The Packaging Industrys Struggle To Attract New Talent

09 June 2022

Written by Henry Spooner

The Packaging Industrys Struggle To Attract New Talent.

'Packaging is not sexy' or so I am told. When I recently attended Packaging Innovations 2022, I heard this exact phrase three separate times. I want to understand where this idea comes from. Why does the Packaging industry struggle to attract talent?

As part of the Irving Knight Packaging Team, we made our way to the NEC in Birmingham for an insight into innovation in the packaging space (and of course meet the wonderful people at the forefront of the industry). We discussed product innovation, consumer trends, and, naturally given my position, how companies have found hiring over the past 12 months. Most companies at Packaging Innovations were UK-based, but the concerns they shared with me were identical to those on the other side of the Atlantic in the US.

The hiring issue is multi-faceted, with a number of factors contributing to the talent shortage. From a recruiter’s perspective, these issues range from entry-level roles on the shop floor up to senior leadership positions.

1. The Packaging industry doesn't shout about itself enough. We’re talking about an industry at the forefront of innovation, finding ways to combat some of the planet's biggest issues and is essential for a huge proportion of brands in the world. And yet how many people coming out of school do you know that are considering a career in packaging? It seems crazy when you put it like that, but if packaging companies are hoping to attract more talent, new ideas are needed to reach out to young people more effectively.

2. Vocational jobs, in general, are being pursued less. Being a part of 'Generation Z' myself, I have seen first-hand the education system's push toward sending as many people to university as possible. This has left a much smaller pool of people who may have pursued vocational careers in manufacturing plants. Plus, with 56% of Generation Z saying they would quit a job that doesn't give them a suitable work/life balance, the idea of working shifts in a 24/7 facility holds very little appeal.

3. Hiring is still not flexible. At a senior level, there is a steadily narrowing talent pool within the market, likely continuing to constrict in the coming years. Surely then, it is common sense to be more flexible with requirements when it comes to hiring. Some companies seem to prefer to have no plant manager rather than a plant manager with no direct product experience - baffling considering the fantastic candidates out there, hungry to learn. A lack of flexibility pushes away potential candidates who would be an asset to a company and the industry as a whole.

Packaging 'isn't sexy', so maybe it’s time to look at what is. The trend I see within my peer group isn't quite as stark as the media would have you believe - supposedly, everyone wants to be an influencer. There is a strong draw towards software companies that are ‘trendy’, but it is our responsibility to highlight how exciting Packaging can be. Apple removing chargers and headphones with new iPhone sales? Packaging. Coca-Cola rebranding its entire product line? Packaging. Innovating waterproof coatings for paper products? Packaging.

Packaging is everywhere you look. Open your eyes, and all of a sudden it is actually quite sexy.