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A Very Promising New Decade for Recruiting

By AICC Staff

March 12, 2020


Over 180 students who are annually enrolled in North Carolina State University’s paper science and engineering program began taking mandatory corrugated packaging and design curricula this past spring and fall. The new curricula was initiated by ICPF’s recent award of a CAD table and Impact design software. The software, installation, and training were donated to ICPF by Arden Software. (Photo courtesy of the North Carolina State University Department of Forest Biomaterials.)

As I began writing this column in January, another recruiting season for upcoming 2020 college graduates and student interns for the summer and fall had already begun. The opportunities for recruiting new graduates into our industry has been expanded dramatically over the past 10 years. During this time, ICPF developed new formal partnerships with an additional 20 university partners and used its educational partnerships and social media to expand its outreach beyond packaging engineering and packaging design students to include majors and minors in marketing and sales, business, supply chain management, graphic design, chemical engineering, industrial engineering, mechatronics, mechanical engineering, and related disciplines. ICPF also grew its existing programming to engage approximately 1,000 students annually. As a result, during the past eight years, ICPF has maintained 700 to 1,100 current students in its corrugated packaging career network who have specifically indicated an interest in a corrugated packaging and displays career. Annually, there are many more students and new graduates interested in securing an entry-level position or student internship than there are related openings in the industry. In fact, in reviewing the hundreds of openings ICPF’s Corporate Partners have posted over the past several years on ICPF’s Career Portal, there has been a remarkable average of seven “qualified” applicants for each opening.

The flip side of the process is that companies need to have formal plans in place to successfully convert this volume of potential student recruits and applicants into employees. In this regard, I have seen significant strides that have been taken by some companies in order to compete with CPGs and other industries in recruiting new graduates for the future. For example, numerous firms have started or expanded their student internship programs as a way to identify, evaluate, and most importantly, cultivate future employees. Many firms have centralized their college recruiting process or otherwise streamlined their internal interviewing and recruiting process. Their executives recognize that the old practices of not contacting applicants within several days after they apply, or not conducting interviews and selection on a timely basis, will always result in losing applicants to other firms. For two years in a row, several of these same companies have begun posting openings for upcoming grads on ICPF’s Career Portal as early as August, a full nine months before the graduation season. In addition to utilizing ICPF’s Career Portal, Résumé Bank, and its other recruiting resources, many companies have begun actively participating in college career fairs. (Visit ICPF’s website calendar at for the list of college career fairs.)

ICPF’s board of directors, its members, and its Corporate Partners that financially support ICPF’s educational and outreach initiatives, take great pride in the role ICPF has played and continues to play in “generating a stream of increasingly qualified students to enter the corrugated packaging and displays industry.” The following are highlights of some of ICPF’s contributions to this industry effort during the past decade:

  • Jump-started, created, or expanded 19 corrugated packaging programs at U.S. colleges and universities.
  • Established and maintained formal partnerships with 27 colleges and universities across the United States. ICPF annually provides speakers, mentors, plant tours, equipment, and software.
  • Placed over $12.75 million of CAD tables, presses, and corrugated testing equipment at colleges and universities across the U.S. to educate students in the concepts and skills needed for a corrugated packaging career. Millions of more dollars in design software additionally have been provided by ICPF to universities through the generosity of Esko and Arden Software.
  • Over just the past year, developed, negotiated, and entered into agreements with 10 universities for an additional million dollars of ICPF equipment and financial awards for the upcoming three years. Some of the elements of the new initiatives include creation of three new corrugated packaging design labs, funding for additional corrugated faculty at four universities, introduction of sales and business into packaging courses, launch of corrugated packaging curricula in two paper-science engineering programs, creation of a program to promote corrugated packaging to attract high school students into university packaging programs, introduction of digital printing on two campuses, expansion of a packaging design program to include evaluation and testing of corrugated materials, creation of new packaging degrees and certification programs for undergraduate students, and expansions of existing corrugated testing and packaging design labs.
  • Expanded and enhanced the annual interactive Careers in Corrugated Packaging & Displays Teleconference, which has grown from an average of five schools and 85 student participants to regular annual attendance by over 500 students from 18–20 campuses. ICPF’s Teleconferences in February 2019 and February 2020 each drew a record 20 campuses with over 500 students participating.
  • Launched the Careers in Corrugated Packaging & Displays Social Network that annually has 700–1,100 students and upcoming graduates who have joined to specifically pursue student internships and careers in the corrugated packaging and displays industry.
  • Launched the Careers in Corrugated Student/Executive Dialogue Dinner to enable exceptional students from across the country who have demonstrated a desire to enter the corrugated packaging industry to learn more about the industry and its careers through one-on-one dialogue with corrugated packaging executives.
  • Through ICPF initiatives and resources, enabled the annual recruiting of well over 100 new graduates and students interns into the industry. In 2019, ICPF enabled and assisted in the recruitment of over 130 student interns and new graduates into the industry through ICPF’s Career Portal, Résumé Bank, Teleconference, Student/Executive Dialogue Dinner, Corrugated Packaging & Displays Social Network, campus presentations, and additional initiatives.
  • Promoted and expanded the use of ICPF’s corrugated curriculum among colleges and universities around the country to support real-world corrugated instruction. The curriculum that was developed by ICPF and Michigan State University was made available to AICC’s education committee to assist in the development and launching of AICC’s Packaging University. ICPF’s corrugated curriculum is accessible from ICPF’s website.
  • Developed the annual Holiday Weekend in New York into a unique and successful fundraiser. The 2019 New York event this past December broke both the previous year’s fundraising and participation records. The past 12 events have combined for a net revenue of over $1.44 million to support ICPF’s educational initiatives and outreach.
  • Over the past decade, annually secured an average of $600,000 in new corporate pledges and donations that will support ICPF’s educational initiatives into the future.

For more information on available recruiting resources in 2020 and into the new decade, visit or email

width=150Richard Flaherty is president of the International Corrugated Packaging Foundation.

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