Dedication held for Shell-funded plastics facility at Penn College
In a dedication ceremony attended by representatives of the college and Shell and a host of industry partners and stakeholders, participants celebrated the enhanced and upgraded academic and research lab, located in the Advanced Technology & Health Sciences Center at Penn College.
The Shell Polymers Rotational Molding Center of Excellence will boost the college’s efforts to produce highly skilled graduates for the plastics industry while helping to ease the skills gap in plastics manufacturing. It also enables the college – which operates the Plastics Innovation & Resource Center – to assist plastics companies with research and development and the training of incumbent workers.
In her remarks, Penn College President Davie Jane Gilmour noted how the Pennsylvania plastics industry directly employs nearly 50,000 people with a payroll of $2.5 billion. She said those numbers are sure to increase when Shell’s Pennsylvania Petrochemicals Complex plant, currently under construction in Potter Township, Beaver County, is completed and begins operation. The plant will process ethane from shale gas.
“This investment from Shell exemplifies values held by both of our organizations – values that include meeting industry needs and empowering the future workforce for success,” Gilmour said. “For Penn College, this means producing ‘tomorrow makers’ with stronger skills and a greater depth of understanding for rotational molding. For Shell, it means investing in the workforce of its organization and its customers.”
“We chose Pennsylvania as the location to launch our new polymers business because the state provides many advantages,” said Hilary Mercer, Shell’s vice president, Pennsylvania Chemicals. “From both a supply and customer perspective, the state is well-situated. We knew that coming in.
“What we have also found here is that there is a strong reservoir of local talent in our industry – in no small measure because of the Pennsylvania College of Technology. Your plastics and polymers program is both well-established and renowned across the country within our industry. And we feel quite fortunate to have you close to the base of operations we are currently building in Beaver County.”
Mercer also spoke to the Penn College plastics and polymers students in attendance.
“Shell is proud to be literal investors in your future,” she said. “In this line of study, we know that a student of today has a clear path to becoming a highly skilled professional of the future. We are honored that you have chosen to launch your career in a critical segment of the economy that Shell is also entering.”
Also speaking on behalf of the college were Shannon Munro, vice president for workforce development, who traced the history of the college’s plastics program and the PIRC, which is marking its 25th anniversary this year, as well as 2015 plastics alumnus Ryan N. Troiano, who is employed as head of project management for Greiner Packaging Corp.
Munro recognized staff and leaders, past and present, who played integral roles in the creation and development of the PIRC.
“The vision of this team led us to the ever-evolving path we are on to stay relevant to the plastics industry,” Munro said. “Over the past 25 years, more than 12,000 people have been trained through the PIRC. Nearly 500 students have graduated from our plastics programs.”
Troiano spoke about how the college’s plastics program – as well as a one-year project he undertook in the PIRC – prepared him well for employment in the industry.
“Penn College prepared me in a way that I was ready to take on nearly any task that would be required from me,” Troiano said. “Anything I didn’t know immediately, I was able to learn by applying the concepts from Penn College to the specific areas of focus. The education provided in the plastics and polymer program was extremely relevant to our industry and gave me a unique understanding of the advanced processes, materials, molds and analysis techniques we employ to manufacture premium rigid packaging products for a variety of industries.”
Tours of the plastics facilities were offered following the dedication.
Penn College is one of six institutions nationwide offering plastics degrees that are accredited by the Engineering Technology Accreditation Commission of ABET. Students may seek the bachelor’s degree in plastics and polymer engineering technology or an associate degree in plastics and polymer technology.
For information on those degrees and other programs offered by the School of Industrial, Computing & Engineering Technologies, call 570-327-4520.
Penn College is a national leader in applied technology education. For more, email the Admissions Office or call toll-free 800-367-9222.
– Most photos by Cindy Davis Meixel, writer/photo editor
Munro welcomes the gathering to the ATHS atrium.
Troiano, head of project management at Greiner Packaging USA, lauds his alma mater for the foundation it provided and Shell Polymers for empowering current students and a skilled workforce.
Regularly eschewing traditional ribbon-cuttings in favor of technology, the president points out the Shell Polymers graphic on campus video monitors.
Mercer is presented with a timeline marking Shell Polymers' place in the college's 35-year continuum of plastics education and industry collaboration.
Mercer shares her personal/professional journey, the importance of applied technology education and women in STEM, and the impact of – and future opportunities represented by – Shell Polymers' partnership with Penn College.
Shell Polymers leadership gathers with Munro (left) and Gilmour (right) following the dedication ceremony.
Gilmour and Mercer, by the wayfinding for the Shell Polymers Rotational Molding Center of Excellence
Alumnus Brennan B. Wodrig, PIRC program manager, gives guests an overview of the lab’s equipment.
David Kirkland (left), president of Greiner Packaging USA, traveled from Pittston to support his employee at the event.
Olivia C. Ferki, a plastics and polymer engineering technology major from Richboro, was among several members of the SPE student chapter who provided tours after the formal presentation in the atrium. (Photo by Becky J. Shaner, senior manager of donor relations and special events)