Interns and Opportunities

FPA Program Connects Industry Interns With Each Other and Mentors

Digital Exclusive

This summer, the Flexible Packaging Association (FPA) coordinated a program that brought together approximately 35 interns from across various companies in the packaging and flexible packaging industries. Through various online meetings and forums, the interns networked with each other, as well as with industry managers and leaders. Here is a closer look at two of them and what they see as their career opportunities and interests. In an occasional series this summer and fall, others will be profiled, as well. The names of the companies where they interned this summer are listed, as well:

Jackson Leffler, NOVA Chemicals, Inc.

Jackson Leffler is from Nashville, Tennessee, and is finishing his final year at Michigan State University where he is working toward a degree in packaging science, with a minor in sustainability.

Before this summer’s internship at NOVA Chemicals, he had interned at Silgan Closures. 

“This was my first real world introduction into the packaging industry,” Leffler says. “I found it to be a great learning experience as Silgan is a converter, which afforded me the opportunity to interact with both suppliers and customers in the packaging industry. This piqued my curiosity to the supplier side of things where I found NOVA Chemicals.”

At Michigan State, he says, the advantages of flexible packaging are brought up regularly, so the knowledge of the market has always been there. Leffler expects to graduate in December.

FPV: If you choose flexible packaging for a career, what area would you pursue? 

JL: Flexible packaging’s use can be seen across multiple product markets from food products to machine oil, and I think the reasoning for that widespread use is flexible packaging’s sustainability. For myself, I would pursue a career in flexible packaging at a resin supplier or a film converter, as I would enjoy developing solutions for challenges in the consumer packaged goods company (CPGs) arena.

FPV: How will your degree help you with your career path? And where do you see yourself in five or ten years? 

JL: Being a student that studies packaging, specifically, that is also working toward a minor in sustainability, my degree focuses on consumer needs, as well as the science behind flexible packaging and how to bring that technology to consumers. That being said, within five-ten years, I can see myself in a technical service position where I attempt to create solutions for various challenges customers may have, such as post-consumer resin incorporation and light-weighting packaging for e-commerce and direct-to-consumer shipping.

FPV: Who are your mentors and how have they helped you?

JL: Someone who has guided me through this experience is my supervisor at my summer internship, Jonathan Quinn, who was co-chair of the FPA Emerging Leadership Council. Jonathan has taught me a lot of things about the flexible packaging industry, but what I have found most important are things like presenting work you have done and networking within the packaging space. For example, I would not have been introduced to the FPA and all of the people involved without Jonathan.

I am grateful for the FPA. I feel it is a unique experience for an entire industry to invest in students like myself by teaching them about their work in flexible packaging and how it will shape our futures as we enter the industry.

Clare Sumners, Charter Next Generation

Clare Sumners is a junior at Clemson University studying packaging science, with an emphasis in food and healthcare packaging. Sumners, who is from Rochester, Michigan, interned at the Sonoco Fresh design and prototyping lab on the Clemson campus during her sophomore year. 

“At this internship, I worked with paperboard and corrugated to create mailouts for recruitment of Clemson football players,” she says. “Also, I helped students in both packaging science and graphic communications complete their senior projects.”

A Clemson class in packaging perishable products grabbed her interest in flexible packaging.

“I learned about the properties of the polymers and how they could increase the shelf life of certain food products,” she says. “With my degree in packaging science, I want to work in a field where I can see the products on the shelves.”

FPV: If you choose flexible packaging for a career, what area would you pursue? 

CS: I find flexible packaging interesting because polymers are used for a variety of products including food, consumer products, and cosmetics. Also, the sustainable benefits of flexible packaging are expanding as consumers are focusing on the lifecycle of their packaging. I believe the continued focus on sustainability will drive innovation in the field of flexible packaging. I want to pursue a technical role in packaging because I enjoy applied science.

FPV: How will your degree help you with your career path? And where do you see yourself in 5 or 10 years? 

CS: My degree in packaging science will assist me in understanding the manufacturing processes across the field. In a few years, I hope to graduate and work for a converter of flexible packaging.

FPV: Who are your mentors and how have they helped you?

CS: One of my mentors is my professor, Pat Marcondes, who has guided me through my education since freshmen orientation. Also, my professor Haley Appleby has taught me the invaluable lesson of learning from my mistakes while I worked as her intern.