Grant aimed at retraining workers displaced by COVID-19 

  Wednesday, October 28, 2020 2:00 PM
  Academics, News, Science and Technology

Pittsburg, KS


A $146,000 grant from the Kansas Department of Commerce to Pittsburg State University’s Plastics Engineering Technology program is aimed at getting workers displaced by the COVID-19 pandemic back into the workplace.

“PSU has been training individuals to play a valuable role in the manufacturing workforce since the early 1900s, and our Plastics program just celebrated its 50th year,” said Greg Murray, chair of Engineering Technology at PSU. “Now, we’re proud to play a role in helping people who have lost their jobs get back into the workforce at this critical time in our nation.”  

The funding will be spent on accelerated workshops and certificate programs planned for 2021, and on state-of-the-art extrusion equipment to be housed in the department’s labs in the Kansas Technology Center. 

Extrusion, a high-volume manufacturing process, melts raw plastic and forms it into a continue profile to be used in pipe and tubing, weatherstripping, fencing, deck railings, window frames, and many other products. 

There is great demand in the workforce for jobs in the plastics industry, according to the Bureau of Labor, and annual salaries for Kansas upskilled labor in that area ranges from $42,000 to $68,000. 

Plastic products are everywhere and someone has to be able to design and produce it,” Murray said. “There are four really well-known programs in the U.S. and we’re one of them. Companies come to us all the time to hire graduates. We have a nearly 100 percent placement rate.” 

Company demand for skilled technicians capable of running plastics processes equipment is what prompted PSU to recently add a two-year AAS degree in Plastics Technology.  

Blake Benson, president of the Pittsburg Area Chamber of Commerce, alerted Murray to the grant application process.  

“While an unanticipated job loss can be a difficult experience, it can also present a valuable opportunity to become re-trained in a high demand field like the plastics industry,” Benson said. “With this grant from the Kansas Department of Commerce, the Plastics Engineering Technology program can ensure those displaced by the pandemic can return to the workplace to compete for these high growth, high wage jobs. 

Murray said the quickest way for displaced workers to receive training and return to the workforce is through two- to five-day focused workshops. Workshop certificates will allow attendees the opportunity to stack their credits, which will equate to college credit toward a Plastics degree. 

A bonus: students in the PSU Plastics program will benefit from the grant funding, as well. 

Our students will see an immediate impact,” Murray said. “They’ll get to start using the equipment as soon as it gets here. 

Murray said local high schools also will be informed of training opportunities and possible articulation agreements, and PSU will work with KansasWorks to help promote the training. 

Learn more about the Plastics Engineering Technology program.

To inquire about displaced worker training opportunities in the Plastics program, call 620-235-4384.