FLEXO: You work with plates—What drove you to that specific part of the industry?
Gasque: I really love a good challenge and I feel that plates are one of the biggest challenges in flexography. They have so many variables directly around them from screening to polymer formulation to their fragile handling. My internship at sgsco also started me off right by getting me addicted to the smell of photopolymer.
FLEXO: One of the biggest takeaways from the FTA Generational Study was a large majority of students studying package printing—83 percent—felt completely unprepared for a job. How did you feel when you started at your first job?
Gasque: Even though my degree did a great job preparing me, I still felt unprepared when starting my full-time position at Clemson five days after graduation. You feel like you must retain all the knowledge taught to you in classes, but you know you aren’t even close to having it all down. I soon realized after college that the purpose behind many classes isn’t necessarily to make you memorize a bunch of knowledge, but to train your brain in a certain way. With the advent of the internet and the advancements in technology we have today, knowledge is right at our fingertips at a moment’s notice. So even though I felt unprepared, I was ready to rock and roll.
FLEXO: What do you think is the biggest misconception about young people in this industry?
Gasque: I think the biggest misconception is that the younger generation is lazy. Yes, many young people are lazy, but if they are investing themselves into this industry, I know they are not of the lazy kind. This is not an industry that has the most attractive appearance to it, so if they are here, then they want to be here. The young people are eager to learn and help this industry become even better than what it already is today.
FLEXO: Much is made of the age gap in the workforce, and the friction between younger and more veteran workers. Is there any truth to that?
Gasque: I think the younger generation has a desire to work with and learn from more veteran workers. The veteran workers have so much experience that younger generations simply haven’t had the chance to absorb because of the advancements of technology.
I also believe that young people coming out of school bring fresh ideas. If we can work together, we will have a workforce that can handle anything thrown at it.
FLEXO: What can human resources managers and company executives do better to attract young talent to their organizations?
Gasque: I think a fear that young talent has when looking at jobs is that they will get stuck in a job where they are bored. Let them know the exciting challenges they will face working in your organization. Create work environments that are inviting and new. Show them the opportunities, the different positions they could hold within your organization. I have seen that most of the young people I have worked with do not like staying still for too long.
FLEXO: Why is it important for young people to stay connected to peers of a similar age through groups like the FTA Emerging Leaders Committee?
Gasque: When you go to industry events, you may observe that there is indeed an age gap. You may look around and feel alone as a young person, but fear not—We are here! Experienced flexographers have built an amazing industry and we are forever grateful. The FTA Emerging Leaders Committee is here for its members to support each other, but more importantly to make sure the industry has a bright and successful future as we “emerge” as leaders.
FLEXO: Any advice or words of wisdom for any young flexographers reading, or students studying flexography and package printing?
Gasque: You will be amazed at how much this industry needs you and the knowledge you bring. Life is full of different seasons from highs to lows. The low seasons are the ones that shape you and mold you into the strong, wise person you are meant to be. Take advantage of the opportunity to learn. I look back at my college years, my career path and even the past few weeks, and I can see how every season has shaped me into the person God designed me to be. So, embrace whatever season you are in right now knowing that you will come out a strong and wise person, which is what the industry needs.
The FTA Emerging Leaders Committee brings together young flexographers to participate in problem-solving work groups, tackle unique projects on an as-needed basis, network with peers, gain an inside look into FTA structure, and have an opportunity to serve the profession in a leadership capacity in the near future. To join, contact FTA Director of Content & Digital Strategy Brad Pareso.