Jobs Still Available in a Changing Paper Industry

Posted January 21, 2016 in Job Hunting Tips by Elizabeth Tischer

Despite the fact that the paper industry within the United States is constantly evolving, there are still many jobs available for those that have an interest in such careers. Over the course of the past ten years or so, professionals in this particular industry have witnessed an increase in exports and tremendous growth in productivity; despite the fact that 30% of the total paper industry workforce has lost their jobs as a result of mill closures. A recent report released by the organization known as the “World Resources Institute” has proposed that if the paper industry elects to invest in overhauls that will optimize the overall energy efficiency, mills across the nation have the unique ability to save jobs that could otherwise be lost.  read more


By placing a focus on transitioning the paper industry into a more energy efficient industry, many benefits would occur. First, the overhauls would aid in drastically reducing the costs associated with electrical usage. Second, productivity within the paper industry would be greatly enhanced. Third, each of the mills that engage in the overhauls would effectively reduce the amount of greenhouse emissions released into the atmosphere. Not only would these benefits increase profits and open up careers, they would result in the mills being able to enjoy higher amounts of tax breaks and incentives due to their focus on saving valuable energy.


In the past decade, the paper industry has observed an 8% increase, as far as productivity is concerned. Unfortunately, the industry – as a whole – is suffering tremendously because of a consistently changing demand for paper. People and companies around the nation are using less and less in terms of newsprint and printing paper. Furthermore, there are many impending regulations pertaining to environmental standards that require mills to place money into upgrades pertaining to their boilers. All of these issues have resulted in a loss of employment.


According to statistics, the paper industry in the United States ranks in as the third manufacturing sector that uses the highest amount of energy. The first and second sectors, based on energy usage, are fossil fuels and chemicals. As a result, paper mills are extremely vulnerable to excessive spikes when it comes to energy costs. By reducing energy within the industry, paper mills have the ability to survive and even thrive. Once energy costs are reduced, there will be more money available to pay people to come back to work, or to pay people who want a new career in the industry.


In each mill closure that has occurred within the paper industry, up to 600 jobs have been lost at once. Not only did the shutdowns result in millions of dollars being drained from the community in which the mill operated, but, it created a general economic drag. Distress starts to occur, decreases in tax-based revenues happen, and other jobs and industries start to become detrimentally impacted. Until recently, the paper industry has been heavily dependent on the overall mercy associated with hedge funds from Wall Street and global-based political and economic issues. As more mills transition into an energy efficient operation, more and more jobs are opening up for people who desire careers in this manufacturing sector.


Mills within the industry are now qualifying for government-based loans and grants. As a result, certain mills - such as the one in Wisconsin - “Flambeau River Papers”, was able to successfully reopen, providing jobs for well over 300 people. This particular mill underwent many overhauls in an effort to optimize efficiency. While it is true that it ran into some difficulties, such as loans that fell through and the inability to include a refinery that utilized biodiesel, it still opened and remains open today. Paper is a type of commodity-driven product. The workers at this Wisconsin mill are not only pleased to have had their careers returned to them, but, they are also receiving many benefits – such as being represented by the “United Steelworkers” organization.


The next method being utilized by the paper industry in order to open up more careers is through increasing the use of recycling. Many studies and reports claim that using recycled paper is one of the greatest and most productive methods of saving energy. Now, despite the fact that a lot of money may be saved through recycling efforts, many paper mills refuse to agree to it because many feel that it could result in another decline of jobs. The theory behind this concept is that if people recycle, there will be a less of a need for paper, in general. Additionally, it is believed that recycling will detrimentally impact the quality of the paper produced and that the production process will experience complications.


The truth of the matter is, as more and more mills in the paper industry adopt recycling programs, they are finding that it not only produces many careers within the industry, but, it increases the sector’s profits high enough that it actually means the difference between a closure and the ability to continue operations. Additionally, consumers and businesses have a strong desire to engage in activities that are considered to be environmentally-friendly. Given the threat surrounding climate change, accumulation of excessive paper products in landfills that may create methane-based emissions, and other similar problems, recycling actually opens up jobs in the paper industry.


There are many complexities that the paper industry faces. When it comes to technological-based shifts, many trade-offs are occurring; however, none of these pertain to jobs. The industry is, once again, opening up as a highly competitive employment market. Based on the latest changes and innovative overhauls, many opportunities now exist in this sector of American-based manufacturing. As the paper industry advances to the point where emerging issues involving the environment and the nation’s economic issues are factored in, not only will more jobs develop, but, the communities who find themselves heavily dependent on these jobs will be able to not only survive, but, will thrive in an economic way! Careers in the paper industry are now considered to be the most promising.

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