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Also known as plastic extruder operators, plastic machine operators, and plastic injection molders, plastic fabricators set-up and operate plastic producing machinery. Common job duties include verifying that machinery components are in place, checking plastic ingredient mixtures, documenting production quotas, and performing quality assurance checks on finished products. Working with high-speed machines in factories can be hazardous, and protective equipment is often worn to prevent injuries. These workers often work overtime, weekends, and evenings. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, metal and plastic machine workers earn a median annual salary of $34,080 as of May 2015.
|Degree Level||High school diploma or equivalent|
|Experience||Entry-level, but some employers prefer one year of experience in plastics manufacturing|
|Training||On-the-job training is often provided|
|Key Skills||Knowledge of computerized manufacturing machines; familiarity with computer-aided technology; strong understanding of plastic fabrication machinery (e.g., extruders, compacting machines, pressers and formers); ability to use maintenance tools (e.g. measuring devices, power tools and diagnostic equipment); possess physical strength, good stamina and excellent hand-eye coordination; willingness to work any shift|
|Salary (2015)||$34,080 per year (Median salary for all metal and plastic machine workers)|
Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), Job postings on Monster.com
Step 1: Earn a High School Diploma
Individuals interested in plastic fabrication careers need a minimum of a GED or high school diploma. While in high school, students might want to take advanced mathematics classes, such as algebra and statistics, since operators often need to understand mathematical formulas and ratios to run plastic fabrication machinery. Other potentially useful topics of study include electronics, blueprint reading, machinery, chemistry, technology and computers.
Step 2: Learn About Fabrication Technology
Many workers receive initial on-site training with fabrication technologies, but individuals might impress potential employers by completing related postsecondary coursework. Prospective plastic fabricators might choose to complete a machine operator certificate or vocational diploma program, some of which are specifically related to areas such as plastic extrusion or injection molding. Possible courses include quality control, plastic properties, plastics engineering, chemistry, machine set-up, blueprint reading, and machine fixtures.
Step 3: Complete On-the-Job Training
Newly hired plastic fabricators often go through a period of training that's similar to an informal apprenticeship program. During training, most fabricators start off doing easy tasks, such as cleaning up work zones, moving products, or loading machines. Through working with more experienced fabricators, professionals learn to adjust machinery, document production rates, and perform quality control checks. There are many types of plastic fabricators, and learning the duties of each position can take as little as a month or more than a year.
Some employers hire workers to do one specific job, such as plastic injection molding or machine set-up. However, employers might allow workers to acquire training in multiple areas of plastics fabrication. In the long run, plastic fabricators can make themselves more marketable by having the skills and training to complete multiple fabrication tasks.
Step 4: Build Experience
Many entry-level positions do not require experience, though employers preferred to hire workers with at least one year of experience in the fabrication industry. Additionally, professionals who want to move into more advanced positions with a wider range of responsibilities might need to build experience in the industry. In addition to experience, an undergraduate degree might be needed for management positions, but that varies by employer.
In summary, a high school diploma, knowledge of fabrication technology, on-the-job training, and the building up of experience is needed to be a successful plastic fabricator.