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More Grant Funds Enable Plastics-Certification Program to Expand

Grant funding has doubled for a successful pilot program to certify employees in Pennsylvania’s plastics industry, allowing Pennsylvania College of Technology’s Plastics Manufacturing Center, which administers the program through a special contract agreement with the Central Pennsylvania Workforce Development Corp., to expand the number of companies and employees participating.

Initial funds were provided in January through the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry’s Pennsylvania Plastics Initiative to administer an international standardization program known as Global Standards for Plastics Certification.

The funds allowed seven plastics companies to participate in piloting the prestigious employee-certification program. Since then, approximately 150 workers have been enrolled in the Level 1 certification, which is recognized globally, to demonstrate proficiency in their technology.

A separate, independent evaluation is in progress for the first pilot group to report overall outcomes. Initial results show significant gains in employee knowledge, effectiveness, commitment and morale.

“This program has the potential to significantly differentiate Pennsylvania’s plastics workforce and position the commonwealth to be a leader in providing a highly skilled, trained and certified workforce for plastics companies,” said Hank White, director of the Plastics Manufacturing Center.

The pilot program aims to determine the effectiveness of the Global Standards for Plastics Certification in providing Pennsylvania plastics companies and their employees with advanced skills, improved efficiency, and a certification system to verify the competencies achieved.

Its success is being tested in four of the key plastics processes: blow molding, extrusion, injection molding and thermoforming. Participating companies have been selected to represent a distribution of plastics-manufacturing processes and Pennsylvania’s geographical regions.

The additional funds bring the project total to $543,000 ($400,000 from the state Department of Labor and Industry and $143,000 from the companies themselves) and have allowed the Plastics Manufacturing Center to expand the pilot program to an additional nine companies, for a total of 16. Each company will train an average of 20 to 30 employees, and each employee will receive multiple courses based on his or her assessed needs.

Pennsylvania is the second state in the United States to initiate the Global Standards for Plastics Certification, and there is a movement across Pennsylvania to participate in the program, with a growing number of plastics companies indicating they want to implement it at their facilities.

The Global Standards for Plastics Certification began in Great Britain 14 years ago and remains the only structured method of apprenticeship certification in the world for the plastics industry. It provides universal recognition of plastics workers’ knowledge and capabilities.

The Plastics Manufacturing Center, part of Workforce Development & Continuing Education at Penn College, is one of the top plastics technology centers in the country, providing support to the plastics industry through training, material testing and other consulting work.

For more information about the Plastics Manufacturing Center, call (570) 321-5533, e-mail or visit online.

For more information about grant-funding opportunities, faculty and staff may contact the Grants and Contracts Office at ext. 7562 orthrough its Web portal.

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