Meeting the next generation of the glass industry
I recently attended the 77th annual Glass Problems Conference (GPC) in Columbus, Ohio. GPC is the largest glass manufacturing event in North America, attracting global manufacturers and suppliers to exchange innovations and solutions. This is a conference that is co-organized by the Glass Manufacturing Industry Council (GMIC) and Alfred University, with programming direction provided by an industry advisory board. It brings people associated with all aspects of the manufacturing of glass from all over the world to one location and lasts the better part of 4 days. There are meetings, papers that are presented, technical sessions, tabletop and comprehensive booth displays by vendors, and hospitality suites hosted by suppliers to the glass industry on Monday and Tuesday night.
Attendees are the “who’s who” in glass making. Most of the major glass manufacturers are there and most of the companies that supply anything that is used in glass manufacturing are present, as well as service companies. Recently there has been a huge movement to get college students that are studying glass science or ceramic engineering exposed to the conference.
Companies are asked to “sponsor” students so that the students can come and be a part of the conference and see firsthand what they are studying applied in the “real world.” They usually visit a glass manufacturing plant, and then volunteers from the glass industry walk around with the students at the conference and introduce them to people and companies associated with glass manufacturing. It is a great experience for these students to see what they are studying put into practice, as well as a great networking opportunity. They get to make contacts with companies who are looking to hire. I had the pleasure of meeting several students this year from a few different schools and of course from my alma mater Alfred University!
This year the conference put out requests not only for sponsorships, but also for people to escort the students around the show and introduce them to other people. While I wasn’t signed up to do this, I ran into an old classmate of mine who had a group of female ceramic engineering students that he was walking around the show. He asked that I step in and offer them my perspective as well. And so for the next 30 minutes or so, I walked around and shared my story of how I started in glass manufacturing and different jobs and I had at the glass plant. I shared my experience of what it was like to be a woman in ceramic engineering. They seemed to enjoy learning about the different kinds of jobs they could end up doing when they graduated.
These students were all excited and grateful to be there and were absorbing as much information and trying to make as many connections as they could. They are technologically curious and anxious to put their studies into practice!
The glass industry is very much like Optimation in the respect that the industry regulars that have been doing this have been doing it for a long time and are in need of some fresh blood. Some of the larger glass manufacturers have recognized this and are starting to recruit younger engineers out of college.
When I started, I was 22; most of the people I worked with were 45 to 65. Now I am in that upper range, but many of those people are still at the conference and working as consultants. There’s a lot of industry veterans walking around the show each year. The industry is in need of new energy.
Companies need to be focused on succession planning, and so does the glass industry over all. It’s something that we’ve been working on at Optimation – how do you get young people in with enough experience to be able to hit the ground running? Having these escorts at the show is a great start, a look into the window of glass manufacturing for those students. Hopefully they will find jobs in the industry and make a career in glass! I look forward to seeing that group of ladies again in the coming years as new employees and innovators in the glass industry!