Although the COVID-19 pandemic has caused economic loss, the PSU plastics engineering technology program in partnership with the Pittsburg Chamber of Commerce will receive a $146,000 grant from the Kansas Department of Commerce.
Due to funding through the CARES Act passed March 25, additional grant funding has been made available to the Kansas Department of Commerce and at the referral of the Pittsburg Area Chamber of Commerce, the plastics engineering technology program applied and was able to receive a grant to help purchase new equipment for the program.
“…They (the Department of Commerce) put out several different types of grants and one of those grants that we went after was the ‘Higher Education Equipment Grant’ which was for advanced manufacturing,” said Greg Murray, chair of the engineering technology department. “Plastics is an advanced process because it’s very rare… We got a notification on the grant that we had received the amount $146,000 and with that funding we can purchase a new extrusion line with the necessary equipment that is the latest technology available to our students…”
According to Murray, the purpose of the grant is to help “re-skill” displaced workers of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s an opportunity for us to re-skill or provide an education to displaced workers that have been affected due to COVID,” Murray said. “We’re going to put on workshops. The faculty and I are going to develop the curriculum… We’re going to put on the workshops here, and not just for extrusion. We’re going to do injection molding which is a very important part of the plastics industry…”
Murray said that the plastics engineering technology program has been in place for more than 50 years.
“Our students learn every aspect of the plastics industry,” Murray said. “They start from the plastic pellet, the design of the product, and the process in order to make the product. They get a really well-rounded education, and we try to touch on every process there is in the industry… Injection molding probably makes up 80-percent of the industry… There’s several different types of processes that are students learn about… What makes us unique is that we’re one of four programs in the United States that do what we do, and we do it pretty well…”
Joining Murray to make the announcement was Blake Benson, president of the Pittsburg Area Chamber of Commerce.
“This program and this facility (are) truly an asset to our economic development effort,” Benson said. “As Greg mentioned, obviously the unexpected loss of a job is a very difficult time for anyone, but it also creates a valuable opportunity for somebody to go back and train in a high demand, high wage area like the plastics engineering. So, while the job loss can’t be considered a good thing, there are some that certainly could improve their quality of life through this grant. I think it’s a testament to our team approach to our economic development here in Pittsburg. That’s not something you see everywhere… This is a great resource, opportunity, blessing that we have here in our community…”