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By LINDSAY OLIVIER
NORTH KINGSTOWN â Congressman Jim Langevin continued his Rhode Island Skilled Economy (RISE) tour in North Kingstown Tuesday morning when he visited Toray Plastics where Senior Vice President of Engineering at Toray Plastics, Shigeru Osada provided an overview of the company and how it is helping college students learn about the engineering field.
For the past few months, the RISE tour has taken Langevin to a variety of venues to address closing the skills gap and strengthening the stateâs economy.
Toray Plastics (America), Inc. is a subsidiary of Toray Industries, Inc., the world leader in synthetic fibers and textiles, carbon fibers, plastics, chemicals, pharmaceuticals and high performance films. The global headquarters are in Tokyo, Japan and the 77-acre North Kingstown location is responsible for manufacturing oriented polyester and polypropylene films marketed to the magnetic tape, food packaging, capacitor and industrial markets.
The shiny aluminum on the inside of many popular food bags, such as Frito Lay and Sun Chips, is manufactured at the N.K. location. The lining is both a moisture and oxygen barrier to keep food fresh.
âItâs high technology that goes into making that film and it just gets thrown away,â laughed Osada.
Toray has 200 subsidiaries and six divisions and is located in 19 countries with more than 35,000 employees and net sales over $20 billion.
âYou have really become part of the global economy,â Langevin said of Torray.
Toray has become the sole supplier for the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, manufacturing the film lining that is stronger than steel and lighter. Itâs something Osada is very proud of.
Langevin also experienced the newly finished three-acre solar photovoltaic (PV) field consisting of 1,650 PV panels. The panels generate 400 kilowatt (kW), 0.6 percent of the needed 100,000 kW needed to run the plant.
Another key element to Langevinâs visit was to learn more about Torayâs involvement in the Capstone Project, an initiative it participates in to help student interns from the University of Rhode Island on their final undergraduate project. Additionally, Toray sends employees to participate in URIâs college Science and Math Investigative Learning Experiences (SMILE) Program, which introduces students in the fourth through 12th grade to the science, technology, engineering and math, otherwise known as the STEM fields.Â
Langevin has introduced legislation to create an Innovation Inspiration School Grant Program that creates a grant process for states and schools to fund STEM programs.
The congressman asked Osada if Toray was having trouble finding skilled candidates for their company.
âNo,â Osada said. âMore often than not, we hire some of the interns. Weâre not looking for the highest qualified person. They just need to be eager to learn and passionate about the field, the training comes easy.â
âIn a time of high unemployment, I repeatedly hear from businesses that are hiring but cannot find workers with the skills to meet their companiesâ needs,â said Langevin, who also co-chairs the bipartisan Congressional Career and Techincal Education Caucus. âItâs nice to hear that Toray isnât having that issue.