No Industry For Young Talent - The Noel D'Cunha Sunday Column

By 16 Jun 2018

Today, the print and packaging industry contributes to world brands. But is there a deficit about how it handles talent on the production shopfloor?

What is the relationship between the young generation and the industry? Three technologists assess.

The Sunday Column tries to understand how small-scale, decentralised firms can create a buoyant system of production

Sulochana Pathak: “The pay-scale in the printing and packaging industry is below average”

sulochana

Sulochana Pathak is a BE in Printing and Packaging Technology. Her project was streamlining the manufacturing process of CFB POP displays. Presently, she is working as a management trainee in business development.

PWI: Is your job meeting your expectations?
SP: Yes. It did. I am getting to know a lot of things which is beyond what I'd studied during my engineering years.

PWI: Industry leaders are complaining that they are not able to tap top talent fresh out of print and packaging college. Is their complaint valid?
SP: I think it is completely valid because there's a lot of uneven distribution of opportunities as well as the talent. Talent meeting opportunity or vice versa is a rare case. 

PWI: In what way?
SP: Firstly, refined talent is difficult to find due to the outdated syllabus, and inexperienced faculties. We are nowhere near what is currently deployed in the industry. Moreover, an application-based occupation of knowledge in the syllabus is missing.

PWI: How so?
SP: For example, the printing and packaging field is vast with so many branches (packaging: polymer, paper, textile, glass, composites; and printing: screen, pad, offset, etc). We are not technically aware of these things when we enter the industry. This results in a lack of clarity about which field should be chosen. Thus in some cases, good talent fails to match their aptitude in the industry.

PWI:  What does the industry look like to you from the inside as compared to when you were a student?
SP: As engineering students, we thought ours is an organised and a highly employable industry with a lot of opportunities. Now as a part of this industry, there is no doubt that there's a lot to learn but we realise our industry is not as organised as it appeared. Also, the pace of development and innovation in India in this field is very slow. We need optimum utilisation of the available talent and take up initiatives for improvements along with moving towards sustainable packaging solutions. This is what I find missing in the Indian industry.

PWI: One problem is: women tend to take up roles like finishing, bindery or admin which tend not to present clear progression into higher-paid supervising or managerial roles. Can this gender bias be remedied?
SP: Being a part of this industry for more than a year now, and having worked in factories, I have been impacted by all these biases. Please note, I am not trying to sound pessimistic but I feel this is a deep-rooted problem and it would take a long time to completely solve this. The factories are located in rural areas. And a majority of people are not used to following the commands of a woman manager. This questions the managerial quality of the women and thus they do not qualify to be at higher positions. There is a hope of solving this issue by hiring educated people (including women) into the key factory positions. Currently, a lot of officials even at managerial level in factories are not well educated or they are orthodox for the lack of a better word. This brings in a women-biased mentality which restricts the growth of potential women in production and shopfloor related work.

PWI: Do the people at the top of the pyramid know the genuine pain-points of the staff at the bottom? For example, can one take some of the strenuous activity out of the printing process?
SP: As I mentioned, ours is an unorganised industry. Therefore, it becomes difficult to streamline processes. And it is impossible to have an in-house supply for everything. This leads to dependency for most of the things and hence strenuous activity. The people at top of the pyramid should understand and in some cases, they are sensitive too. But until there is a streamlining in this industry, the scenario won't change or improve.

PWI: What would incentivise people to work in the print and packaging industry?
SP: Packaging is an important aspect of any product. But when we look at an FMCG industry as an outsider, and the packaging part has the least priority. There are many companies that do not have a packaging department. It is just about procurement and purchase. I think we are much more than this. The industry itself has not realised it. The work that is done remains unappreciated. Hence, a little recognition would boost morale and self-confidence.

PWI: Anything else?
SP: Yes, the pay-scale in the printing and packaging industry is below average. 

PWI: Investment in staff has to be a must but having spent over 20 years in the trade, many skilled staff are leaving because they feel unappreciated and underpaid. How do you think this situation can be remedied?
SP: The printing and packaging industry in India is stagnant in terms of innovation. This leaves no room for development wherein the experience can be absorbed and valued. With the kind of talent we are getting, we could team up the technical education along with the experience and create a book about this industry. I think documentation and info-outreach is a need of the hour.


 

Justin George: “People have to cease thinking that women can't take up the roles that men execute”

justin

Justin George is a BE in Printing and Packaging Technology. Project expertise: process control for manufacturing in the printing industry. Justin George was a client service representative (CSR). When asked if the job met his expectations, he said:  “Yes, it did meet my expectations. Actually, it offered more than what I had expected. It was a great experience and certainly helped to develop many management-level and other professional qualities over and above the regular knowledge that one would receive at work."

PWI: Industry leaders are complaining that they are not able to tap top talent fresh out of print and packaging college. Is their complaint valid?
JG: Yes, their point is valid. What I have observed is that the theoretical knowledge that we receive during the degree course is a thin layer of what the industry actually needs and seeks. We would be able to match the expectation of the industry experts only if we get hands-on experience. But freshers are rejected at most places. This hinders our growth. Industrial experts need to realise that after graduating from printing and packaging background we are worth giving a shot because our foundation is strong and we would require less time and efforts to rise up to the expectations.

PWI: What does the industry look like to you from the inside as compared to when you were a student?
JG: The industry is huge. I had no clue about this while I was a student. The perspective I had on the industry and the reality is totally different. For example, in some cases, we have been taught about the requisites of a process, but that are the complexities encountered while achieving them and how to tackle them required hands-on experience in the industry.

