A proposal by five companies that a study be conducted to determine future rubber industry personnel needs can be viewed as proactive or reactive. Either way, it´s a good idea.
M.A. Hanna Co., Freudenberg-NOK G.P., DuPont Dow Elastomers L.L.C., Bayer Corp. and Dexco Polymers asked two trade organizations and a technical association to do the project. The companies recognize disaster awaits he who does not plan for a future that will bring fewer new employees, let alone qualified ones. The firms want to know what´s ahead, and how to deal with it.
A future employee crunch isn´t a new issue. Economists and other long-term planners have warned about this impending doom for some time. The fact is, it´s already happening in many fields, including rubber.
It took a while for players in the rubber business to call for an industrywide look at the problem. Don´t blame them for tardiness—applaud them for facing the issue. And why aren´t their competitors joining in?
Some will, though. The International Institute of Synthetic Rubber Producers and the Rubber Manufacturers Association probably will foot the bill for such a report. Rubber industry companies finance those groups, so everyone involved will have to pony up.
The ACS Rubber Division, the third component in the research, has expressed a willingness to be involved. The division can offer a lot of brain power, although it won´t shell out any cash. It can´t—individuals pay their bills, unlike the company-sponsored RMA and IISRP.
I expect the study would find that attracting good people into the rubber industry is getting harder, for several reasons. The business doesn´t seem sexy. It has a history of brutal retrenchment and job cuts, and its prospects for the future aren´t as encouraging as other fields.
More needs to be done to lure people into the fold. This study is a good first step.
Noga is editor of Rubber & Plastics News.