SkillsUSA Pilot for Plant Floor Workforce – First Stage Showing Success

SkillSUA students from York Community High School tour Packaging Corporation of America's Chicago Container Plant as part of the first phase of the pilot.

As previously reported, an exciting new partnership has been launched with SkillsUSA to test the potential for corrugated packaging plants, working with local SkillsUSA chapters, to prepare area high school students for plant floor operations and maintenance. Over the past year, the International Corrugated Packaging Foundation (ICPF) has been working in conjunction with Fibre Box Association (FBA) and AICC, the Independent Packaging Association to explore the potential for a SkillsUSA  prototype that may possibly be duplicated around the country.

The Chicago region was selected last fall for the pilot. Four plants were paired with four chapters that were personally selected by the SkillsUSA Illinois State Director. After successfully acquiring local SkillsUSA and school board approval in three of the four chapter areas, three pilots were launched this year to test the creation of local educational programs to assist in recruiting new high school graduates for plant floor operations.

StandFast Packaging is working with the Elk Grove High School SkillsUSA chapter and Packaging Corporation of America’s Chicago Container Plant is working with the York Community High School chapter.  The WestRock New Lenox plant is working with the Grundy Area Vocational Center SkillsUSA chapter that serves Coal City High School, Gardner-South Wilmington High School, Minooka High School and Morris Community High School. 

The faculty and administrators from the three SkillsUSA chapters participated in a tour and introductory meeting at their respective plant, where plans and objectives for the year were discussed. The exchange of plant floor job descriptions and current lesson plans immediately followed the meetings, along with school tours for each of the plant management teams, and plant tours for SkillsUSA students.  One of the plants participated in a career fair with its local SkillsUSA chapter this spring, and two plants are planning to offer student internships in the near future.

Along with the SkillsUSA administrators and faculty, the plant management teams are very excited about the potential of the pilot, as recently expressed by Brian Eggleston, WestRock’s New Lenox General Manager. “Speaking for WestRock, even in its early stages we are excited about this very promising program.  WestRock, SkillsUSA, ICPF, FBA and AICC all hope this pilot program will result in recruiting in the second or third year.   We also hope and believe that it may lead to a program platform that can be used by other corrugated plants across the country in meeting this critical employee need,” said Brian.

Below: The WestRock New Lenox plant tour for Grundy Area Vocational Center SkillsUSA students included a briefing from General Manager, Brian Eggleston and a "Pizza Box Challenge".