Developing Educational Pathways to Credentials in Plastics Engineering Technology
Industries in the United States that use plastic injection molding to make products have a growing need for technicians who are well-skilled in the science and engineering of plastics manufacturing. Nationwide, few technician education programs offer specific credentials in plastics engineering technologies. To prepare technicians with the desired knowledge and skills, Central Community College will partner with industry to develop and deliver the first certificate program in plastics engineering technology in Nebraska. The college will also use the new coursework to enhance its associate degree program in advanced manufacturing. The enhanced advanced manufacturing program will be designed to include pathways to help existing workers, underrepresented minorities, and veterans obtain the skills needed for jobs in plastics-related manufacturing. The project will therefore help strengthen the manufacturing workforce in this technology area for Nebraska and the nation.
The goal of the project is to increase the number of qualified technicians with skills in plastics engineering technology to meet the increasing workforce demands. The proposed curriculum in plastics engineering technology will emphasize the operation of injection molding presses, knowledge about implementing molding techniques, and improving the quality and productivity of molding processes. The project will gather input from a Business and Industry Leadership Team to ensure that the developed curriculum incorporates industry-relevant skills. The identified skills will be used as the foundation in creating four new courses on plastics engineering. These courses will be integrated into the existing advanced manufacturing degree program, and also lead to a stand-alone certificate in plastics engineering technology. A Plastics Technology Learning Laboratory will also be established. This facility will incorporate state-of-the-art equipment to promote student learning through authentic, hands-on problems in a work-like setting. Alternative course scheduling options for the curriculum, including short-term intensive workshops or courses, will be offered to increase accessibility to students, including incumbent workers and veterans. The project will also develop opportunities for existing workers or other potential students to receive credit for their existing knowledge, skills, or experience. This credit for prior learning could be applied toward the certificate or the associate degree. The project evaluation will investigate the influence of alternative scheduling and credit for prior learning within the advanced manufacturing program as well as document the project's effect on increasing the skills of technicians for the workplace. The curricular materials will be available on the project website and linked to other resource libraries for broad dissemination.