Toray shapes workforce with educational, career-development programs

STANDING OUT: Gerry Marzilli, safety and training coordinator at Toray Plastics (America), gives a training session focusing on Occupational Safety and Health Administration safety notes from the previous year. / PBN PHOTO/MICHAEL SALERNO
STANDING OUT: Gerry Marzilli, safety and training coordinator at Toray Plastics (America), gives a training session focusing on Occupational Safety and Health Administration safety notes from the previous year. / PBN PHOTO/MICHAEL SALERNO

Toray Plastics (America) Inc. | Workforce Development & Productivity

Toray Plastics (america) Inc. has successfully molded plastic products for industries ranging from automotive parts to food packaging, in part because it also takes diligent care in shaping its workforce with educational and career-advancement programs.

Lisa Ahart, vice president of corporate human resources and environmental health and safety, said Toray’s engineering-development and leadership-training programs are the “standout” reasons it earned a PBN manufacturing award.

The company’s engineering development program educates its new shift-engineers about the company’s departments, helping to identify where their talents might be best applied in the future. Toray’s leadership-training program, developed with the University of Rhode Island using a Real Jobs Rhode Island grant, includes curriculum to train employees as mentors who can cultivate the leadership skills of other employees.

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“These programs stand out as symbols of who we are, our workforce-development philosophy,” Ahart said.

The curriculum Toray helped develop at URI for its engineers and others concerns “not just academics but practical career-development skills,”Ahart said.

With a similar goal in mind, the engineering-development program, which started in 2015, offers new company engineers knowledge of the workings of departments within the organization to which they might only have limited exposure, such as the sales division, she said. It gives them a better understanding of how their work fits in with those other divisions and shows where they might find the right fit in a future promotion, whether it be in sales, management or a particular engineering discipline.

Toray Plastics (America) Inc., which launched as part of the Toray Group’s family of companies in 1985, boasts it is currently the only U.S. manufacturer of precision-performance polyester, polypropylene and metallized and bio-based films that produces 190 million pounds of film for flexible and rigid packaging and lids, and graphic, industrial, optical and electronic applications nationally and internationally. It employs 600 at its polypropylene film division in South Kingstown, which the company notes is a leading global supplier to the automotive and flooring industries.

Ahart is an example of the R.I. division’s success with workforce development. In her 15 years with the company, she has been promoted four times. Other companies, she said, don’t seem to value the human resources department as an integral part of their operations. “Toray sees human resources as a business partner,” she elaborated. “We can’t be successful without all the lines working together.”

Senior Human Resources Manager Rhonda Arsenault, an employee of that department for 10 years, said in 2017 alone, four of the 12 candidates in the URI leadership-development program became mentors, and two of the five employees who participated in the company’s engineering-development program have been promoted. One employee, Toray engineer James Ota, she said, has earned a “significant” promotion as a result of the program.

In the summer of 2015, Ota interned at Toray while attending URI. The following semester, his senior year, he continued as a part-time intern until graduation. He was hired full time as a Toray engineer in the summer of 2017, just two years after starting at Toray.

“What was great for me was that while going through their engineering-development program, it was really good to experience other areas of the business I wouldn’t have seen otherwise, to understand the different applications of the products in the real world. I learned I would like to work in sales someday. I learned my personality is a tool in my tool box that I have.”