One topic that gets much attention in the rubber industry is the recruitment and retention of employees to the business. And unfortunately, it's not getting easier.
The low unemployment rate actually hinders efforts to attract workers. That's because the tighter the pool for workers becomes, the more difficult it may be to convince prospective employees—particularly the younger generations—that tires and rubber are attractive places to make a living.
And it's an issue across the spectrum, from the shop floor on up. Just take a look at some of the firms that were trying to recruit workers at the Career Fair at the recent International Elastomer Conference.
Jasper Rubber Products in Indiana has seven skilled positions open, along with close to 40 on the production line. Zeon Chemicals was looking to fill a number of different spots, including an R&D analytics supervisor and a market development engineer. And a half-dozen other firms had a host of positions open.
There isn't any one solution to this problem, so it's good to see a number of different approaches popping up.
Jerry McCall of R.D. Abbott and chair this year of the ACS Rubber Division says his company and others are offering internships to give students exposure to the industry. Charles Braun, president of Custom Rubber Corp., is working toward a partnership with a local high school to get young people involved in manufacturing.
Bridgestone and its Firestone Complete Auto Care business also are targeting high school students, just launching a partnership with Akron Public Schools to open an Automotive Technology Center.
NIBA, the association for conveyor belt makers and distributors, is starting a program to train employees new to the industry, an activity aimed at employee retention.
The point is these efforts and others won't tackle the problem by themselves. But taken together, over time the work will pay off in a big way.