Employment in the rubber industry appears to be at a critical juncture.
In an economy still recovering from the Great Recession, jobs in the industry are plentiful, especially for those with the appropriate credentials.
In fact, if you have education and perhaps some experience—along with intangibles such as drive, determination, flexibility and the mindset to work wherever the job might lead—you could be in store for a rewarding, long-lasting career. With Baby Boomers at or near retirement age, and numerous companies reporting that they intend to add to their work forces, the rubber industry continues to need workers.
So what's the problem?
In order to attract those qualified candidates, the industry must overcome an image problem, say experts, in which a job in rubber is viewed as less "fun" or "sexy" as in other competing sectors. Companies must invest in nurturing and educating young talent, those experts say, and take whatever steps necessary to erase the stigma and transform the industry's reputation.
Perhaps an influx of new talent will start that process.
Industry insiders say that today's job market in the rubber industry is as wide open for prospective job candidates—and as competitive for high quality talent—as it has ever been. A study presented at last fall's ACS Rubber Division's International Elastomer Conference forecasts that employment in the rubber manufacturing industry—not counting tire, tire accessories, rubberized fabric, hose and belt manufacturers—will top 60,000 this year, a slight increase from 2013. And the average salary will increase to $45,000, according to the same material.
For those with some type of engineering background, there is work available in nearly any discipline and most any geographic region you desire.
"The labor force of experienced engineers, especially with some knowledge and training in the rubber industry, is a very competitive group of people," said Lindy Bryant, corporate recruiter for Gates Corp., a global manufacturer of rubber transmission belts and fluid power products. "They simply don't (train) enough engineers to fill all the slots. That's the bottom line."
For those with less education and/or experience, there are plenty of jobs available as well, especially in the industrial distribution sector. Employers are looking to fill slots in inside or outside sales, marketing, accounting, customer service and warehousing, among others.
"Individuals who have an aptitude for technology, a desire to solve problems and enjoy working with others are needed," said Mary Jawgiel, program director for Industrial Careers Pathway, a multifaceted North American work force initiative supported by an alliance of four industrial distribution associations. "Employers are looking for those who are anxious to learn and curious about the industry to fill the need. There does not seem to be an abundance of qualified candidates for any position."