It's no secret the rubber industry has an aging work force. But how does the industry begin to recruit the next generation that will carry it forward?
Lakisha Miller-Barclay, ACS Rubber Division executive director and CEO, says it's all about making a strong first impression and piquing the interest of young minds when they least expect it.
And the International Elastomer Conference makes for a perfect opportunity for just this.
"If you listen to the people in the industry and you ask them questions like what got you interested, a lot of times they'll tell you about something very similar to what we're doing right now," she said, noting the IEC's Experience Elastomers Outreach program.
A "little, five-minute exposure" could go a long way, she said, depending on the impact it has on a student.
At the IEC, which took place Oct. 10-13 in Knoxville, Tenn., local students from three Knox County high schools participated in the conference's youth outreach program.
While this year's program only brought 12 high school students—due to the schools being out for a fall break—Heather Maimone, the Rubber Division's membership and outreach director, said the event, which started back in 2017, usually brings in about 100 students.
"We had 12 wonderful students who came all on their own to meet here," Maimone said.
She said students typically attend the conference as part of a class field trip, but this year's high schoolers attended due to their own interest upon hearing about the opportunity from their schools.
The program breaks the rubber industry down into three different workshops—raw materials, mixing and molding, and testing.