NMU and Ironwood Plastics Create
New Certificate Program
Northern has partnered with Ironwood Plastics on a new one-year certificate program in plastics injection technology that will be offered beginning this fall.
The company and its owners, the Stephens family, contributed a gift valued at about $125,000 to fund student scholarships, a plastics injection machine, raw materials to operate the machine and an instructor who will teach some courses in conjunction with NMU professors. Scott Stephens of Ironwood Plastics is pictured in front of the machine during a presentation and demonstration Wednesday morning at the Jacobetti Center.
“This program will provide graduates with the knowledge and technical skills needed for entry-level employment in the plastic injection industry as a machine operator, maintenance technician or mold technician,” said Tom Meravi (Technology and Applied Sciences). “There are good jobs with sustainable incomes in the U.P. in this field, including at Ironwood Plastics.”
The partnership is mutually beneficial. NMU has tailored a program that will draw more students to the university and train them on the same equipment they will encounter in the professional arena. In turn, Ironwood Plastics and similar companies will be able to maintain a qualified workforce.
"NMU already has the rudimentary phases for a great program, with the robots and other machinery related to the process," said Stephens, a 1991 NMU graduate. "It was just a matter of introducing our specific technology. The staff at Northern has been fantastic in making it happen.
"But this isn't just about us. There are other molding companies in the U.P. that will benefit. This is an outstanding example of business-industry and education working together to help address economic and employment issues in our region. And I would challenge the university to incorporate it into other departments. You know those plastic trinkets for sale in the bookstore? They could be made with this machine."
Another example of an NMU-business partnership is the computer numerical control technician program previously developed with Pioneer Surgical Technology.
Graduates of the plastic injection technology program will be guaranteed an interview with Ironwood Plastics. Meravi added that all of the courses are transferable to an associate degree in manufacturing technology-industrial maintenance or to a bachelor’s degree, if a student wanted to continue his or her education while working in the industry.