DYERSBURG, Tenn.—Hexpol Compounding's NAFTA business has taken one step toward bringing more young people into the rubber industry with its wide-ranging cooperative education program.
A total of 121 students have participated in the co-op program, which began in 2012, and 31 have become full-time Hexpol employees. The firm said 12 of Hexpol's NAFTA campuses participate in the program and it recruits from 20 different educational institutions throughout North America.
During the co-op, both undergraduate and graduate students work between 20 and 40 hours a week in paid positions that give them the chance to gain hands-on experience in their field of study while also being exposed to a diverse business environment training program.
"I won't say we've cured the ill of getting youth in the rubber industry, but we're starting to make a dent," said Randy Simpson, chief operating officer for Hexpol Compounding's NAFTA region. "If you interview some of these kids, they are extremely excited about what they do for us, the challenges we give them, and what they're learning in a short period of time."
A 36-year veteran of the rubber industry, Simpson is very involved in Hexpol's co-op program. He joined Hexpol in 2003 at the firm's Statesville, N.C., plant. The firm unsuccessfully tried to start a co-op program in 2005 with the University of Charlotte, and again in 2009 between the University of Akron and the firm's Middlefield, Ohio, operation.