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Column/Opinion October 2, 2013

Futuristic Focus: Drive your student to manufacturing

JumPPstart initiative holds initial meetings outside Minneapolis and Milwaukee as part of a new effort to create student interest in packaging and manufacturing careers.
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In early September, my youngest daughter Cassie started her senior year in high school, while my grandson Dustin turned four. As I see it, one of my key roles in life is to help prepare them for a successful future. Could it be in manufacturing—perhaps even related to the function of packaging?

Perhaps, yet it’s pretty hard to get excited about working in a sprawling concrete business park. It’s pretty hard to “work for the man” when you see your own family members or friends get the ax after dedicating a good part of their lives to a company only to see it announce massive cost-cutting layoffs, shutter its plant, and send the jobs offshore.

“There’s a popular perception of factory work as dirty, hot, and boring, but the reality is machinery manufacturers’ plants are clean and air conditioned, with new machines and challenges every day,” says Timm Johnson, Vice President, Sales & Marketing, Spee-Dee Packaging Machinery (www.spee-dee.com), and PMMI’s Education & Workforce Development Committee Chairman.

PMMI (www.pmmi.org), the Association for Packaging and Processing Technologies, recently launched JumPPstart, an initiative that calls on members to come together to tackle what many see as a shrinking pool of qualified workers. PMMI is helping to organize JumPPstart groups nationwide—to be led by local volunteers—believing “it takes an industry to raise a workforce.”

Generating student interest in packaging and manufacturing careers is a noble cause, and I commend PMMI—and others—for their efforts. Over the years, my kids often displayed enthusiasm when they saw a new package on the shelf, telling me in an excited voice, “Dad, you should do a story on this.”

Maybe if students saw a YouTube video of how that product got into that package, it might pique their interest. Maybe if students knew they could make some real money, they’d want to know more. Maybe if they received class credit for participating in field trips so they could experience clean, bright, engaging manufacturing facilities, they’d consider a potential career in packaging and/or manufacturing. 

Packaging isn’t competing just with companies that make similar products or machines, or with other countries, it’s also competing against a myriad of career choices, many of which generate more natural appeal to students.

The first two JumPPstart meetings took place outside Minneapolis and Milwaukee. Richard Bahr, President & CEO, MGS Machine Corp. (www.mgsmachine.com), hosted the Minneapolis-area meeting. “Much of the training and infrastructure for education of people is in place, but educators struggle to create interest in their programs for new students,” says Bahr. “This has been a long-term problem that is getting worse—parents and educators steering children away from manufacturing careers.” Referring to JumPPstart, he says, “It’s a long-term strategy, but we must begin sometime—like now.”

To start a JumPPstart group in your area, contact Maria Ferrante, PMMI: 703/243-8555 or [email protected]

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