Penn College receives federal grant to aid polymer workforce

Published 06.20.2024

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The National Science Foundation has recognized Pennsylvania College of Technology’s commitment to the plastics/polymer workforce by awarding a $594,574 Advanced Technological Education grant.

The Practical Polymers for Students and Industry grant (award No. 2400810) will facilitate the redesign of the college’s polymer technology curriculum and support enhanced recruitment activities aimed at high school students, secondary teachers and incumbent workers.

“The plastics/polymer technology program at Penn College has a rich history of providing outstanding graduates for industry,” said Bradley M. Webb, dean of engineering technologies. “And industry needs our students. Graduates of our program have a 100% overall job placement rate. We want more people to take advantage of the excellent career prospects resulting from an education rooted in polymer technology. This grant will certainly help us reach that goal.”

A $594,574 grant from the National Science Foundation will help Pennsylvania College of Technology redesign its polymer technology curriculum with the creation of two, one-year certificate programs and boost recruitment efforts aimed at high school students, secondary teachers and incumbent workers.

Webb and Adam C. Barilla, assistant professor of polymer technology, are serving as co-directors of the grant. Vii J. Rice, instructor of polymer technology, is the grant’s project director.

Curriculum changes supported by the grant include establishment of two one-year, for-credit certificate programs in extrusion and injection molding operations. Each certificate will consist of about 30 credits offered through a mix of online instruction and hands-on labs.

“The new certificates will provide rapid on-ramp pathways for new and incumbent workers to establish careers in plastics/polymer technology industries,” Webb explained. “As well, the certificates will serve as the foundation for the associate degree in polymer technology, which feeds seamlessly into our polymer engineering technology bachelor’s degree.”

Over the grant’s three-year lifespan, the college will introduce both high school students and educators to careers in the plastics/polymer field through a variety of programming, including immersive summer camps for students and externships for teachers to learn how to integrate polymer technology topics in their classrooms.

The college’s Plastics Innovation & Resource Center, a renowned provider of technology resources for plastics/polymer industries throughout the nation and the world, and regional employers with strong ties to the college will be vital conduits for attracting incumbent workers to the program.

“We are very appreciative of the opportunities afforded to us through this grant,” Webb said. “We believe these efforts will ultimately result in the college enrolling at least 24 students annually in our certificate programs and polymer degrees.”

Penn College is one of seven institutions nationwide offering plastics engineering technology programs accredited by the Engineering Technology Accreditation Commission of the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology.

For information about those majors and other programs offered by the School of Engineering Technologies, call 570-327-4520.

Penn College is a national leader in applied technology education. Email the Admissions Office or call toll-free 800-367-9222 for more information.