One of the best jobs is a career in plastics. That might come as a surprise to some people because the plastics industry in North America and Europe have been dramatically affected by Asian competition.
True enough, many plastic injection mold making and custom injection molding shops have gone out of business in the last 10 or 15 years. Many large, nearly historical shops just sold their equipment and closed for good. There are certainly many reasons for this, but one thing is clear: the available work is now shared among fewer domestic companies.
This means that the companies who have survived are now often in the peculiar position of actually having too much work! They did things the right way to survive and now they are more efficient and profitable as well.
What will happen when the old-timers are gone, and who will replace them?
Injection mold making is still a great career in plastics
As older workers retire there is a tremendous lack of skilled youth to take their place. The old-school skills involved in plastic injection mold making are slowly vanishing with the retirees. At least a few forward thinking companies are training apprentices, but not nearly at a fast enough rate to meet the anticipated need.
There are many aspects to the overall mold making process and the possiblilities for advancement abound. You can branch of into CAD/CAM, injection mold design, CNC programming, EDM machining, CNC machining, highly skilled toolmaking, mold polishing, just to name a few jobs in mold making.
Or in plastics molding you can become a molding tech, part designer, process engineer, quality engineer, plastics engineer, polymer chemist, inspector, salesman and more.
Another area you can move into is consulting. There are many opportunities for people with technical experience in areas such as lean manufacturing, shop management, offshore outsourcing, etc.
Plastics is not just a job, it is a career
For the motivated person there are opportunities and most companies will help you advance.
Once you have a solid foundation in your skill, it is relatively easy to cross train and branch out into other areas. This gives you a broad based career to help with your job security and interest level.
A good background in mold making and molding also give you a great foundation for sales and management. From my own personal experience, it is much better to work for a boss who has had a lot of hands on experience. They are much more understanding and compassionate when it comes to the difficulties faced in the plastics industry.
Most companies will also pay for university and college tuition for employees who want to further their education. This is a great way to move into engineering, plus you have a solid, practical foundation and your tuition is paid for.