Josh Forrest, a 30-year-old mold process technician at Protolabs, didn’t know what he wanted to do after high school. That’s why he jumped at the opportunity to learn about the plastics industry through a job at Protolabs before investing in a college education.
“A lot of my friends weregoing to college and the idea of a four-year school didn’t sound appealing to me,” Josh told us. “I wanted to learn a trade, and I’m so happy that I got in at Protolabs to see how the plastics industry worked before I made any decisions.”
Once at Protolabs, the company taught Josh the skills he needed for his job—and encouraged him to further his education once he knew what he wanted to specialize in. “When I got hired at Protolabs, I had the opportunity for the company to send me to get my molding certificate from Hennepin Technical College,” Josh said. “Having worked for Protolabs for a year and then going to college, I feel that gave me a big step above some of the other students that were just starting in the industry.”
At Protolabs, Josh has had the opportunity to be a part of an industry that is rapidly growing and evolving. “I get the chance to work with people that have been doing this since [the80s] and they tell me how making a plastic part back then was with nobs and buttons,” Josh told us. “Fast forward to today, we have touch screen on all the presses and all of our presses are electric.”
Most importantly, though, the industry is not slowing down—rather it is continuing to change and adapt, utilizing new technologies and creating products that will solve tomorrow’s problems. As Josh said, “I would encourage young people to work for the plastics industry. I believe the plastics industry is going to be around for a long time, and if you get the opportunity to start at an entry level job, there are so many career paths that you could take.”
With nearly five million manufacturing jobs expected to open over the next 10 years, manufacturers are saying “creators wanted” and the manufacturing industry can create well-paying careers that encourage lifelong learning for millions more men and women like Josh.