Paper Industry Shifts should not be too Discouraging

There is a shift in reality for the paper industry that is largely due to a global economic impact. The processing of paper and its needs are changing. This may be considered the most dramatic shift in future job outlook for emerging professionals and in product usage. There is an evident change from written language to digital coverage.

Dave Eckmann, economic development specialist at the University of Wisconsin- Stevens Point, said students should still be encouraged by the paper industry’s potential for opportunity despite the dramatic shift.

The paper industry is changing due to a global economy that involves more industry competition and use of macroeconomics. It is downsizing to become more efficient, just one of the many reasons we see a closure of paper mills across the nation.

Photo by Emily Hoffmann. The New Page paper mill in Stevens Point

Photo by Emily Hoffmann.
The New Page paper mill in Stevens Point

Eckmann does not see a direct impact for students, though he notices an indirect effect with closures of mills like the ones in Whiting and Wisconsin Rapids. With this, Eckmann notes that there is an adverse economic impact for people in the industry.

These changes in the paper industry may sound frightening to those wanting to or thinking of becoming involved, but Eckmann gives reasons for students to not shy away from the field. He explains that with shifts in the industry, there will come a need for new minds to create value from industry waste. As it turns out, UWSP may just be the place for molding these newly developed intellectuals.

Eckmann offered his praise for the programs at UWSP that teach students to be business minded, as in the School of Business and Economics, Division of Communication, and the paper science and engineering program at the College of Natural Resources.

“When you leave here, you don’t stop learning. You continue to hone your skills,” Eckmann said.

Eckmann stressed the importance of preparation. Within the next ten years, many will be affected, from business and marketing to engineers.

“Paper is not going away, it’s just changing,” Eckmann said.

The exodus of professionals will give way for new professionals to move in with new skill sets, and UWSP is putting students in a position to fill the gap. There will be a shift from workers whose families have been in the field for generations to those who are ready to take on new technology.

Eckmann mentioned that acquiring new skills are crucial for professionals as we move toward a forefront in technology.

“If we are going to compete, we have to keep our skills moving forward,” Eckmann said.

Luke Mason, a paper sciences and engineering major at UWSP, exhibited a similar outlook about valuing the paper industry as a broader business.

“My major isn’t just about paper but paper products. I feel that those will always be around. If anything, the shift in the industry will motivate me even more in my major,”  Mason said.

Mason has only been in the program for a short time but has already  begun to notice the benefits of UWSP’s paper sciences and engineering program.

“I’m only looking at basic methods right now and am looking forward to learning more about the paper industry through my summer internship. My major really has me looking at the bigger picture of the paper industry,” Mason said.

Print or digital, it seems the bigger picture of the paper industry is moving steadfast. However, judging from the reasoning of both Eckmann and Mason, it seems that this path also comes as a chance to change overall outlook from apprehension to opportunity.

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