– Working in the Label Industry –
Young talent experience testimonials Technical background of Label Design and Label Engineering Interviews with Industry Leaders
#LABELicious – Interview with Chris Ellison, FINAT President
Attracting young people for the label and packaging industry and keeping them within the industry – this is one of the most relevant tasks for companiestoday. Chris Ellison, President of the association FINAT, tells us why working in the label industry is especially exciting and challenging for 18 to 25- year olds,and talks about other hot topics in print right now.
What is your view the biggest attraction of working in the label industry for the youngest generation of talents (roughly 18 to 25 year old)?
Chris Ellison:It’s a fantastic industry which gives young people the perfect opportunity to express themselves in print.Young people need t
o be challenged. They like to make a difference and to innovate. Look at the movements within the packaging industry at the moment. It is an industry where there is constantly a challenge but constantly an opportunity to develop. If you look twenty years back at the innovations, it is incredible. Young people wantto do something meaningfuland to be challenged and they are influenced by technology,in everything they do. Which means they expect thisin their careers. Thiswonderful industry responds well to challenge, through innovationsand change. This is a real benefit in our industry: You don’t just need printing skills, creative skills or graphic skills. You can also come into this industry with other skills like in the IT, engineering or in marketing.
What has changed in comparison to twenty years ago?
Chris:So much has changed: machinery, packaging types, and materials and so on- the industry in general is moving to a much faster pace. Even the way we do business has changed: many years ago, I used to write letters. Now I send e-mails and everything is done online. Innovations and change enable us to keep with up the requirements.
Is there an industry and organisation type you would compare ‘working in the label industry’?
Chris:That’s a tough question! Probably the automotive industry because it is also so complex. In the automotive sector every single vehicle which goes down the production line is different. Almost all vehicles are unique, individualised to one person’s preferences. Our industry is similar: As withthe automotive industry label printersfollow a process of manufacture and have to control the product that it is produced usually bespoke tothe demands of our client.
OPM hasseveral production lines but every single product that we manufacture is different and in most cases individual- in line witha brand’s desire to express themselves differently from their competitors. A printed labelcan have many different properties like colour, embellishment, functionality, file, connectivity etc – all very similar to the automotive industry.
What is the biggest challenge for businesses, active in the label industry, to create the most inspirational, motivational and ‘fitting’ work environment for future talents?
Chris:It is all about empowering and engaging people, what motivates them and what doesn’t… what personal hopes and fears and dreams drive their attitudes and engagement.Young people like to work with the latest equipment, the latest gadgets, smartphone etc. What we have to do is to create an environment where people are challenged and where they are working with the latest equipment and materials, enabling them to deliver innovative ideas.
Are there any specific initiatives within your organisation to attract next generation talents?
Chris:I am a great believer that people makethe difference in the business.Thus, within OPM, we have an educational programme which enables people to progress through our business at all levels, from shop floor, all the way through to management, updating the skills base continually.With a dedicated path way which keeps people engaged with the business and excited about the prospects for the future. In any case, I am happy to say that our colleague turnover is very low. By keeping people happy and excited to be here, we retain knowledge, which is a benefit for the business.
What is the barrier to entry?
Chris:Most positions require a high level of skill and knowledge, which requires a period of learning. This means that entry level pay usually reflects this, so this requires patience and understanding of the benefits that grow over time. What can be gainedis a long-term career, which keeps pace with technology and the world arounditto make a difference.When I was 21 years old, it was important to earn money. Now I suppose kids are in a slightly different position. Many young people stay in education much longer. They are much more selective about what they want to do. If they don’t like doing it, if there is no excitement, or the rewards are not immediate they don’t stick with it.
And in packaging it’s about career choice wewill always need a way of packaging goods and identifying and promoting goods. There will always be a need for packaging. The convertersjob is to identify the latest opportunity, innovate new productsand deliver them to the brands. All in all, in one word, I would say to my 21 self, it is a huge world of opportunities in labels and packaging.
Why should the young generation participate at the #LABELicious competition?
Chris: The Labelicious competition helps encourage young people to take up careers in the exciting world of labels and packaging. It is a great opportunity for students to showcase their great ideas and solutions directly to an industry, which is looking for rising stars. Because it showcases our industry and what we do best. Print tells the story of a brand. Print is everywhere and it touches everyone every day. We need to make the industry as visible as its products.We have a fantastic global industry and we have competentyoung people. We should be proud to embraceyoung talented people as a prime example, of whatcan be achieved working in our industry. The best way to demonstrate the opportunities available is to the younger talent is through engagement: Asking what is your (most innovative) idea for labels for 2025?
One last question in one word: how would you describe “working in the label industry to your 21 year old self in one single word?
Chris: “Opportunity! ”
We have a fantastic global industry because labels and packaging are absolutely everywhere. We have an opportunity to think about our industry and to innovate. We have an opportunity to improve the environment but also the lives of people which use our packaging. We have an opportunity to really line up ourselves with some fantastic global brands. We can work on a product this week and manufacture it next week. It is in the shops the week after and advertisement on tv the week after that. It is an ultimate way: the product gets consumed and then the consumer needs another one. It is a self-repelling industry giving an opportunity for almost everyone to express themselves.