Workforce issues loom as a top concern in the flexible packaging industry. The challenges are parallel to those being faced by U.S. manufacturers in general.  A report from the Flexible Packaging Association points to four areas where member companies could find answers to workforce issues. Those areas are:

  • Establishing apprenticeships
  • Hiring military veterans
  • Hiring from abroad
  • Finding educational support

A report from the FPA examines each strategy’s plusses and minuses. It also includes an extensive list of connections to organizations with services to support workforce development programs. The report is titled Flexible Packaging Industry: Addressing Workforce Issues. It is available from FPA for members.

The concept of setting up apprentice programs is a case where the old is new again. Employers gain benefits by training skilled workers in areas that focus on a specific industry’s needs. The report says that apprenticeships can yield increased productivity because they also help employers strengthen their on-the-job training programs.

Veterans are a valuable source of workers. Many of them share three traits that translate well into civilian job needs. They share the military training, a work ethic, and the military’s goal-oriented culture. The FPA report points also points to challenges in using this strategy: First, finding veterans often means new recruiting routes. Then companies have to translate military skills into civilian job needs. Finally, companies have to build a military-friendly image.

Hiring from abroad is an expensive, time-consuming process. It is only reasonable for high-level staffers, primarily for jobs that require technical competency, says the report. It goes on to caution that—in addition to the costs involved—companies need patience. They have to recognize that “it will always take longer than anticipated.”

A key in building educational support is to create a sector-wide strategy. It involves defining skill sets; only then should an industry launch education programs to address specific needs such as those faced by converters. The report says that good programs also build alliances with educational groups such as community colleges. 

The 95-page report is available from FPA for members. For more information, email