Yolanda Simonsis is a 38-year veteran of the packaging and converting industries. She has held past editorial positions with two former publications of Delta Communications and Cahners...more

For a Modern Workforce, It Requires TRAINING

Once again, the subject of "training" is hitting the headlines in America. Now it appears The Assn. of Packaging and Processing Technologies (PMMI), and the National Assn. of Manufacturers (NAM) are jumping on the bandwagon together.

In my last blog post on April 5, I referenced Jay Timmons, president and CEO of NAM with remarks he made on January 28, 2016, when he said, "Manufacturers want to hire, but many workers lack the skills—often the high-tech skills—we need."

In a current press release dated May 31, 2017, we learn from PMMI that it has signed on with NAM to support the reauthorization of the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act that's "designed to help Americans develop the skills they need to compete for high-skilled, in-demand jobs."

This isn't a partisan issue

The press release reports: "In 2016 the House of Representatives passed 'the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act.'" Believe it or not, this legislation was the result of a bipartisan effort in the interests of helping US students get skills they need to be successful in today's job setting. According to the press release, while the House of Representatives voted 405-5 to support the legislation, the Senate didn't even give it consideration!

The PMMI commentary agrees in full with the point I attempted to make back in April:

"Employers are reporting a shortage of skilled workers to fill in-demand positions. Modernized and relevant career and technical education (CTE) programs designed with the input of employers and responsive to the needs identified by labor market data, are central to overcoming this skills gap."

Glen Long, senior VP of PMMI, admits that his members are literally "struggling to find the right technical talent required to fuel the innovation needed in our industry. Programs such as Perkins CTE will go a long way toward ensuring our members, and the industry as a whole, have the right people with the right skills to move our industry forward and compete in a global market. We are proud to stand with NAM and support this legislation."

An Ah-Ha Moment

It took me a long time to figure something out when I was a younger editor trying to understand why technology seemed to move so slowly in the packaging and converting industry. But one day I came to a realization when I put some very basic facts together. Take packaging for tuna as an example. At one time tuna came packaged only in cans. Why? While flexible packaging eventually made enough innovations to permit offering tuna in this new packaging format, it didn't seem to catch on for quite a long time. I didn't understand why when flexible packaging just made so much sense from so many different perspectives.

Then I had an ah-ha moment. Just because an innovative packaging format comes along, there's no guarantee it will be instantly adopted. A big part of the reason depends on what a new packaging format is replacing.

Now imagine all those tuna canning lines with filling processes tailored to those cans. That's a lot of money invested in dedicated machinery. The company filling those cans will not likely abandon machinery they've spent millions to erect and install. . . at least not over night, even if newer technology makes all the sense in the world.

There's a period of time required for existing technology to play out its usefulness until new technology makes sense to replace it. And when it does, there's no going back. Sorry. That canning line expert has just lost his valuable expertise to the new person who knows how to run a flexible packaging F/F/S line. Hopefully that time-tested experienced person sought training to stay valuable to his employer. But sometimes employees take themselves out of the job market by refusing to get training. . . kinda like how it must have been when the buggy whip manufacturer lost out to the horseless carriage!

Once older packaging formats are replaced with newer technology, our experience has taught us that it affects more aspects than anyone can imagine. Manual mechanics have been replaced by sophisticated electronics that permeate a process from beginning to end.

Now we can be sad that someone was replaced by automated equipment, but that automated equipment still breaks down from time to time and requires the interference and skills of people who can get the line running again. That's where training comes in.

New legislation, says PMMI, should focus on areas where improvement can be made to current law, such as the following:

  • Align CTE Programs to the needs of the regional, state, and local labor market;
  • Support effective and meaningful collaboration between secondary and post-secondary institutions and employers;
  • Increase student participation in work-based learning opportunities;
  • Promote the use of industry recognized credentials and other recognized post-secondary credentials, such as the PMMI Mechatronics Certifications.

I applaud PMMI and NAM for their efforts and hope PFFC's audience provides support as well. I look forward to hearing your comments.

My friends call me


Subscribe to PFFC's EClips Newsletter