FLEXO: “Dirty/low-tech” was one of the most common phrases chosen by millennials in the FTA Generational Study to describe package printing. Working at a printer, why do you think young people have that perception?
Hendry: Pressrooms today are high-tech and sophisticated working environments, unlike printing facilities 20 years ago. Modern flexo presses are equipped with robotic systems, automated wash-down cycles, programmable ink viscosity controls, and computerized registration and impression adjustments. These press advancements have dramatically improved pressroom operations and create a need for a skilled workforce to troubleshoot and solve complex problems.
FLEXO: The commonly held belief is that young people are more likely to move horizontally—from one company to another—than vertically—within their current company. Earlier this year, you moved from printing process engineer to printing leader at TC Transcontinental Packaging. What led to that job change?
Hendry: My first job as process engineer was a position that was created when I was brought on board with Coveris. I spent my first year developing ways to make our facility run more efficiently. When our company experienced several organizational changes, it was a natural progression for me to step into the role of printing leader since I had learned much about the processes and employees. It was a tremendous opportunity that has offered new types of challenges, as well as personal and professional development opportunities.
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?
Hendry: In addition to Clemson’s strong graphic communications program, my two internships, along with my teaching assistant role for Clemson’s flexographic class, gave me the confidence I needed to help me feel prepared for my job.
FLEXO: What do you think is the biggest misconception about young people in this industry?
Hendry: I frequently hear that millennials are lazy and entitled. This is a misrepresentation of young people in the workforce; we work differently than other generations. I think we are more likely to accept and drive change in organizations when it comes to thinking outside the box and initiating process improvements. I ask a lot of questions and enjoy re-thinking processes and systems.
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?
Hendry: There is some truth to that, but I think this is a common challenge across all industries. Young people need to be respectful of the veteran workforce while the veterans should be open to new ideas that can push the company forward. Younger employees can bring new, innovative ideas to a workforce, but veteran workers offer valuable experience. Blended workforces bring diverse culture and fresh ideas.
FLEXO: What can human resources managers and company executives do better to attract young talent to their organizations?
Hendry: I think companies can attract young talent through career fairs, guest speaker opportunities and industry conferences. I was introduced to Coveris in my senior packaging class. One of the company’s senior executives was a guest speaker and we connected after the class. I spoke with him about my interests and we discussed potential opportunities at Coveris.
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?
Hendry: Since the newer generation does bring a different perspective than the veteran workforce, it is good to have people who are likeminded and who you can bounce ideas off and give/receive advice.
FLEXO: Any advice or words of wisdom for any young flexographers reading, or students studying flexography and package printing?
Hendry: Work hard in your class or workplace. Do not be afraid to ask questions. Know you will make mistakes but the important thing is that you learn from them. Make sure to pay attention to detail, as it is imperative in this field. Be willing to share your own ideas, but also be open to ideas and constructive criticism from others.
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.