Stephen Scopelitis is one of those fortunate people who found a career he loves with a great close-to-home company. After spending some time in the pharmaceutical and cosmetics industries, Stephen and his degree in chemical engineering found the perfect place at Shawnee Chemical in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, where he works as a sales account manager on the kind of smaller team he prefers.

Why is a chemical engineer in a sales position? Take a look at how he describes his days: “My job is to visit new and existing customers to discuss current products, any production issues, and what will be needed in the future.” It takes a chemical engineer to speak the language of such a technically complex world.

The world, in general, is one of the great perks of working in the plastics industry, according to Stephen. “Through customer visits and conferences, I’ve visited more than twenty cities in just a few years,” he said. “I appreciate seeing places I wouldn’t have visited otherwise.”

Access to expertise

Shawnee Chemical being a small and mighty operation, another benefit Stephen has enjoyed is mentorship that comes straight from the top. “Our president, David Peters, is one of the founding members of PVC development and has been involved in sales, research and promotion of PVC for nearly fifty years” Stephen said. “He’s one of the best sources of PVC information anyone could want and is always glad to share his knowledge.”

Among the smart moves Peters has made for his company is membership in PLASTICS which, among many other benefits, has given Stephen the opportunity of participating in Future Leaders in Plastics (FLiP), our professional development initiative for member-company employees under the age of 40. “I’ve known about FLiP since starting in plastics, but this is the first year I’ve been involved,” Stephen said. “FLiP has put me in touch with people that I wouldn’t contact otherwise, so I get to learn about their sector of business. This could lead to collaboration, or just interesting conversation.”

Challenges and opportunities

Among the conversations the up-and-coming generation of plastics professionals are having is one about the various challenges facing the industry. Stephen cites not controlling sources for raw materials and relying on import/export as a particular concern. “We saw from the pandemic that any disruption sets the supply chain towards failure, yet most manufacturers rely on single sources that are not under their control,” he explained. “Or everyone shares a single source because of pricing or availability, and then any delays create industry-wide shortages.”

Issues aside, Stephen heartily recommends that young people in search of careers take a serious look at plastics as their path to the future. “Plastics aren’t going away,” he said. “We are always finding more uses for plastics, and more challenges to address, like expanding recycling and extending the working life of plastics. R&D and manufacturing will always have openings for new employees.”

Where does Stephen get his most personal satisfaction from plastics? Behind the wheel. “From sealants, interiors, bumpers, seats, cables, dashboard panels, airbags, coatings and more, cars are more plastic than ever,” he said. “This makes them lighter, safer, more efficient, and longer lasting.”

“And we don’t have to worry about bumpers rusting like our parents and grandparents did,” he added.

PLASTICS and the Future Leaders in Plastics (FLiP) Committee are devoted to supporting and encouraging the next generation of plastics leaders who will play a crucial role in the innovation, technology and future of the plastics industry. FLiP’s mission is to provide young professionals under the age of 40 the exposure, education and resources they need to build lifelong careers in plastics. Want to join? Want to get your employees involved?  Email: flip@plasticsindustry.org

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