Another Manufacturing Day rolls around, and industry still has problems finding employees

Friday, Oct. 6 is Manufacturing Day 2017, and companies around the country are holding events designed to attract young people to consider manufacturing careers. While Manufacturing Days past have done much to showcase today’s modern manufacturing facility and the good-paying careers offered in the manufacturing sector, manufacturers continue to have problems finding skilled and semi-skilled employees, or even just candidates who can fog a mirror, to fill vacancies for various positions.

Manufacturing Day 2016 at PTI Engineered Plastics
Students tour the PTI Engineered Plastics facility during Manufacturing Day 2016.

The plastics industry has some unique challenges when it comes to attracting young people. First and foremost is the black eye that plastics has been getting over the past 20 years or so by environmental groups that decry plastics as the scourge of the planet. Many young people entering the workforce today absorbed this line of thinking as early as kindergarten, so they’ve had long-term indoctrination into the philosophy of “plastics as pollution.”

It’s difficult to look at the plastics industry as a career path when you believe that path is littered (literally and figuratively) with plastic waste. As the younger generation tends to be more environmentally conscious, it would be tough for many of them to boast to their friends that they just landed a job paying $19 an hour in the plastics industry. That would make them a pariah within their peer group.

So perhaps the first—and maybe the biggest—challenge for the plastics industry is to begin pushing back at those groups whose primary goal is to wipe plastics from the face of the planet. Start promoting the science and benefits of plastics as a counterpoint to the fake news that plastics is killing the Earth.

The Plastics Industry Association (PLASTICS; Washington, DC) is a big promoter of Manufacturing Day, and it released a list of 39 PLASTICS member companies that are participating by hosting events at their plants on Friday. A total of 68 plastics industry non-member companies are also marking Manfacturing Day. A cross-section of the plastics industry will showcase the industry and its value to the economy and to science. They include the big resin producers such as Dow (nearly a dozen facilities), Eastman, BASF, Teknor Apex and Exxon Mobil’s Baytown Docks; Rodon Group’s moldmakers that include M.R. Mold & Engineering, Minco and Moldcraft;  and OEMs whose products require the manufacture of plastic components such as John Deere. Machinery companies that are participating include Krauss-Maffei, Bekum, Yushin and others.

Since the first Manufacturing Day in 2012, manufacturers have been more proactive in promoting industry as a source of a good-paying careers with opportunities for learning and growth. I’ve seen molders and moldmaking companies become more involved in their local communities, creating programs in collaboration with high schools and community colleges to encourage technical classes.

There are more apprenticeship programs being created, as well, both for the moldmaking trade as well as molding and plastics processing, in general.

But we still have a long way to go if we are to keep the plastics industry strong and viable, and to keep filling the pipeline with a new generation of workers who will contribute new talent and new ideas, and bring a new attitude about the value of plastics to the world at large.

Happy Manufacturing Day!

Did your company do anything to mark Manufacturing Day? If so, share it with the PlasticsToday community by leaving a comment.

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