In an economy where you’re competing with other plastics companies not just for jobs, but for talent, how do you win? One strategy is to recruit and hire recent college graduates.
That’s a strategy that Team 1 Plastics, a plastic injection molding company for the mobility industry, put in place several years ago, and the dividends are beginning to pay off. The company recently hired two Ferris State University (FSU) students who graduated from the Plastics Engineering Technology program – students who Team 1 had attracted and recruited through its on-campus efforts.
FSU has the “largest and most respected plastics undergraduate program in the United States,” according to its website; and it’s located only 150 miles from Albion, Michigan, so it made sense that Team 1 would consider the institution when the company was beginning its on-campus recruitment in 2014.
The first step was, according to Robert Clothier, Human Resources Manager for Team 1 Plastics, to visit FSU’s plastics lab. Clothier said about the visit, “We had a really positive impression of their program and made the decision to make Ferris a part of our recruiting strategy moving forward.”
Clothier believes that for successful on-campus recruitment, the “most important thing is to establish a presence, and it’s important to be consistent in your presence on campus.” Team 1 Plastics decided to use a three-prong approach to its on-campus recruitment of FSU’s Plastics Engineering Technology students: it attends career fairs, hosts luncheons for the students, and offers paid internships.
Clothier said, “We attend the career fairs at Ferris once or twice per year. It’s a good opportunity to interact with a lot of students, be visible, and it’s used as our primary source for setting up the summer internships.”
And the students are very interested in summer internships because each student is required to have at least one four-credit internship as part of the Plastics Engineering Technology program. Clothier said that Team 1’s goal was to create “meaningful internships where students would learn a lot about the plastics industry by doing hands-on work – not just watching somebody else do the work.”
It was “hands-on work” on the first day of his internship at Team 1 Plastics in 2016 for Curtis Long, Project Engineer for Team 1 Plastics – one of the two recent FSU graduates hired by Team 1. Long said he “was asked to try and improve a process for a part that was having some issues. Although I was prepared for it from lectures and lab at Ferris State, I wasn’t really expecting to jump right in on the first day. But this was my opportunity to show everyone that I knew what I was doing and that I could contribute.” He added, “I would highly recommend other students to strive for an internship at Team 1.”
Clothier said that’s what Team 1 hopes from every internship – that the interns will recommend the company to their fellow students. “Our goal is to become a company that students want to learn more about because they’ve heard a lot of positive things from former interns.”
To help the students learn more about Team 1 Plastics, the company hosts a luncheon on FSU’s campus each year for the Plastics Engineering Technology students, sharing about Team 1 and what the company has to offer, and displaying samples of parts that Team 1 has manufactured.
According to Dr. John Sullivan in his article, “Building Relationships With Professors to Gain a Recruiting Edge,” for ere.net, “It is imperative to focus on communicating your culture and career growth to potential employees. The two fundamental questions that young job seekers ask, and that companies need to answer are: ‘What is it like to work there?’ and ‘What kind of growth can I expect?’”
Dave Seedorf, Engineering Manager for Team 1 Plastics, and Craig Carrel, President and Co-Owner of Team 1 Plastics, have represented Team 1 at the luncheon at FSU for the past three years. Seedorf said that Carrel shares about Team 1 as a company, its history, and its culture with the students. Seedorf then provides details about the internships that Team 1 offers. Sometimes, students who have interned at Team 1 will share their experiences about their internships. Seedorf said that these luncheons are very successful and that the students are attentive. “They are very interested and are interactive, contributing to the conversations and asking questions.”
Clothier feels that Team 1 Plastics is winning the recruiting battle for talent with its relationship with Ferris State University. “FSU has given us a talent pipeline of students that we have begun to build relationships with. We’ve been fortunate to bring in great interns each summer and had the opportunity to hire two of them.”
He added, “There are a few other educational institutions with plastics programs that we keep an eye on, but we don’t have any current plans of developing a relationship with them. We’ve had a very positive experience with the FSU students we’ve worked with, and FSU’s program is a good size for the one to two interns we hire each year.”