Closing the Gap
Posted on Tuesday, May 30, 2017
By Kevin Biller
Ohio State University recently published a study
in the journal, “Proceedings of the National
Academy of Sciences,” which says that the
average age of scientists has increased significantly in
the last few years. They observed that the mean age
of scientists has increased from 45.1 to 48.6 between
1993 and 2010. What’s more, the share of workers
55 and older almost doubled between 1994 and 2010
from 17 percent to 33 percent. This conclusion was
reached by analyzing data of about 73,000 employed
scientists in the United States. The primary reasons
for this trend, according to the research, focuses
mainly on the aging baby boomer generation,
employees retiring at a later age, and a sparser influx
of college graduates entering scientific fields.
Looking around our industry, it’s easy to see the
same trend. Amble into most powder coating labs
and you will find an abundance of senior researchers.
This issue was explored by Paul Mills in his article
in Powder Coated Tough (Nov/Dec 2015 Buyer’s
Guide issue) entitled, “The Brain Drain in Powder
Coating.” Mills pointed out that nearly 58 percent of
powder coating suppliers have top management and
engineering employees who are likely to retire in the
next five years. Furthermore, more than 50 percent of
them do not have sufficiently trained replacements to
fill their inevitable vacancy.
The graying of the powder coating industry
personnel is a reality and steps need to be taken to
stem the tide of our aging workforce. I’m pleased to
report that the Powder Coating Institute and member
companies have made an investment in attracting new
The PCI Scholarship dates back to October 2012,
when the then Technical Committee conceived the
establishment of a scholarship program to support
and attract students interested coatings technology.
With the support of PCI’s Board of Directors, the
committee forged specific criteria to rate candidates
for scholarships, which included the following:
- Course of Studies
- Specific Studies/Projects Related to Powder
- Future Goals and Career Objectives
- Unique Qualifications/Goals
- Letter of Recommendation
The scholarship program concept was submitted to
the board where it was enthusiastically received and
immediately supported. The next step was to raise
funds to provide money to award deserving students.
Approximately $20,000 was raised, which funded the
program for the first two years.
The first scholarships were awarded in 2014 to
two student researchers from North Dakota State
University and a polymer engineering student from
the University of Akron. The Akron student, Suba
Janardhanan, was working on polymers for powder
coating heat-sensitive substrates. The following year
we also awarded three students, this time all from
Eastern Michigan’s Polymer and Coatings Technology
master’s program. Atman Fozdar was granted a
scholarship award for his work on conductive primers
for medium density fiberboard (MDF), designed for
low-temperature cure powder coatings.
One of the most rewarding aspects of this
nascent program is that the 2014 and 2015 major
scholarship winners are now working in the powder
coatings industry. Recently, Janardhanan was hired
as a chemist for a powder coating manufacturer and
Fozdar took a position at a coatings consulting firm.
In 2016, the PCI Board of Directors brainstormed
additional avenues to raise funds. They arrived
at the concept of allowing corporate members to
make donations to the scholarship program and
identifying a scholarship with their company name if
the company annually donated a minimum of $5,000
to the program. The response from PCI member
companies was rapid and encouraging. Three PCI
member organizations, Nordson Corporation, Gema
USA and Axalta Coating Systems, made commitments
to support the scholarship program.
One of the most rewarding aspects of this
nascent program is that the 2014 and 2015
major scholarship winners are now working
in the powder coatings industry.
For 2016-17, a total of six scholarship awards
were given. PCI’s General Scholarship was awarded
to two students from Eastern Michigan University;
Nordson awarded one scholarship to an Ohio
University student; Axalta Coating Systems awarded
one to a student from the University of Houston; and
Gema USA recently presented two scholarships, one
to a student from Purdue Polytechnic Institute and
another to a student attending Indiana University-
Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI).
While studies may show that the technical
workforce in our industry is aging, PCI and the
generosity of its member companies have the
foresight to provide the means to close the gap
between the older generations in the workforce and
the emerging technologists entering industry.
To learn more about the PCI Scholarship Program,
Kevin Biller is technical editor of Powder Coated
Tough and the president of The Powder Coating
Research Group. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.