PWI: Was your dream job realised?
JG: I haven't still realised my dream job. There's still a lot to explore. For now, I would like to work at the consumer end.

PWI: One problem is: women tend to take up roles like finishing, bindery or admin which tend not to present clear progression into higher-paid supervising or managerial roles. Can this gender bias be remedied?
JG: Women should demand higher paid opportunities based on their qualifications. Also, they should confidently present with their calibre and clout. The mindset of the industry leaders needs to change. People have to cease thinking that women can't take up the roles that men execute. A revolution is required.

PWI: Do the people at the top of the pyramid know the genuine pain-points of the staff at the bottom?
JG: As far as I have seen, only a few companies' higher staffs take the efforts to know the problems encountered by the lower level staffs. All they care about is maximum output. People at the top should take a keen interest in knowing what happens at the lower levels to improve and bring improvements for increasing the qualitative and quantitative progress of the firm. Regular team meetings, frequent assessments, and maintaining a transparent and enjoyable work environment should be encouraged and implemented. 

PWI: What would incentivise people to work in the print and packaging industry?
JG: Most of the population are not aware of this field, especially about the educational scope that it offers. The huge scope, the innovations that happen, the creativity that the field demands, the vast opportunities, all these needs to be socialised to encourage the young generation to work in the printing and packaging industry.

PWI: What about employee focus?
JG: The current working employees of the field should be encouraged by timely appraisals, respect and acknowledgement for the efforts that they put in to help the industry.

PWI: Investment in staff has to be a must but having spent over 20 years in the trade, many skilled staff are leaving because they feel unappreciated and underpaid. How do you think this situation can be remedied?
JG: Promotions, increments and appraisals are done as per company's policy. People work to get paid and it's obvious that they would expect and demand timely appraisals and increments for the experience they have and the efforts they put in. Employees should be acknowledged in a fair way for the work they do. Apart from this, an enjoyable work environment with frequent interactive sessions will help build affection with the firm.

PWI: Does this hold true for the gen-next as well?
JG: Today's young generation is very innovative and quick on the uptake. Companies should be willing to take up freshers and train them under experienced people. This will help to cope up with the loss incurred on losing an experienced employee.


 

Vishal Shetty: “This industry doesn’t require any professional course of engineering”

vishal

Vishal Shetty is a BE PPT. His project was streamlining the inventory of a pharma packaging converter company. Currently, he is a market development associate.

PWI: Did your job meet your expectations?
VS:
 I didn’t have any expectation to be fair. I was open to any challenge from my qualification perspective. But the main objective of my life is still untouched.

PWI: Industry leaders are complaining that they are not able to tap top talent fresh out of print and packaging college. Is their complaint valid?
VS: I believe this industry doesn’t require any professional course in engineering. Majority of jobs are about operating quality. This can be done by following certain SOPs. The main thing which is required is a skill. Knowledge of polymers, designing, chemicals will help squeeze innovation in this field.

PWI: What about the pedagogy of print?
VS: What we have learnt is just how printing and packaging work but not about the new possibilities that can be created from it. And talking about talent it’s a student’s personal ability to get the things done which is in-built in them. It is not boosted by this PPT course.

PWI: In what way...
VS: As a student, I knew XYZ stuff is produced by ABC company. However after coming into the industry, it’s not only about producing and selling, it’s about how to work in order to get the things done. For example, interdependency, trust building, prevention of counterfeiting, etc, to make things happen.

PWI: What does the industry look like to you from the inside as compared to when you were a student? Was your dream job realised?
VS: I'm not yet sure what my dream job is. All I know is, I want to do something where I can provide a solution. And when people think of me, they have a smile on their face.

PWI: One problem is: women tend to take up roles like finishing, bindery or admin which tend not to present clear progression into higher-paid supervising or managerial roles. Can this gender bias be remedied?
VS: I haven’t seen any of my friend in that department. It’s a male dominant country and women are weaker by default. Unfortunately, this is fed in our brains from childhood. I believe it’s the women who have to take a stand to stop this gender-bias game. I know the society is very cruel. Hence this is where we need to give our support, not by giving them quota or reservation but by standing beside them. And then it's up to her on what kind of job she prefers. If a woman aspires to be in a top post she can definitely achieve it.

PWI: Do the people at the top of the pyramid know the genuine pain-points of the staff at the bottom? For example, can one take some of the strenuous activity out of the printing process?
VS: Where I’m working there is no hierarchy. But our industry must have an open-door policy. The top management must be aware of the problems faced at the bottom.

PWI: What would incentivise people to work in the print and packaging industry?
VS: Good pay, medical insurances, working shifts. I see it just like any other job where one works hard, enjoys the work and ensures one’s family is stable.

PWI: Investment in staff has to be a must but having spent over 20 years in the trade, many skilled staff are leaving because they feel unappreciated and underpaid. How do you think this situation can be remedied?
VS: With twenty-plus years of experience, if they are underpaid and not appreciated they must have left that company long ago and started their own small press or become a consultant. If they were working under me I would have rented my printing machine to them. Also opened my press in different locations and made them in-charges. These days, one has to think out-of-the-box.


With editorial inputs from Sujith Ail. If you have a comment or feedback to the Sunday Column, please write to sujith.ail@haymarketsac.com


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