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Engineers outlook: Continuous learning fuels growth in packaging engineers’ careers

David Bellm

January 29, 2014

3 Min Read
Engineers outlook: Continuous learning fuels growth in packaging engineers’ careers

Packaging professionals have access to a myriad of continuing educational resources that are critical to staying relevant. It’s too easy for packaging pros to realize after years of the daily grind that they are severely limited because they allowed their knowledge base to stagnate.

It’s each packaging engineer’s imperative to continue building on their broad undergraduate education by identifying areas to develop competence that will complement their technical or managerial career paths. Current options include:

Advanced packaging degree
A great way to specialize in a specific technical area by building in-depth knowledge and, potentially, engaging in cutting-edge research. Curriculums are offered by a few universities including Michigan State University and the Rochester Institute of Technology, and generally have flexible schedules to accommodate working professionals. Although graduates are not specifically recruited for their advanced degrees, employers (including Adept Packaging, which has a number of engineers with advanced degrees) appreciate graduates’ added competence to deliver on technical projects.

Project management degree
Empowers a professional to lead all four non-technical components of most packaging project: resources, time, finances and scope. This skill set of critical thinking and analytical tools complements a technical background. As the industry evolves there will be growing demand for technical professionals who can manage large, complex projects.

MBA/management degree
Facilitates a granular understanding of packaging’s impact on cross-functional aspects of the business. An MBA can also be leveraged to initiate a career change into marketing or other disciplines for a career path into corporate management.

Process certification
Six Sigma courses are frequently offered by local colleges or on-the-job by some companies. These tools are extensively utilized on packaging projects to improve targets (cost, production, efficiencies, etc.) and are valuable to employers.

Seminars, conferences and tradeshows
An important resource to stay abreast of new developments or gain a high level understanding about a specific technology. Events maybe industry or technology specific and are presented at by brand owners and suppliers to facilitate a comprehensive overview. For example, Adept Packaging presented at the Institute of Packaging Professionals Packaging Summit earlier this year along with presenters from Coke, Microsoft and Mattel. Events are generally organized by industry organizations, such as IoPP or PMMI, and widely publicized through trade publications.

Supplier outreach initiatives
An underutilized but powerful resource to build in-depth working knowledge in a technical area. Supplier outreach initiatives can range in duration from a few hours to multiple days. These programs often disseminate detailed technical information about a supplier’s area of expertise. A converter, for example, might offer classes about materials, such as films, foils, bottles, sprays or paperboard. Most large suppliers offer established courses or would be happy to organize a session. A packaging engineering firm could offer programs about cold-chain packaging, user-driven innovation or managing workload using external resources. 

With access to so many resources, packaging engineers should set annual goals and plan to continually grow their knowledge.

Prateek Lal, author of Engineer’s Outlook, is the managing director of Adept Packaging (www.adeptpkg.com), an international packaging engineering firm. For more information, email [email protected].

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