Morrison Container Handling Solutions was facing a workforce challenge. To grow its business, the Glenwood, Ill.-based OEM needed qualified, skilled workers for everything from working in its machine-shop to service technicians to its engineering and machine design department.
As a producer of custom equipment requiring sophisticated technology, Morrison’s president, Nick Wilson, recognized the importance of workers with mechatronic skills who understand both the electrical and mechanical aspect of machinery design and production.
Around this time, a professor from Purdue Northwest (at the time Purdue Calumet) was working in their shop regularly. Wilson was talking to this professor about the growing need for controls engineers, not just at Morrison, but within the packaging industry. Wilson recognized that it was one thing to tell him about the need, and another for him to see the opportunity for himself.
Wilson sponsored two professors to attend PACK EXPO Las Vegas. He introduced them to many PMMI member companies and opened their eyes to the packaging industry. The professors immediately saw the vastness of the packaging industry, and after talking with several machinery manufacturers, had a clear understanding of the skills gap and the opportunity for Purdue. The professors were so excited that on the flight home they drafted the curriculum for the program.
In partnership with PMMI, Wilson arranged for the University’s Administration, including the dean, provost and chancellor, to witness the opportunity for their students in the packaging industry. With their buy-in and support, Purdue launched the mechatronics engineering technology bachelor of science program, with an emphasis on preparing students to enter the high-speed packaging industry.
Wilson stayed consistently active. He participated in the curriculum development, donated equipment and offered students of the program internships—and he actively solicited other PMMI members to do the same. Once the school recognized the importance of this new program, they assumed the majority of the work. While getting this program off the ground did take some time and effort on Wilson’s part, the time required was not overwhelming.
“Establishing a program like the one at Purdue Northwest is an investment. While it does take some time and money, the investment is well worth the return,” Wilson says. “The secret is persistence and consistency. The talent we have been able to hire from this program has allowed our company to grow significantly.”
Purdue Northwest now has a thriving program. The program started with seven students in 2016 and graduated 89 students in the Spring of 2017. Morrison has hired more than 20 interns and program graduates and has been able to grow their business as a result. Other PMMI members have hired Purdue Northwest graduates, as well. Purdue has established matriculation agreements with several two-year technical schools, and program graduates are also prepared to take the PMMI Mechatronics Certification tests.
Because of the relationship that has developed between Morrison and Purdue, ongoing support comes naturally. Wilson continues to assist Purdue—as a member of the Deans Advisory Board, CMEC advisory council and Purdue Chancellors advisory council. And Morrison Container Handling Solutions has been able to grow their business and meet the changing needs of their customers.
What you can do
You too can have these types of results for your company with the help of the newly established PMMI Skills Fund.
Created by PMMI, the PMMI U Skills Fund is a top resource to help you form meaningful partnerships with regional two- to four-year colleges, universities and/or technical/vocational schools, as well as other educational programs in your area.
The PMMI U Skills Fund will match your company’s contributions up to $50,000 per year to regional education programs of your choice.
Whether you partner with a school to help strengthen an industry-related program or create a course, join forces with a STEM summer camp, coordinate a group of students to bring to PACK EXPO or choose to invest in the future workforce in multiple ways throughout the year, the PMMI U Skills Fund exists to assist you with the financial obligations that come from these types of initiatives.