Brandon University has a problem. The Canadian university’s science and engineering department, like many across North America, provides hands-on demonstrations to visiting school kids in the hopes of interesting them in science careers. One of the most popular demonstrations is electroplating, in which students watch pennies seemingly turn into silver and gold.
The problem is with one of resources, and we’re not talking about silver or gold. The Canadian government officially retired the humble penny in February of 2013. With the one-cent piece no longer in production, the university faces a penny shortage, to the point where the university asked Brandon’s citizenship to donate pennies to the dean’s office.
Building the Next Generation
Brandon University’s looming penny crisis reminds us how important university and science class demonstrations are to the electroplating industry. In order to remain competitive with electroplating industries in other countries (including Canada), the U.S. electroplating industry needs to catch young people’s interests.
Electroplating offers careers for graduates at all levels, from high school diplomas to post-doctorates. An entry-level production position only requires a high school diploma and a willingness to undergo on-the-job training and safety instruction. A high school graduate with no interest in pursuing post-secondary degrees can enter the electroplating workforce with an average salary of $32,000 a year.
Post-secondary degrees in engineering and chemistry qualify graduates for careers as process engineers and technicians. Research and development positions require similar degrees, with job growth looking positive in all areas.
Filling Electroplating Careers
Hiring employees for the processing floor is rarely difficult, but the nation faces an increasing shortage of students entering engineering and scientific disciplines. Demand for qualified engineers, for instance, is so high many companies look outside of the United States for employees.
We can’t let this trend continue, especially in today’s more competitive global economy. Quite frankly, the U.S. economy lost the luxury of resting on its laurels at the turn of the century. Encouraging kids to enter the sciences is necessary for future growth, for the country in general and the electroplating industry in particular. Electroplating demonstrations have a magical, almost alchemical nature to them when done right, leaving kids interested in learning more about the field.
The industry can help, with in-class visits and demonstrations, if nothing else (while site visits might teach kids a lot, the nature of the chemicals we work with makes such visits impractical). And remember, if nothing else, we have an advantage over Canada now – we still have pennies.