Over the last year, Plastikos worked closely with PA CareerLink, GECAC (Greater Erie Community Action Committee), and the St. Benedict Education Center to help strengthen its manufacturing workforce. The company has also partnered with St. Benedict to employ refugees from countries like Nepal, Haiti, Kenya, Sudan, and India, among others.

Susan Henry, HR manager at Plastikos, led the initiative to hire 16 refugees over the last year.  The refugees will go through a screening process, and eventually become permanent employees. Plastikos no longer hires temporary help. "We tried using temp agencies before, however the turnover was rather high - especially at the lower-skilled positions," Henry told PlasticsToday in an interview. "The detailed work of inspecting miniature parts using a microscope can be challenging, and it was difficult to keep hiring and training temp workers."

The company was nominated for the Employer Honor Roll Award by three employment agencies. Since Plastikos began the cooperative initiative, it says its annual turnover has dramatically decreased. More importantly, new jobs have been created to further help these refugees become more self-sufficient. "Their work ethic is quite different than we found in many of the temps, and their attendance is good," said Henry.

The biggest challenge is the language barrier. While the refugees learn to speak and read English at St. Benedict's, the technical language specific to the plastics industry is a hurdle, explained Henry. "But once we give them training they're okay, and some of them who are perhaps more proficient help with translation for the others," she added. 

"The big benefit for Plastikos is that any training we give them allows us to move them to more advanced training as they progress," Henry said. "We've come to really appreciate our work force and how our entire team has embraced this program. Everyone gets along really well and our long-time employees go out of their way to help our new employees. We've learned a lot from them. And we really appreciate working with St. Benedict's, too." Currently, Plastikos has between 20-25 new employees from the program working on three shifts.

Plastikos is a custom injection molder, while Micro Mold focuses on medical mold building for small, tight-tolerance components.

In addition to the Employer Honor Roll Award, Plastikos was commended by members from the House of Representatives as well as Pennsylvania State Senator Jane Earll for its progressive recruitment strategy over the last year.

Presented at the 27th Annual Pennsylvania Partners Employment, Training & Education Conference (May 4 - 6, 2011), the award was given to Plastikos by Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett. Started in 1984, the Pennsylvania Partners Employment, Training, & Education Conference has continuously grown to attract more than 1300 attendees from multiple aspects of workforce development. The three-day event consists of local and state-wide experts who share their experience on topics such as industry, youth, business services, fiscal management, reporting, partnership models, TANF, adult education, and credentialing. 


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