Intern programs, local colleges help Morrison Container Handling Systems recruit employees

Dustin Lee, Morrison Container Handling Systems, is an emerging leader who has tapped into local technical schools to train and retain young tech tale...
Dustin Lee

Dustin Lee, sales manager, has helped Morrison Container Handling Systems, Glenwood, Ill., build its first direct sales personnel team, while also working with local colleges to recruit and retain prospective employees. 

PP-OEM: What are some prominent trends you are noticing in the industry?
One of the most common trends is custom equipment that is highly focused on unique and different product lines. We are getting a lot of requests for custom versus standard equipment, which requires more engineering attention. We are trying to build equipment that is complex by nature, but also requires a less skilled person to run it. The biggest thing that the industry is lacking is qualified people. So customers want simple machines that can do complex things, which is our challenge.

PP-OEM: How can OEMs address this challenge?
Education is so important. We are seeing more and more issues with OEMs and CPGs struggling to find more qualified people. So we need to determine what educational programs could be beneficial. The owners at Morrison saw a need years ago and worked directly with Purdue University Northwest (previously: Purdue University Calumet) to help develop the curriculum for the mechatronics program. If companies and organizations are able to find a local technology school or college that has engineering or trade departments, that are willing to partner with them, it is a huge opportunity. 

PP-OEM: How do you help Morrison bridge the skills gap?
I became the sales manager at Morrison in February 2015, and it’s been a great opportunity for the company, as we never had a lot of direct sales personnel. For many years, Morrison strictly used independent representatives, but when we made a jump to have more direct sales people, I had a great opportunity to build a new sales organization and train people from the ground up. We have a lot of young people on our staff, all of whom who have been with the company for less than a year, along with many veterans.

PP-OEM: How did you recruit people for Morrison’s new sales division?
We network a great deal, and we also rely on our relationship with Purdue University Northwest to help us pull in employees on the sales, engineering, manufacturing, and service sides. 

PP-OEM: What other ways does Morrison recruit employees?
One of the things we do well is reaching out to students while they are still in school. We will always try to have as many interns as possible every summer both at the high school and college level. At the high school level, many companies are nervous to commit because it’s harder to turn someone from high school into a full time employee, but we are willing to take that risk to see if they are interested in engineering and the packaging industry. It’s been very successful on the college side. Most of the interns turn into full time employees.

PP-OEM: What advice do you have for managing younger generations straight out of high school or college?
It’s important to have a good give-and-take relationship, and realize that you have to learn from them. While you may be their manager, you have to understand that they may be more knowledgeable on certain aspects, and have unique viewpoints that can help you look at something from a different perspective, and capitalize on that. Especially with more and more millennials being our customers, as well.

PMMI, The Association for Packaging and Processing Technologies, recognizes the importance of professional growth and development for our members.  The PMMI Emerging Leaders Network (ELN) was created to provide a forum for the industry’s future leaders to connect. The ELN is a group of processing and packaging technology professionals dedicated to the success and progression of the industry.  For further information, visit pmmi.org/ELN