Throughout the country, there are many prominent businesses who have, over time, become synonymous with their particular town or local community. In some way, shape or form, everyone in that community has a connection to the business. In South Euclid, Ohio, Rochling Glastic Composites has been that company since 1951.
“We are a sort of institution within South Euclid, which literally grew up around us,” says Fred Sanford, vice president and general manager at Rochling Glastic Composites. “Many of our employees grew up around the plant and interned with us before embarking on their careers in composites. Because of this legacy we have enjoyed a close relationship with the city government and we work to maintain those close relations.”
Sanford describes the company as “a family of families,” with many employees having children in a local high school in the area. This network, he says, allows Rochling to pass down generations of home-grown composites manufacturing expertise and enthusiasm. This past month, two high school seniors, Jack Kukla and Cameron Lucas, had the chance to experience what a career in composites looks like during a weeklong internship at the company.
However, Kukla and Lucas did not get a typical intern experience. Instead, they worked directly with Rochling Glastic employees to learn everything from the pultrusion process to the company’s software engineering programs used to make precise composite parts.
“I got the chance to see the types of problems engineers have to solve, and the variety of ways they can go about solving them,” said Kukla. “I was enthralled by the degree to which the individual engineering disciplines interconnect within a manufacturing setting.”
Generating interest among young students is important, especially as manufacturers all across America struggle to attract and retain talent due to, among many reasons, the widespread stigma attached to manufacturing jobs. According to a recent survey by the National Association of Manufacturers, while many Americans believe in the value of manufacturing to the country, many parents do not want their kids pursuing careers in it.
“For sure, [students] don’t view manufacturing as a glamorous place to establish a career,” says Sanford. “They all want to work at Google, or Amazon, maybe Microsoft. But we do cool things. Yes, fiberglass comes with the characteristic smells and itchiness we’ve come to know, but when [students] see how the processes actually work and where the products are all used, it becomes very exciting. They’re very interested to learn about it, which makes it fun for us. And they have great insights and questions.”
Kukla, who will head to the Ohio State University this fall to study mechanical engineering, says his experience at Rochling has made him open-minded to the idea of pursuing industrial engineering as well.
“I certainly feel as though my interest in engineering was only augmented by my experience at Rochling Glastic,” says Kukla. “Based on my positive experience at Rochling, given the opportunity, I would certainly consider pursuing a career in industrial engineering.”