Plastics Process Technician Apprenticeship Program Continues to Elevate the Injection Molding Industry’s Workforce

ERIE, PA—The American Injection Molding Institute (AIM) held the graduation ceremony for the second class of students to graduate from the PA state registered Plastics Process Technician Apprenticeship at the Manufacturer and Business Association. There are currently two other classes in progress with another class scheduled to start in the fall of 2022. Clarion University, the Keystone Community Educational Council (KCEC), and the American Injection Molding (AIM) Institute are providing the education and training for the program with a focus on plastics injection molding.

Elissa Reitz, Corporate Training Manager at the Plastek Group has seen incredible improvement in the employees that have gone through the program. “As we’re all aware, it has been extremely difficult to identify and hire top technical talent. Through Keystone Community Education Council’s 2-year Apprenticeship Program working with training providers from the American Injection Molding Institute, PMI, and Clarion University, we’ve been able to “build” that talent in-house. The skills and ambitions of our employees have surpassed our expectations. Our employees have become more than technicians, but super-users who are closer in skill to engineers than many of our technicians, with the added benefit of leadership skills that they get from the classes. Because of the apprenticeship program, we have a steady stream of qualified technical personnel being shaped right here at Plastek.

The Apprentices have greatly enjoyed the program and have made many positive comments both about its rigor and how valuable the experience has been. They are extremely grateful to us for the opportunity, and we are extremely grateful to Keystone, AIM, PMI, and Clarion who have organized this fantastic program that we now rely on as a key piece of our pipeline for technical talent.”

Clarion, KCEC, and the AIM Institute worked with a collaborative of twelve plastic manufacturers to develop the program’s curriculum. The program includes over 340 hours of classroom and hands-on learning, coupled with 4,000 of On-The-Job training. Courses include: OSHA-30 (includes Certification), Plastic Materials, Math Courses, Molding Courses, etc. “Our program’s combination of hands-on experience and classroom learning provided by AIM and Clarion is tailored to the exact needs of the injection molders in our region,” said John Beaumont, Founder and Executive Director of AIM. “Our local plastics industry has been asking for training like this for years, and we are excited to be one of the educational institutions leading the change to advance manufacturing in our area.”

Organizations that send their employees through this training may also be eligible for a significant reimbursement through funding from the Greater Ohio-Pennsylvania Manufacturing

Apprenticeship Network (Oh-Penn), the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC), and the Workforce and Economic Development Network of Pennsylvania (WEDnetPA).

Local companies including Port Erie Plastics, Viking Plastics, The Plastek Group, and George Ko Industries are just a few of the companies that have participated in this program in the last couple of years. Heather Evans, Human Resources at Port Erie Plastics, believes a great advantage of this program is the ability for an employee to advance in their career. “Not only does the employee have the potential of increased income, but they come out of the program with credits towards an Associates’ degree from Clarion University.  We are very proud to be able to promote from within and we hope to have the added benefit of the employee being proud of their own hard work accomplishments. There are many great training programs available, but nothing that focuses on Plastics Processing.  There seems to be a gap between what is taught in high school and graduates from college.  There is a skill set that is desperately needed and this program offers that training. We started with the first Cohort and our employee was from our Maintenance department.  At first, he questioned why he was even part of the program, but by the end he found the program to be invaluable because it gave him the opportunity to work well with our Processors and gain a new skill set that made him a big asset to our company.  He was also exposed to OSHA30 and Leadership skills, which only makes for a better employee and company.”

Companies interested in learning more about the Plastics Process Technician Apprenticeship Program, or wanting to be placed on the contact list for the next program beginning in Fall 2022, can contact Lance Hummer, Executive Director of the Keystone Community Educational Council, at 814-677-4427 or lhummer@keystonecec.org.

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