The kids are alright at NPE2018

A younger crowd mingled with more seasoned NPE2018 attendees on the last day of the event, as show producer the Plastics Industry Association (PLASTICS; Washington, DC) invited local Orange County public school students to walk the show floor and learn about the plastics industry.

“It is critical that we expose kids to see plastics in action, while also showcasing the different types of jobs available,” said PLASTICS President and CEO William R. Carteaux, in a prepared statement. “The perception is that our industry is comprised of engineers, but the reality is that there are career paths for people with many different interests and skills.” And many of those jobs, it should be noted, pay well!

NPE show floor

The students attending NPE2018 are all enrolled in the NAF Academy of Engineering at Edgewater High School, Dr. Philips High School and Timber Creek High School, noted PLASTICS in a press release.

“In these academies, students learn the principles of engineering as well as gain critical career knowledge through work-based learning activities such as this visit to the NPE2018: The Plastics Show,” said Orange County Public Schools District Coordinator, NAF, Career and Technical Education, Shannon Latimer. “NPE shows how education and business communities working together impact students and the future of industries. This is what NAF and CTE—Career and Technical Education—are all about: Bringing education, community and business leaders together to change lives through education.”

We need more of these types of initiatives, as the skills gap is hitting manufacturing very hard. “Panicky” is a word that often comes up in my conversations with plastics processing companies. A manufacturing renaissance won’t get very far if there’s a dearth of skilled personnel.

It will be a little while until these young people—some of them, anyway—are ready to join the workforce, but now is the time to plant that seed. Kudos to PLASTICS for maintaining this tradition of showing students that manufacturing actually can be cool.