How to learn from the workforce of the future

Tue, 14. August
youth, workforce, apprenticeship, training, inclusion, digitalisation
by Michael Hakes, Group HR Director, Mondi

Businesses are strengthened and better prepared for the future when they make space for young people to learn hands-on, engage and contribute with their unique skills, writes Mondi’s Group HR Director Michael Hakes.


Sunday saw the 19th UN International Youth Day and whilst the focus of the day was around safe spaces for young people, the idea of creating space for young people to engage with their community and society to encourage their development struck a chord with me.

One of our focus areas at Mondi is the creation of safe, inclusive and supportive environments for all our employees, but particularly for those aged 16-25. We employ hundreds of apprentices, interns and trainees every year who bring new energy and perspectives into our business. For many, an apprenticeship is the beginning of a long career at Mondi, spanning a range of business areas and even countries.

As summer is also traditionally the time of year that students get exam results and start to turn their minds towards the world of work, businesses also need to think about how the concept of ‘work’ changes for every graduating class or generation. I sense we can still learn a lot in this particular area.

With the advent of the fourth industrial revolution the very nature of work is being redefined.

This shift has the potential to impact society at every level, from the young who are entering work for the first time to the well-established.

According to the World Economic Forum, 65% of children now entering primary school will hold jobs in the future that currently don’t exist. What will those jobs be?

The question now is not only how can businesses ensure they attract and retain top talent while adapting to the changing working environment, but how should schools, colleges and universities best prepare young people for the world of work?

Three fundamentals we look for in young people entering our business:

→ Desire to learn and develop, willingness to adapt and embrace change

→ Motivation and enthusiasm for work and responsibility

→ Empathy and the desire to change the status quo for the better

Are these things different from what they were ten, 15, 20 years ago? Maybe not.

For almost every industry it’s a clear advantage to hire new starters who have a basic understanding of technology and sustainability, but we can teach them about those things – and we do so through The Mondi Academy and a range of other training and mentoring opportunities. The crucial part is having the right attitude – a love of learning, curiosity about how things are made, the desire to improve.

Schools and parents can help young people appreciate what it means to be part of a community with a purpose and a vision, and the value of contributing to society – the pride that comes from that.

AND there is a big opportunity for business to play by making space for young people to participate in strategy and learning from their ideas and existing skills – especially as we enter into the fourth industrial revolution.

The question is, how can businesses learn from and with young people?

Apprentices at Mondi Neusiedler, a paper mill, learn the art and science of modern papermaking. Photo: inShot

A 2018 Deloitte UK study shows that 28% of senior leaders are not confident in their own digital skills, and only 16% of executives believe their talent pool has sufficient knowledge to execute their digital strategy.

Businesses need to welcome new perspectives on the world of work and acknowledge that young people have advanced digital skills that are transferable and can bridge digital skills gaps in today’s workforce.

In addition, business should also remember that people belonging to Gen X, Gen Y, and Gen Z are not just keen to learn about the latest technological and ecological advances in manufacturing, but as digital natives they see opportunities hidden to many in older generations.

As a global leader in packaging and paper manufacturing, with Europe as our heartland, Mondi invests heavily in state-of-the-art equipment and manufacturing processes that are some of the most advanced of their type. We’re justly proud of our expertise in manufacturing and we’re using AI, robots and big data to develop even better product solutions for the world, increasing usefulness and decreasing waste. We are always looking for ways to learn, become smarter, more effective, more relevant. Bringing more young people into careers in manufacturing is one of those ways.


Businesses need to welcome new perspectives on the world of work and acknowledge that young people have advanced digital skills that are transferable…

Michael Hakes, Group HR Director, Mondi

We believe in life-long learning and developing our people, and young talents have a special place in our business. Learning alongside expert papermakers, engineers, scientists and mechanics, working hands-on with complex processes and machines to make products that people everywhere rely on, apprentices, interns and trainees inject fresh ideas and vital skills into centuries-old manufacturing processes – helping make them ‘fit for future’.

Business needs to address the impact apprenticeships and internships can have in shaping tomorrow’s workforce and business as a whole. At Mondi we see apprentices and other young talents as our future, so we invest in ensuring they can develop their talents to the fullest by taking advantage of everything that a successful, global company can offer. That means creating safe space to evolve and develop over time – both for them and us.

This article first appeared on LinkedIn. Follow Michael Hakes and Mondi on LinkedIn.

See the latest career opportunities at Mondi.

Recommended stories

Careers (4)

Mondi CDO Martin Gutberlet and data scientist Jillian Augustine were among the presenters sharing insights on digital transformation at top European conference for developers interested in Artificial Intelligence, Blockchain and the Internet of Things


On the UN’s International Day of Persons with Disabilities, we recognise how an inclusive approach brings mutual rewards.

Mondi Agile gathering breakout session.jpg

Mondi’s Group Digital Transformation unit shares core practices to strengthen collaboration and effectiveness in digital transformations


On International Youth Day 2019, we recognise the great diversity of ages in our workforce and the value of sharing knowledge across generations