CLEVELAND—In any industry, there needs to be a pipeline of new talent to develop.
The rubber industry is trying to start young.
The ACS Rubber Division recently leveraged its International Elastomer Conference in Cleveland to show off the industry to 135 high school students from five area schools—Stow, Cuyahoga Falls, Field, Rootstown and Copley. The goal is to show kids that rubber is a viable career, getting them thinking about the possibilities so that when the time comes to choose a college, they know what path to take.
"Our goal at Rubber Division is to bridge the gap in the industry," said Nicole Neila, the Rubber Division's training and development manager. "We want to get kids interested, make it an option and make it a thought in their mind. We want to get them thinking rubber. The best way to do that is hands on."
This was the third such outreach program offered at the Rubber Expo, the other two also occurring at the Cleveland expos in 2015 and 2017. This time around, however, the division decided to put together a more hands-on approach.
It split the kids into two groups. They spent one hour conducting experiments in groups of eight with instructors from Akron Rubber Development Laboratory Inc., which had nine stations with three demos set up for kids to rotate in 20-minute blocks. The other hour was spent on the Rubber Expo floor where kids were given a passport listing 14 booths to visit and learn about what those companies had to offer.
Neila's goal was to expose them to a variety of areas. R.D. Abbott Co. Inc. showed off a 3D printed shoe sole that got some of the kids' faces to light up.
"I wanted them to start a conversation with people in the industry," Neila said. "I wanted them to get that confidence and start building dialogue."