The word “summer camp” denotes images of canoeing on a lake, staying up late to tell ghost stories or hiking through the woods. But today, that term is expanding to include hardwiring electronics, designing products through CAD and making plastic products kids can take home… Huh?
The plastics manufacturing industry has begun partnering with career centers, schools and summer camps in an attempt to bring attention to manufacturing careers. Camps designed for fifth through twelfth graders are popping up that allow kids to design, build and manufacture plastic projects, giving them an idea of what a job in the plastics industry might be like.
Plastics, like other production sectors, is experiencing a shortage of skilled workers: with only seasoned veterans getting ready to retire and newbies fresh out of school, the generation in-between was steered away from manufacturing jobs by teachers and parents who were concerned the industry was lapsing next to manufacturing giants in China and India. However, the U.S. plastics industry has only continued to grow over the last 25 years… meaning that more and more positions are opening up.
“We want to make sure [students] have an opportunity and some exposure to something like manufacturing,” said Alice Cable, the executive director of Alliance for Working Together—an organization aimed at promoting careers in manufacturing and production. “We also want it to be something that’s fun for them.”
Several camps that are taking off include the Summer Manufacturing Institute, which helps students discover a passion for making things, Penn College’s summer Engineering Camp, which introduces kids to plastics and polymer engineering and Nuts, Bolts & Thingamajigs, which aims to inspire the next generation of manufacturers.
Certainly, it’s been hard work building excitement for the machining trade, but the results are beginning to show; Anne Cowell, an outreach manufacturing educator, notes that these programs are really hooking kids into how cool plastics manufacturing can be: “The students’ energy is contagious as we work through hands-on investigations and they are so engaged in each experiment.”
We’re excited to see what these camps can do for our industry. An influx of youth with a passion for making things is definitely needed and we hope to see some real engagement in plastics manufacturing once these students graduate from high school and college.
Here at AIP Precision Machining, we’re working hard to attract young students to become interested in plastics. If you’d like to learn more about our presence in the community or our manufacturing capabilities, feel free to contact us here.