Even if hiring is not in your company’s budget this quarter or this year, you should get ready for a turnaround by researching the sources of your future employees.
Despite reports from the mainstream media, manufacturing continues to need skilled and educated employees. One of the biggest concerns of mold manufacturing companies is where the next generation of CNC programmers, mold designers, CNC machine operators, process engineers, and other necessary skilled employees will come from. And it’s much the same story for molders. As their OEM customers reduce their numbers, it falls to molders to have on-staff process and manufacturing engineers, maintenance technicians, molding press operators, and a variety of front-end personnel to run the business operations in a profitable and efficient manner.
To help you in your efforts to find high-quality, well-trained employees, we are providing here a small library of the educators targeted at our industry. These institutions are designed to prepare future engineers, molders, moldmakers, designers, and others serving this industry to help their companies thrive globally, as well as replace the slew of baby boomers retiring over the next five years.
Pittsburg State University; Pittsburg, KS
PSU has an extremely active SPE (Society of Plastics Engineers) student chapter and, in 2008, received that organization’s Outstanding Student Chapter Award. That can be attributed in large part to the leadership in PSU’s plastics engineering program—professors Chris Ibeh and Bob Susnik (also the coordinating professor for plastics).
Another factor in its success is the support PSU receives from the industry. Molding machine maker Engel recently announced that it donated an e-motion 440/110 injection machine to the school’s Plastics Engineering Technology (PET) program. The machine is used by the college’s 89 PET students, as well as by students in the manufacturing, mechanical, electronics, and graduate engineering technology programs.
“This is a great opportunity to introduce our students to all-electric machines and new control technologies,” says Paul Herring, assistant professor of engineering technology. Herring, a plastics industry veteran prior to joining PSU, works with a combination of new and used equipment and supplies from a variety of sources. “Most of our molds, materials, and equipment are donated by industry. Engel has been working with PSU since 2001, and this donation gives us a modern piece of equipment to work with for years to come.” The new e-motion is Engel’s third injection molding machine donation to the college.
Susnik says the success of the 40-year-old plastics program is the result of hard work by many, including a Plastics’ Advisory Committee made up of industry people (many of them alumni of PSU), a faculty of five “who have diverse backgrounds—for instance, in design, polymer science, processing, elastomers, and composites—and who take personal time to spend with students beyond the classroom.”
PSU’s PET program offers a Bachelor of Science in Engineering Technology and a Bachelor of Applied Science in Technology, as well as a minor in Plastics Technology. The PET major has two emphasesmanufacturing and design—that involve comprehensive coursework, including practical and theoretical lectures with a strong emphasis on applied laboratory efforts in areas of processing, resins, testing, and design.
The coursework in PSU’s PET program is designed to provide graduates to the industry who are prepared to use their knowledge of and skills with plastic materials, processes, and related technology to help create the best possible products at the most economical cost.
The Bachelor of Applied Science is available for students who have graduated from a two-year associate’s degree technology program and offers the opportunity to extend their education and training. All associate degree grads with a minimum of a 2.5 GPA can automatically transfer up to 64 college credits to Pittsburg State.
The Applied Science degree gives students complete hands-on training for real-world jobs. Students learn engineering technology and theory, plus logic, leadership, and business skills to broaden their knowledge and prepare them for management opportunities. The minor in Plastics Technology requires a minimum of 21 semester hours in a specific technology area.
“Relative to our business courses’ influence on our graduates, we feel that they are of benefit, as a basic understanding of management, economic, and marketing skills is important to all graduates,” says Susnik. “This is evident at least indirectly, if not directly, depending on whether the graduate gets into the manufacturing/engineering area or leans more into the business side, such as sales or management.”
Continued support from industry is invaluable to PSU’s mission. “Our Plastics Engineering Technology program covers the entire plastics industry, and we are challenged to fit our training to that broad range of interests,” Susnik says. “New programs will include an advanced injection molding class that will involve cavity pressure monitoring and control, multishot molding, automation, and material handling.”
Terra Community College; Fremont, OH
Terra Community College’s Plastics Technology Program (PTP) is a one-of-a-kind industry-supported educational program, unique in that it includes emphasis on the extensive color-matching skills needed in the manufacture of thousands of plastic parts. The Color & Appearance Div. (CAD) of the SPE and Terra recognized the real need for color education in the plastics industry. To meet it, the college founded the International Coloring of Plastics Institute.
“The goal for the Institute is to become the world’s number one source for education and information about the coloring of plastics,” explains Jamie Przybylski, professor in the PTP.
Terra is continually working with plastics businesses in the northern Ohio area to get input as to the skills and training required. “Our local businesses tell us they need trained employees who have multiple skills so they can be moved from one department to another, depending on the immediate requirements,” says Przybylski. “This flexibility allows the organization to manage a workforce that is better trained, accepts change well, understands teamwork, and focuses on accountability for quality regarding the customer.”
