The FLiP Files: Hillary Coombs – Westminster Tool
For those who grow up in the plastics industry, some may feel inspired to try something new. But for Hillary Coombs, the vice president of Westminster Tool, she finds new and exciting opportunities regularly within plastics manufacturing.
When she was six years old, Hillary’s father began Westminster Tool, located in Plainfield, Connecticut, in their basement. Throughout the years, Hillary began to help out with the business and then, as the company grew, she began working at Westminster Tool during summer breaks.
Even with this hands-on experience in the plastics industry, Hillary did not see herself going into the family business when she was younger. As a teenager, she saw a future in the sleek and popular fitness industry. But as an adult- her first job with a chemical instrumentation company made her realize that “plastics and manufacturing are everything. It is in every product every person uses every day.”
This realization made her want to join the team at Westminster Tool. She now works alongside her father, mother, aunt, cousins, and fiancé. She now feels that it is in her family’s DNA to remain a part of the plastics industry.
Hillary sees the appeal of joining the plastics industry. “At Westminster Tool, we have 20 year-olds on the team who are buying their own homes – making more money than I did when I started out after graduating with a four-year degree.” Hillary advises all industries to think about what the younger generation wants: “The younger generation is not as concerned about title and money as they are about making an impact.”
Hillary realizes that the plastics manufacturing industry is at an interesting crossroad – many companies are struggling to find qualified and skilled workers to fill job openings. In her opinion, “it is not just a time for the plastics industry to change – it is a time for every industry to change and adapt to what the younger generation wants. We need the people and we need the next generation of workers to fill these jobs.”
Westminster Tool directly engages the next generation of inventors through the MakerSpace Program at local elementary schools. In addition to providing funding for the program, Westminster Tool team members volunteer at events and bring students in to share in the fun of solving a MakerSpace challenge. This collaboration shows students how MakerSpace directly correlates to a career in manufacturing. The team at Westminster Tool also helped the Eastern Advanced Manufacturing Association develop an Introduction to Plastics Program in partnership with two local community colleges and the local workforce investment boards.
The time is now to make an impact in the plastics industry, especially with the industry’s heightened focus on sustainability initiatives. According to Hillary, “there are drawbacks to plastics, but there are benefits too. What a time to join this industry, since we are recreating the chemistry of plastics and making it more sustainable.”
To those who want to create and innovate, Hillary recommends looking into the plastics industry. After all, “some people don’t understand that these small plastic pieces are a vital piece of their daily lives and these pieces are constantly changing. Plastic is a part of our lives. It isn’t going anywhere.”
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 with Hillary Coombs, vice president of Westminster Tool.