Employers in the plastics industry continue to be challenged to find skilled employees just as more industry experts near retirement and more OEMs look to outsource their plastics manufacturing. That makes for a triple threat for plastics processors and mold manufacturers.
“The manufacturing skills needed for potential employees to be successful are not typically taught in today’s high school classroom,” said Brenan Riehl, President and CEO of GW Plastics, headquartered in Bethel VT. “This is why GW Plastics has made it our mission—and passion—to create a sustainable pipeline of skilled workers. Our holistic program, which starts in high school and continues through college and active employment, focuses on engaging those who might otherwise not be exposed to the world of advanced manufacturing, providing them with a cost-effective way to start, and ultimately grow, a rewarding career.”
The GW Plastics Workforce Development and Training Program includes accredited high school advanced manufacturing classes; STEM education support; a high school co-op program; generous technical college scholarships; paid internships and apprenticeships; a four-year Manufacturing Technology Leadership program; year-round in-house scientific injection molding courses; and ongoing education tuition reimbursement.
“Our School of Tech introduces young people to careers in advanced manufacturing very early in their development process—as early as ninth grade,” Riehl told PlasticsToday. “This allows them to apply what they are learning in school in a more practical way and makes them much more effective employees who can hit the ground running after graduation.”
While GW still employs traditional recruiting methods, Riehl noted the company sees value in introducing and developing young people to careers in advanced manufacturing through its in-house training programs. “This allows us to evaluate prospective associates and more effectively train them in areas that are important to our company,” he added.
GW Plastics also welcomes sharing its experience with the School of Tech with other companies, including its customers and industry colleagues, to help them get started on their own program. GW Plastics has produced a five-minute video (see below) that gives a behind-the-scenes look at how the company built its program and how it has positively impacted local students, the community and the company.
“One obvious benefit to sharing our School of Tech program with others is the best practices that can come out of a collaborative approach with other thought leaders in our industry,” Riehl stated. “This will allow us to see other innovative approaches that we can learn from to make our workforce development program more effective.”