As organizations have flattened out and employees are being asked to do multiple tasks (the new reality in manufacturing and engineering), Terra has made changes to all of its engineering programs, including the PTP. “To address this need, in addition to coloring of plastics, plastics testing, and the basic processes such as extrusion, thermoforming, blowmolding, injection molding, and rotational molding, we’ve included in the curriculum basic engineering courses such as hydraulics, electricity, and blueprint reading to give students a broader background,” Przybylski says.
SPE’s CAD continues its support of the PTP, and has donated $225,000 to the program over the past 15 years. PTP has used the contributions for student scholarships, equipment purchases, and travel expenses for students and instructors to attend CAD meetings.
Students can earn a two-year Associate of Applied Science degree or complete a shorter certificate program if they do not want to obtain a full degree. One certificate is available entirely online, and the college is aiming to have the Associate Degree available entirely online within the next five years.
Distance-learning courses are also available, as are hybrid classes that require some time spent at Terra’s campus. The process and color-matching lab courses are offered hybrid style, although the College is looking into a virtual lab. Currently, three distance-learning courses are offered: Introduction to Color, Introduction to Plastics, and Colorants for Plastics.
Terra’s PTP also takes on projects for industrial clients, such as producing samples for colorant suppliers to give to their customers. “We have the capability to make several types of color chips,” says Przybylski. “We have also conducted research on pigments, dyes, special-effect pigments, and additives for plastics. These projects are a great opportunity for students to get involved with real-world projects, since they perform a large amount of the actual work. They are also a great way for students to apply what they have learned, and make some money to help pay for their education.”
Pennsylvania State University Erie Erie, PA
As part of Penn State Erie, the Behrend College of Engineering is co-located with the Sam & Irene Black School of Business in an impressive new facility, the Research & Economic Development Center. The College offers a B.S. in Plastics Engineering Technology with an emphasis on four areas: Design, Processing, Tooling, and Materials.
Operated through a partnership with Penn State Erie’s Behrend College and the Northwest Pennsylvania Industrial Resource Center (Erie, Meadville, and Mercer, PA), The Plastics Technology Center (PTC; Erie, PA) provides product design services within the United States for both business startups and existing small manufacturers. Services include moldfilling analysis, finite-element analysis, rapid prototyping and tooling, and more.
There are also training classes available in a wide range of options, including:
• Design of Experiments for Injection Molding
• Fundamentals of Injection Molded Part Design
• Fundamentals of Injection Molding and Metal Injection Molding
• Fundamentals of Plastics Packaging
• Fundamentals of Gas-Assist Injection Molding
Northwest Pennsylvania Industrial Resource Center | www.nwirc.org
Penn State Erie | www.pserie.psu.edu
Plastics Technology Center | ptdc01.bd.psu.edu
University of Massachusetts Lowell; Lowell, MA
The oldest institution of plastics education offers a B.S. in Plastics Engineering, M.S. in Plastics Engineering, B.S. in Plastics Engineering with a Business minor, Ph.D. Engineering in Plastics Engineering, and Ph.D. in Polymer Science/Plastics Engineering. Graduate certificates are offered in:
• Plastics Materials
• Plastics Engineering
• Plastics Design
• Plastics Processing
• Medical Plastics Design and
University of Southern Mississippi; Hattiesburg, MS
USM’s School of Polymers & High Performance Materials and the Mississippi Polymer Institute both offer a wealth of education, training, and services to students and plastics industry businesses. The Polymer Institute offers services such as rapid prototyping using a Sinterstation 2000, problem solving and process improvement with materials and polymer processing, physical testing, and analysis.
Also offered are workforce training and development using Paulson Training Programs (Chester, CT) video courses and interactive CD courses on injection molding from A. Routsis Assoc. (Dracut, MA). Product design and other technical assistance are also offered.
The School of Polymers & High Performance Materials offers accredited undergrad and graduate programs leading to a B.S., M.S., and a Ph.D. in Polymer Science & Engineering.
A. Routsis Assoc. Inc. | www.traininteractive.com
Paulson Training Programs Inc. | www.paulson-training.com
School of Polymers & High Performance Materials | www.usm.edu/polymer
University of Wisconsin-Stout; Menomonie, WI
In June 2008, the University of Wisconsin-Stout announced the presentation of a new program to the Board of Regents for a B.S. in Plastics Engineering. The program, administered by the Engineering & Technology Dept., will be offered on campus to capitalize on UW-Stout’s extensive laboratory facilities housed in the College of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. It will concentrate on design of processes and the equipment prevalent in the plastics manufacturing industry, and it will include: coverage of material selection and testing; processes such as injection molding, extrusion, thermoforming, blowmolding, and rotational molding; and design of tooling and machinery.
Ferris State University; Big Rapids, MI
Ferris State offers Michigan’s only B.S. in Plastics Engineering Technology, and also offers an Associate of Applied Science and a Polymer Materials Technology minor.
We’re building a comprehensive listing of education and training programs on our website. If yours is not listed in this feature, contact Rob Neilley