FTA Emerging Leaders Committee Chair Jason Cagle Gives Young Flexographer’s Perspective

While still a student at Clemson University, Jason worked at the Sonoco Institute of Packaging Design and Graphics as a research assistant (pictured here assisting in the 2014 FLEXO Magazine Cover Project).

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?

Cagle: I felt very prepared when I started my first job, but that was because of the extracurricular projects I was involved in and opportunities I had while at Clemson. Being involved in those opportunities help set me up, but a lot of what I learned in the position I am in today is from being out in the field and having a great mentor—my boss, Brian Cook—within MacDermid.

I think students feel unprepared to enter the workforce because they believe they need to know everything possible before starting. I’m not sure why this is the case, but it isn’t true at all! Companies look for students who are willing to learn and give 100 percent effort. They don’t expect you to have all answers and if they do, you’re working for the wrong company.

FLEXO: What do you think is the biggest misconception about young people in this industry?

Cagle: I read an article talking about millennials in the workplace and it said we have no loyalty to companies. I think that is completely bogus! Melissa Lavigne-Delville, the founder of research firm Culture Co-op, says a recent survey showed 55 percent of millennials named 10 years as the ideal length of time to stay at an employer, even as very few of them actually do stay that long. Today, the digital world provides so much information at a high rate of speed that it’s not that we are less committed, it’s that we have more information at our fingertips. If young people in the industry feel valued and recognized within their organization, they will be less likely to leave.

This is something MacDermid has done a good job with. While I have my direct responsibilities, the company allows me to be involved in key meetings that may not relate to my direct responsibilities, and it values my opinion on important business decisions. This is just one example of a company showing recognition to the younger generation. Richard Branson said it perfectly: “Train people well enough so they can leave, but treat them well enough so they don’t want to.”

For his large body of work in connection with FTA, made all the more impressive when considering his short tenure in the industry, Jason received the 2018 FTA President’s Award at Forum 2018’s Awards Banquet. “Receiving the President’s Award was such an honor and surprise,” Jason says. “I look up to and have a high respect for the other men and women that have received this award, so to be a part of this club with them, is a great privilege.”

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?

Cagle: There are always cases where there is friction between young and veteran workers. I think this friction comes from the misconceptions the younger generation has received. We can’t point fingers at either generation because I’ve seen it caused by both sides. What we can do, though, is bridge the gap by keeping an open line of communication between the differences in work styles (cue the soapbox music).

FLEXO: What can human resources managers and company executives do better to attract young talent to their organizations?

Cagle: This is something that is discussed frequently within our organization. I believe the younger generation cares more about the value and environment of the office and company than it does perks. While free lunches from time to time, gym memberships and company cars are nice, I think millennials put more value on working for companies that have a great office environment—both the people and the way the office feels—than they do perks. With so much of our time spent working, we want to feel proud of the office we go to everyday and know that management cares about the people who populate that office.

Because this a popular topic, I frequently discuss it with another “emerging leader” at our office, Meghan Mullaney (marketing associate). Because we are both driven, young professionals, it’s nice to be able to bounce cultural ideas off one another. She says that to better attract young talent, companies should promote more company-wide functions that are outside of actual work. She made a good point that you are with these people 40, 50, 50+ hours a week, and the younger generation wants to get to know them as individuals and not just as co-workers.

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?

Cagle: Staying connected with other young professionals allows the opportunity to network and obtain advice from other people in the same career stage. Sometimes, in this industry, it can feel a bit discouraging because of the age gap. When you have friends who work in other industries and constantly interact with people the same age as them, and you hear about it, it can make you feel a little jealous. Staying connected to peers of similar age affords the chance to network with people who understand what it’s like to be at your stage of your career in real time. While it is still important to network with older individuals and gain their advice, it’s nice to be able to also do it with someone who’s not twice your age.

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.