Measures to support education and provide outreach to young people result in a “significant” increase in SPE membership and participation by students, SPE says.
October 27, 2015 by Canadian Plastics
A strategy developed by the Society of Plastics Engineers (SPE) to draw more young people into the industry and into SPE itself has succeeded in generating a “significant” increase in student participation, the SPE said.
“Diverse initiatives undertaken by SPE have made young people more aware of career opportunities in plastics, increased support for students seeking technical and professional training, and made first-time participation in industry activities easier and more attractive,” said Russell C. Broome, managing director of SPE, which is headquartered in Bethel, Conn. “As a result, student membership in SPE has grown considerably and now accounts for at least 16 per cent of our total membership.”
Students from 33 U.S. colleges and universities have formed SPE student chapters, and there are now such chapters in China and Saudi Arabia as well. Also on the increase is student participation in the annual SPE ANTEC, the world’s largest plastics technical conference.
SPE programs and benefits now available for young people include:
● Free student membership in SPE and SPI. SPE and SPI: The Plastics Industry Trade Association now share the membership costs for students who are U.S. citizens. As a result, students receive free membership in SPE and free electronic membership in SPI.
● Increased scholarship funding. The SPE Foundation last year awarded 47 scholarships worth US$130,000 to graduate and undergraduate students. The foundation also provides grants to college engineering departments for purchasing equipment for hands-on training. In addition, certain sections and divisions within SPE also have scholarship programs. SPE is now working with universities to develop scholarship programs for graduating high school seniors.
● Student loan debt relief. SPE has partnered with Credible, a leading independent marketplace for student loans and loan refinancing, to enable SPE members to compare student loan refinancing offers from multiple lenders after completing a single form. Credible acts as a matchmaker between borrowers and lenders, providing college graduates with personalized loan refinancing options.
● Free online posting for job seekers. Student members of SPE can post their job searches for no charge at the Career Solutions section of the SPE website (www.spe.org). In addition, companies can post open internship positions there for 180 days at no cost.
● Student Programs at SPE ANTEC. SPE now offers special programs and activities for students at ANTEC and provides travel stipends for students who attend. Students can make poster-session presentations to plastics professionals, with cash awards going to winning presentations. Other activities include panel discussions with career advice, speed interview sessions, a special student luncheon, and opportunities for networking with industry professionals as well as other students.
● Campus visits by SPE staff. Managing director Russell Broome and other SPE representatives now visit colleges and universities to meet with students and their faculty advisors, provide plastics career advice, learn about plastics educational programs, identify specific needs, and encourage SPE membership and student chapter formation.
● “Hands on Plastics” (HOP) kits. These are prepackaged educational kits which SPE now offers for sale to teachers in K-8th grades. They are designed to help educators and adult volunteers prepare programs about the chemistry and characteristics of plastics and are available in versions tailored to student age levels.
● PlastiVan. SPE operates this touring program designed to bring plastics education to elementary and high schools throughout North America, providing concrete examples and hands-on activities to help students learn about polymer properties, processing, applications, benefits, and sustainability. Recently the National Plastics Center presented SPE with a US$200,000 donation to help support the PlastiVan program. Plastics companies also sponsor PlastiVan visits in their communities.