Indiana State designs and focuses its programs on in-demand fields. Sycamores + industry partners = jobs!
Indiana State University’s packaging program wraps plenty of hands-on experiences into its four-year undergraduate program to send 100 percent of its alumni straight into the workforce after graduation.
Those opportunities are only made possible with the help of industry partners.
“Internships, jobs and student learning experiences are our biggest push when we make these partnerships with businesses in the packaging industry. Our partners help steer our program and are the reason we are here,” said Brian James, instructor in the department of applied engineering and technology management. “Students don’t just come here for an education. They come here to be trained for careers. By partnering with members of the industry, we can offer students a better step toward what their actual goal is — getting a career.”
But right now, James says, the program has about 25 students enrolled and that isn’t enough to feed the employer need.
“The industry is why we are here, and we use them to offer students experiences we may not be able to offer them in the classroom — industry tours, job shadowing and internships — and help us determine what students need to know,” James said. “Without these partnerships, we wouldn’t know what the industry needs and wants are and couldn’t effectively get students ready for the workforce.”
The Baxter Pharmaceutical Solutions LLC (BPS)-Bloomington location first connected with Indiana State when it hired a packaging alumnus as a packaging engineer. Since then, the company has hired four Sycamores.
“A second connection between ISU and BPS developed through the Central Indiana Institute of Packaging Professionals. Through BPS, I am member and the chapters focus is on mentoring future packaging engineers,” said Tricia Ann Rochyby, senior packaging engineer for Baxter Pharmaceutical Solutions LLC. “This partnership means that BPS has a reliable source. For BPS, the past has shown there is a connection between BPS and ISU that works. When a new packaging engineer position opens we are instantly reaching out to ISU.”
Industry mentors also offer students perspectives besides those of James and Schafer.
“We are specialists in a lot of things, but working with industry mentors gives students an opportunity to get information that is specific to their projects,” James said. “There is so much students can learn from someone with 20 or 30 years in the industry that you can’t put in a textbook, and these partnerships ensure that our program never lacks opportunities for students.”
Indiana State’s packaging program connections with industry partnerships fuel student opportunities for hands-on learning, on-the-job experiences and post-graduate employment in a thriving, multi-billion dollar industry.
“We’ve done projects here developing packaging, 16-foot-long crates for Otis Elevator on down to little containers for cosmetic creams and nail polishes,” Schafer said. “Everything we use has been in a package, otherwise it wouldn’t get to the consumer in useable form. That’s why packaging is so important, even though it’s become invisible because you go into a store and all you see is packaging.”
In 2015, Indiana State’s packaging program became accredited through the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology Inc., a non-governmental organization that accredits post-secondary education programs in applied science, computing, engineering, and engineering technology.
“We went ABET so we could better serve our industry partners because ABET is a worldwide accrediting body,” James said. “We work with engineers and technicians, so we have to be very diverse in our knowledge. There is a lot of learning from year one to three once they get in the field, but our graduates know how to get started on the job because they actually had hands-on experience that a lot of larger programs aren’t able to do.”
Students say packaging is fun, exciting and something different, and they never would have thought about it until they got into it and found out.
Partnerships with Indiana State are proving to be beneficial for students even after they graduate, as industry partners see value in the employees the university provides and raise salary caps.
“Our partners help sell the program for us, in my opinion,” James said. “The industry offers a stable starting salary, but there isn’t a lot in the way of comparing. It’s not a brand-new industry, but it’s still up-and-coming. Places where they have a graduate from ISU come back here first before they look to other programs. They have a lot of good jobs and they’re exciting.”
Program partners include:
Glass Packaging Institute
Institute of Packaging Professionals
North American Lighting
Packaging Machinery Manufacturing Institute
Paperboard Packaging Alliance
Technical Association of Pulp and Paper Industry