For the UK print and packaging industry to remain one of the most successful in the world, more needs to be done to secure the next generation of talent.

As a leading supplier of machinery to the corrugated board, folding carton and flexible materials markets, BOBST believes strongly in encouraging young people into the industry and developing existing employees to future-proof the sector.

UK print and packaging makes a significant contribution to the country’s employment and economy, turning over tens of billion pounds each year and employing more than 116,000 workers. Britain is the fifth largest print producer in the world, adding more relative value to the economy than any other manufacturing sector.

The industry also represents an advanced skillset across the board, from shop-floor operations, designers and manufacturers to machinery suppliers such as Bobst UK & Ireland. This knowledge, expertise and quality has earned the UK print and packaging industry an outstanding global reputation, leading to strong commercial success at home and abroad.

It’s therefore easy to see that such an important sector must have all the support it needs to continue to thrive, and succession planning through the development of workers is key to this.

An obstacle arises however in that, while print and packaging provides excellent opportunities and career paths, many jobs in the field remain unfilled. This is despite a 4.3% current adult unemployment rate in the UK, suggesting a lack of public awareness of all the industry has to offer.

To improve this recognition and encourage young people into print and packaging careers, formal talent channels must be formed. Although this is made less straightforward by a lack of direct higher education routes into the sector, businesses are nonetheless in a powerful position to attract and develop employees, securing the sector’s future and enabling succession planning.

Bobst UK & Ireland for example is tackling this issue through the company’s apprenticeship programme, with nine apprentices having completed education and work experience over the past seven years. Apprenticeships are an effective way for organisations to encourage new talent into the industry and mould a skilled successive workforce, offering young people paid training and businesses new team members. This training is subsidised by government schemes, giving workers and businesses a mutually beneficial solution.

But future-proofing the sector doesn’t just depend on getting people into the industry, it also relies on keeping them there. Print and packaging operations demand a high level of expertise and serious investment is required to deliver this training. When employees leave, this investment leaves with them, creating a skills gap that cannot be quickly filled.

People stay in jobs when they feel valued and developed, so training is crucial to re-engaging workers by improving their abilities and giving them the pride and confidence to do their jobs well.

Many businesses however do not have the resources to provide this education in-house and the print and packaging industry has limited options for formal, independent training - creating problems with employee retention and motivation. This is a rapidly evolving sector with fast-paced technology advances that see new machines constantly developed and introduced; without the confidence to operate this machinery, workers are more likely to leave. As well as short-term operational difficulties and expense, this turnover causes huge concerns in terms of skill shortages with insufficient trained staff to carry out duties and pass on expertise to the next generation workforce.

To address this issue BOBST invests heavily in training and retention, providing staff from shop floor workers to business leaders with ongoing education in areas such as industry, personal accomplishments and leadership. The success of this approach can be seen in BOBST’s average employment duration of nearly 20 years.

The company also leads the sector in providing the third-party training that is so lacking, bridging expertise gaps to boost employee efficiency and retention with its multi-tiered training programme. This caters for all levels of seniority, skills and abilities and provides a mixture of practical and theoretical study to improve abilities and encourage job satisfaction. The company believes that this training allows other organisations to avoid a skills shortage both in the short-term and further down the line, as well as benefitting from more competent workers and saving on recruitment costs.

This level off staff investment is crucial to succession planning - developing and retaining talent to keep the UK print and packaging industry among the best in the world. Organisations must commit to promoting the opportunities offered by the sector and attracting future generations of workers through channels such as apprenticeships, while also recognising the importance of investing in the ongoing training of existing staff.


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