PIRC Director's Message
In the spring of this year, Christy Allen and I attended the 15th Annual Plastics News Executive Forum in Tampa, FL. The general theme was that the biggest issue facing the plastics industry today is the shortage of qualified, skilled labor. According to Robert Grace, Associate Publisher for Plastics News, the North American plastics industry is at a crossroads with how to engage younger generations and lead them to manufacturing jobs. The other side of that is how to develop the skills of the current manufacturing workforce, assuming there are an insufficient number of graduates from plastics colleges.
Our conclusion is that the PIRC and Penn College have answers to these conundrums. While the plastics program at Penn College graduates highly qualified, hands-on plastics and engineering technologists, the PIRC is highly involved in training the current workforce to become exemplary contributors to manufacturing efficiency and the success of plastics companies. The PIRC has become the exclusive North American franchisee for an international plastics employee training and certification program called Global Standards for Plastics Certification. GSPC provides universal recognition of plastics workers’ knowledge and capabilities. We are convinced that GSPC, through interactive training programs, can raise the level of plastics industry workforce proficiency making companies more competitive globally.
We recently revisited our PIRC business plan. Recognizing that the PIRC with two Centers of Excellence has established itself as a national leader in plastics research & development and manufacturing workforce development, there were a couple of areas that stand out as opportunities for the PIRC. Those areas are worker certification such as the GSPC program and the expansion of our Thermoforming Center. Our next project is to acquire funding for a roll-fed packaging thermoforming machine to complement our hybrid MAAC thermoformer. This will allow us to serve the nearly 80 percent of the industry that produces thin-gauge packages.
On May 9, the PIRC partnered with the Pennsylvania Recycling Market Center to sponsor a statewide Plastics Symposium here at the College. Howard Rappaport, Senior Director at IHS Global, presented on “Impact of North American Shale Gas on the Petrochemicals and Plastics Industry”. This gives a whole new perspective for plastic manufacturers on the U.S. competitive position in the global market. Because much of polyethylene plastics are produced from natural gas, this puts Pennsylvania in a good position going forward to significantly increase its national presence in plastics production and processing.
As usual, I would love to hear your feedback concerning current and future programs. Your input makes us better.
C. Hank White