Skip to main content

New Episode for Documentary Series on Careers to Air Feb. 1

The latest episode of “degrees that work.” the documentary television series co-produced by Pennsylvania College of Technology and WVIA-TV is set to premiere at 7 p.m. on Feb. 1 on the public television station serving northcentral and northeastern Pennsylvania.

The episode features the plastics industry. Topics for the series have been developed based on Pennsylvania’s “targeted industry clusters,” which the state has identified as potential areas of growth. While plastics permeate our lives, from ballpoint pens to vehicles, there are only five accredited plastics engineering or plastics engineering technology programs in the country. Two of those – at Penn College and at Penn State Erie, The Behrend College – are in Pennsylvania.

“Plastics are in every segment of everything we do in life,” said Tim Weston, an associate professor of plastics and polymer engineering technology at Penn College who was interviewed for the episode.

Plastics, the episode documents, is the third-largest manufacturing sector in the United States, with plastics employment just under 1 million. The award-winning “degrees that work.” series was developed to build awareness of such careers that may not be familiar to the public but offer ample opportunities.

The episode follows a group of Loyalsock Township High School students, who are enrolled in a technical education class, as they design and create the plastic body for a remote-controlled car to be raced against other high schools at an annual Plastics Experience event at Penn College.

The competition was designed by Penn College students to help spark awareness and perhaps interest in the plastics industry by high school students.

An associate degree in plastics technology or a related discipline is recommended for those who wish to work at the technician level. Such jobs usually focus on machine operations. A bachelor’s degree in plastics engineering, chemical engineering or polymer science can lead to a variety of more advanced positions, ranging from research and product development to sales and management. Penn College offers both an associate and a bachelor’s degree.

Because the uses of plastics encompass our daily lives, a person interested in pursuing the field could have no difficulty finding a job that matches his or her interests.

“The plastics industry is so big that you can find a field within it, virtually almost in any area you’re interested in,” said Greg Koski, of plastics.com.

Koski and other industry representatives were interviewed for the episode during NPE 2009: The International Plastics Showcase, held in Chicago in June. The triennial event brought together more than 44,000 plastics professionals from 101 countries. Other NPE interviewees include Bill Carteaux, president and CEO of the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc.; Dana Gier, Julie McKenna and Erica Ocampo, all of Dow Chemical Co.; Dennis Gros, of Gros Executive Recruiters; Robert Grace, of Plastics News; and Tim Womer, of Xaloy Inc.

The show’s producers also visited K’NEX in Hatfield, Pa., which sold 7 million of its popular children’s building sets last year and describes itself as the largest privately held injection molder in the country. They documented the creation of a new building piece a shoulder for Sesame Street characters from concept to production and interviewed K’NEX Brands President and CEO Michael Araten.

The episode also addresses the growing “green” movement in the plastics industry, including the development of more earth-friendly plastics products. Current innovations include polymers that are created from more renewable resources such as corn or sugar cane instead of from fossil fuels.

“Getting your young kids, with their imaginations and their minds, in the industry is really critical, because we can do so much with plastics today, and it’s such a better alternative than other materials to lead toward that overall sustainability accomplishment,” Carteaux said.

The sustainability sector of the plastics industry is expected to see the widest growth in coming years.

“Most young people today want to make a difference,” Gier said. “Plastics has lots of opportunities to go and do that.”

Also featured in the episode are Kirk M. Cantor, professor of plastics and polymer engineering technology at Penn College; Penn College students Nicholas M. Schmitt, of Greensburg, and Gerardo Peña, of Aspers; and Todd Lorson, technical education teacher at Loyalsock Township High School.

Making up the Penn College production crew developing the episode were Christopher J. Leigh, video production coordinator, who was producer/director/editor/camera for the episode, and Thomas F. Speicher, video production developer, who was producer/writer/editor/camera/narrator. Penn College mass media communication students Timothy R. Cotter, of St. Marys, and Leah C. Mather, of Williamsport, also assisted in production. Kevin Jones of WVIA and Christopher J. Legarski, instructional development specialist at Penn College, provided graphics support.

Tom Currÿa1, WVIA-TV senior vice president, and Elaine J. Lambert, director of college information and community relations at Penn College, are the series’ executive producers.

The Telly and Communicator Award-winning series the concept for which was developed by Lambert and Jennifer McLean, director of counseling, career and disability services is intended as a public-service initiative to help make young people aware of varied, sometimes overlooked job opportunities as they explore their fit in the workforce. Educational materials designed for use in the classroom have been developed to accompany the series.

Following its premiere Feb. 1, the “degrees that work: Plastics and Polymers” episode is scheduled to air on WVIA on Thursday, Feb. 4, at 8 p.m. and on Sunday, Feb. 7, at 3 p.m. It will air on WVIA 2 on Tuesday, Feb. 2, at noon and on Friday, Feb. 5, at 8 a.m.

The series also airs on other public television stations and is available online. Educators are invited to download for classroom use the plastics and polymers episode, as well as previous programs on nanotechnology, welding and advanced manufacturing. The series is also available to educators through WGBH’s Teachers Domain Service.

For information about plastics and polymer technology majors or other academic programs offered by the School of Industrial and Engineering Technology at Penn College, call 570-327-4520 or visit on the Web.

For general information about the college, visit online, e-mail or call toll-free 800-367-9222.

Subscribe to PCToday Daily Email