The rubber industry has had difficulty steering college-bound students into the field. Here's an excellent example that there are opportunities in the business.
His name is Kris Weide. Just in his early 30s, he's running his own start-up company in the rubber industry, a 10-person shop called Sierra Polymerics L.L.C., in Verdi, Nev.
Weide's story-which appears in this issue-shows the education provided by the Ferris State University Elastomer Engineering Program, combined with industry experience and a big dose of ambition, makes for an interesting career choice. This by a man who originally wasn't interested in entering the rubber industry.
Weide was the first student to graduate from the Ferris State program. Like every graduate that followed him, he had job offers waiting for him when he got his degree. Unlike many people, however, he also had a dream of ownership.
Four years and a couple of jobs later, he started his own custom rubber molding shop. It's even in a sunny locale outside Reno, one of the desires of a person who had tired of Michigan winters.
The need for fresh blood in the rubber industry, particularly in the technical area, is obvious to many in the business. There's no argument among rubber industry senior executives that hiring qualified people is difficult today, and a prospective major problem tomorrow.
The trouble Ferris State has experienced in attracting students is indicative of the overall recruiting problem in the industry. Rubber companies and trade groups have provided financial and moral support to the program, and every student who graduated received job offers, with an average starting salary of $50,000.
Nevertheless, few college-bound students have been entering the Ferris State program.
Difficulties in the rubber industry's image, real or imagined, continue to plague the business. Ferris State, the Rubber Manufacturers Association and individual companies are trying to address that problem. Weide's story gives them another tool to do so.