Employing some 85,000 people and with sales in excess of £11 billion, the packaging industry is a vital UK business sector and without modern packaging, many products could simply not exist.
In an era where consumers demand the widest range of goods, advancements in technology are ever accelerating, and environmental damage must be limited, the industry has never faced more challenges.
However, as Managing Director of one of the UK's leading packaging companies, I can say from first-hand experience that the packaging industry is constantly battling against flawed perceptions, particularly amongst young people. In comparison to more 'glamorous' industries, such as automotive and aerospace, packaging is often seen as repetitive, tedious and dead-end. However, dated views like this couldn't be further from reality.
As an area which is very much in the public eye, packaging companies are currently placing a huge emphasis on creativity and innovation, and graduates who enter the industry are always presented with new challenges, as well as being given a lot of freedom to be imaginative and resourceful.
The milk bottle market is an example of how quickly the industry is moving. Demands for environmentally friendly packaging, which is still fit for purpose, led Nampak on a four year journey to create the Infini bottle - the world's lightest and strongest plastic milk bottle. The success of the Infini bottle could never have been realised without the drive and new ideas of young people in the company.
The packaging industry is full of exciting challenges such as the one that led to the creation of Infini. So, communicating what the industry is actually like today and dispelling old myths has never been more important.
With all of this in mind, Nampak is aiming to bridge the gap between the packaging industry and students through schemes such as our latest Design Challenge. Through this initiative, Nampak is encouraging students to develop new sustainable packaging products that display innovation excellence and forward thinking. For outstanding ideas there is the possibility that the product will be developed and brought to the market. And for students who show a real passion for the project, as well as a strong work ethic throughout, there is the potential to be offered a summer internship with us.
The importance of reaching out to students and engaging them in this way cannot be underestimated. It is an opportunity to show them the scope of the industry that they otherwise might never have known about and this is a crucial step in changing the way the packaging sector is viewed.
Follow Eric Collins on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@infinibottle