GAINING SOME SWEET KNOWLEDGE
CTC students learn how iconic candy Ring Pops are made at local facility.
SCRANTON — The smell hit Hunter Riiff as soon as he walked in the door.
A lot of it.
“Wow, that smells good,” the 18-yearold said.
Riiff, of Clarks Summit, is a senior with the Career Technology Center of Lackawanna County and one of about a dozen students who recently toured Topps’ Ring Pops plant in Scranton to get an inside look at how the iconic candy is made.
Topps opened the doors to its Poplar Street plant so students studying for a trade could look at the factory floor of local manufacturing and, hopefully, convince a few to apply for a job, plant manager Tom Shermanski said.
Over the course of about an hour, Shermanski ran through some specifics of how Ring Pops are made — from electronics to the building utilities needed to maintain low humidity and keep the candy from getting too sticky.
“What you’re learning in school, very real,” Shermanski said. “And we’re using it every day.”
Gears hummed and whirred. Automated machines dipped plastic rings into molds of hot mixtures of sugar that, when cooled, are packaged into plastic hundreds of times a minute. Crushed excess candy, blue raspberry on Tuesday, dusted the floor like sawdust in a lumber yard.
The tour was part of a slate of programs the CTC employs to leverage the presence of local manufacturers to place their students in jobs, CTC Cooperative Education Coordinator Matthew Zampetti said.
For instance, CTC has a cooperative education agreement with Cardinal LG, an Archbald subsidiary of a Minnesotabased laminated glass producer, Cardinal Glass. The agreement allows some students to spend their afternoons at the facility working on the company’s equipment with Cardinal’s maintenance team while drawing a paycheck.
Shermanski said Topps is looking for full-time employees and would hire 18-year-old students as parttimers, if they apply. Before the students arrived, Shermanski quipped that the tour would end with a job application.
“I hope the kids take away that there’s opportunity out there,” Shermanski said. “It’s important to understand that you don’t need to leave (the area) to find a good job.”
Most of the students who toured had no idea that Ring Pops are only produced in Northeast Pennsylvania, even though they grew up with them. Riiff said he used to wear a different flavor on each finger as a child.
He got another opportunity to do so. The tour ended with a bucket of Ring Pops.
Tom Shermanski, plant manager of Topps’ Ring Pops plant in Scranton, takes Career Technology Center of Lackawanna County students on a tour Tuesday.