LMC Niles campus leader in plastics

Published 3:20 am Wednesday, March 29, 2006

By By ANDY HAMILTON / Niles Daily Star
NILES - Plastic companies in the area know where to look for employees; Lake Michigan College.
The Bertrand Crossing Campus is the home of the only plastics technology program in southwest Michigan and northwest Indiana.
LMC's board of trustees Tuesday evening were given an overview of the program and its facilities by plastics technology instructor Steve Bubanovich. The board meeting was the first held in Niles since the college hired new president Dr. Randall Miller.
LMC's plastics technology program started in August of 1998 with nine students. A year later, the school hired Steve Bubanovich to lead the program. Today, 70 students are enrolled in plastics courses, with 35 taking plastics-specific classes at Bertrand Crossing.
The program trains students in processing a variety of plastic materials and prepares them for jobs as process control technicians and industrial maintenance technicians, among others.
Bubanovich said the plastics program is divided into three learning sections.
Students spend one-third of the time in class doing book work, one third of the time doing interactive training and simulation in the computer lab and the final one-third of the course doing hands-on work in the shop.
Bubanovich said a survey conducted by a manufacturing association in Indiana states a two-year plastics technician graduate could expect to earn between $32,000 and $47,000 per year. Plus, a technical engineer or manager could earn between $55,000 and $90,000 per year in the field. The study also concluded that 10 to 15 plastic technicians are needed in the area every year.
The industry picked up in the early 1970s and, as a result, there is a need for workers in the industry, Bubanovich said.
Bubanovich also said the Michiana area ranks in the top 10 in the nation for plastics employment. “We're right in the middle of the action,” he added.
There are at least eight companies in the area that have employed graduates from LMC's plastics technology program, including Aucilla, Inc. of South Bend and Pilkington in Niles.