An industry-wide workforce study conducted by FTA and Avenue M last year gives insight on the challenges of attracting and retaining workers in the flexographic industry. With more Millennials and Generation Z workers rising through the ranks, what unique difficulties does the flexographic industry face?
The study answered this question and more. The idea was to collect industry employment market data to help bolster FTA’s position and attract the next generation within the workforce.
Avenue M conducted 33 interviews and collected seven questionnaires. Audience segments included company owners, managers, HR professionals, educators, and young and seasoned flexographers. Avenue M also conducted an environmental scan, compiling publicly available research, data and trends related to the package printing industry, US economy and labor market, demographics in the US, education and mentoring.
According to the report, personalization, changing consumers preferences and the integration of digital technology are expanding growth for package printing in the US. Changing consumer preferences and advances in digital technology and automation are expected to drive growth and opportunities for package printing companies “to deliver more customized, high-quality labels faster and will reduce manual labor that printing companies’ staff are typically required to perform.”
When it came to the labor market, the environmental scan revealed two barriers to growth for US companies: multiple job changes throughout a career and a lack of qualified workers. This has the potential to affect young people entering the labor market, who could assume there are not enough stable positions and career advancement opportunities in package printing.
Regarding demographic trends, the report states that although the demographic makeup of the workforce is changing, organizations and companies are slow when it comes to removing barriers to entry and creating advancement opportunities. Companies that embrace these changes “may find themselves well-positioned to attract and retain the next generation of professionals.”
According to the report, a growing youth population means there may be a need for more affordable, entry-level training and education. In order to attract and retain Millennial and Generation Z workers, companies may need to re-examine how entry-level employees contribute to decision-making in the workplace, and managers and supervisors will need to understand what motivates the next generation of professionals.
The study found more students are enrolled in trade schools, with the number of apprentices and bachelor’s degrees having increased in recent years. But those wishing to increase their skillset outside of a traditional four-year, postsecondary program have many options to choose from. In addition, the increasing cost of postsecondary education may influence some high school graduates to seek alternative educational or training opportunities.
The study also looked at the importance of mentoring, which has evolved into creating relationships that match individuals with others who have the skills and knowledge they need. Mentorship is expected to continue playing a crucial role in career advancement, although women and minorities may find it difficult to match with a mentor within the workplace, according to the report. When seeking and accepting a new job, individuals may consider the experience and opportunities for career advancement, as well as the level of diversity and inclusion.
For companies in the flexographic industry, recruitment and retention are top challenges, with contributing factors including:
- Lack of awareness of the industry among students and recent graduates
- Low unemployment rates
- Scarcity of flexography education programs
Technological advances in flexography can be difficult to keep up with, but are also a source of excitement.
“With the future looking so bright—smart packaging, interactive packaging—it’s only going to get more appealing and more sophisticated as we move on. That would lend itself to a modern workforce that has been raised by disruptive tech,” said Paul Teachout, one of the experienced professionals interviewed for the study.
Interviewees suggested FTA can support recruitment by:
- Increasing outreach to high school students and administrators, and other educational institutions
- Promote and increase awareness of the industry overall
- Offer specialized education and more specific training related to the printing process
- Attend career fairs and host regional events and a job board
The Full Report
FTA members can access a copy of the report, “Workforce Recruitment in the Flexographic Industry,” in the MemberConnect Toolbox.