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The FLiP Files is a blog series spotlighting young professionals who are active in PLASTICS' Future Leaders in Plastics (FLiP), a group for plastics professionals under the age of 40.  For this FLiP File, we spoke to Tom McGwire, product manager at Industrial Heater Corp. The company is most widely-known for – you guessed it – industrial heaters! The heaters are used for applications ranging from extrusion to perfume manufacturing and nuclear waste disposal.  Read on to learn more about what makes Tom excited about the industry.

-How did you find yourself working in the plastics industry?

Industrial Heater Corp. is a family business, in fact, it has been in my family for four generations now! I joke with people that I have worked in plastics on and off for 15 years because I started bending tubular heaters during summer break in high school.

-Has anyone in the industry mentored you?

Absolutely! Last year during the FLiP mentorship program, I was  paired with Jason Forgash of Bay Plastics Machinery. It was a great experience to learn from someone who has been in the industry for decades, and who also comes from a family business background. This year I gained a new mentor when I was paired with Steve Petrakis through the FLiP mentorship program. We meet regularly to discuss my everyday challenges and long term goals, it has been a very rewarding experience!

And, of course I can’t overlook my grandfather and dad who have always been there to offer encouragement or bits of advice along the way, too!

-Describe in one sentence what you do on an average day.

On an average day you can find me working to identify practical manufacturing solutions for our supply chain, production teams and customers.

-What do you like most about working in the plastics industry?

I have a lot of pride working in plastics because of the important role the material plays in our everyday lives – the sophisticated world wouldn’t exist without it! Not to mention, our product saves lives and vastly improves standards of living.

What’s one thing about your personal life that you feel has been changed by having a career in plastics?

Working in plastics has inspired me to be more conscious about the environment than I ever was before. At Industrial Heater Corp, we value sustainability and we work with other environmentally friendly industries. Because of this work, I know the importance of recycling, and I am the friend that is always encouraging others to recycle.

-What are the major challenges you think are facing the plastics industry today? How do you think the industry can overcome them?

Workforce development is certainly a  major issue that we hear about a lot. Many high school and college students mistakenly perceive manufacturing to be low income, unhealthy, and uncool. Unfortunately, they do not realize how high-tech our industry has become, how clean manufacturing is, and the breadth of opportunities there are for a prosperous career.

We’re working hard to change this perception, encouraging younger generations to join our workforce through efforts like Manufacturing Day. But, there’s  always more we can do – especially when it comes to highlighting the types of positions available in the industry.

-Why do you think someone from your generation should consider a career in plastics?

Our generation likes to know “why?” They want to know how their job is making the world a better place. They want to know that they are truly making a difference in their companies. If they can see how they add value right from the beginning of their careers I think they are more likely to join and stay in the industry for a long time.

-What’s one plastic product you couldn’t live without?

There are so many useful applications of plastic – medical devices, car parts, food packaging, the list goes on! But I still don’t think I could envision a world without sunglasses, I have a massive collection and don’t leave the house without a pair!