A major part of the problem is that polymer science schools simply don't place any emphasis on sales as a career path, according to Willey.
“Polymer science students see researchers at work and take them as their role models,” he said. “Salespeople are sort of looked down upon. Yet clearly there's a lot of opportunity in sales. You can see it right here on the trade show floor. Most of the people here are in sales, and you have to wonder how they got here.”
Applicants for sales jobs in the rubber industry tend to fall into two groups, according to Willey.
“The first is someone just out of school who doesn't like this research thing but doesn't know anything about the industry, unless they end up going to a very large company with a great training program,” he said.
“The second is a senior salesperson with 25 or 30 years in the industry, who maybe has been downsized out of a job,” Willey said. “He may have three or four productive years left before he retires.
“If you're looking for someone who really wants to make sales his career, it's really hard to find them.”
Possibly the most specialized company at the Career Fair was Golf Pride, part of Eaton Corp.'s Hydraulics Division. Golf Pride has manufactured slip-on grips for golf clubs for more than 50 years, according to the Golf Pride website, and it now manufactures grips in more than 60 sizes, designs and configurations.
It's difficult for Golf Pride to find qualified people, according to Chief Technology Officer Steve Davis.
“We're talking to people in the industry, but rubber chemists are few and far between,” he said. “We're trying to find out the reasons why. We're talking to people in the Hydraulics Division, at the University of Akron and at various materials suppliers.”
Davis said one reason may be that polymer science students at the University of Akron are 80 percent international, “and when they get their degrees they go home.”
David Bender, senior research engineer-tread product development at Bridgestone Commercial Solutions, attended the Career Fair in search of a truck tire compounder for Bridgestone Bandag.
“With tread com-pounding, it's important to know the basics, but it's not a big deal to train someone for the job,” Bender said.
“If you're familiar with the tools, we can train you.
“We think we will find someone qualified at the Career Fair.”