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Sustainable Packaging Designer Trainee Program


April 19, 2017 –  

By Laszlo Horvath

The Sustainable Packaging Designer Trainee program was established in 2012 by the Center for Packaging and Unit Load Design (CPULD). Since then, the program has become a great success. Students graduating from the program receive job offers as early as a year before graduation at companies such as Niagara Bottling, Rehrig Pacific, Newell RubberMaid, Sam’s Club, Manhattan Associates, and Grupo Phoenix.


The internship/training program is one of the most extensive extracurricular training programs offered at Virginia Tech. Interested students apply for the program early in the academic year and go through multiple interviews. Students are brought in to the program based on a number of factors, including GPA and prior experience, however attitude and enthusiasm are also valued highly. The program officially starts around mid-May with a three-day off-site team building training event where the students not only come together as a team through fun activities and meals together, but they also learn the basics of wood identification, testing standards, and wood mechanics. Following the team building training, they work a full 40-hour workweek schedule during the summer in the Center’s testing lab where they work as an Undergraduate Laboratory Technician on industry contract testing projects. During the summer, the students also learn more extensively about relevant loading conditions that affect the supply chain, such as compression, shock, vibration, and atmospheric conditions. By the end of the summer, each will have taken and passed the ISTA® Certified Laboratory Packaging Professional Exam, and will have earned a well-respected industry certification.


Following the summer, in addition to their regular academic schedule, the students are required to work a minimum of eight hours per week as a laboratory technician and take two three-credit courses called Sustainable Packaging Design and Innovation I-II. During the course sequence, the students learn relevant industry skills such as report writing, professional presentations, packaging testing, project management, principles of Lean Management, and the development of standard operating procedures. In addition, they conduct an undergraduate research project for the fall semester and an industry project sponsored by a packaging company during the spring.


As an example, in 2016, our students worked on approximately 110 commercial testing projects, completed a research project sponsored by the National Wooden Pallet and Container Association (NWPCA), and completed a packaging redesign for an electric stator for Moog Motion Technologies. The research project conducted by the students was of such a quality that NWPCA invited them to their Annual Leadership meeting in Orlando to present the results to their membership. The students did an amazing job during the presentation.



 


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