- Isabelle MargainDirector of Afifor (Training Association for the paper and cardboard industry) and Employment-Training Director of the branch
- Emmanuel Maingard federal delegate in charge of the paper and cardboard branch at the CFDT
- Sebastien Silvestredirector of Esepac, the higher school of packaging
- carlos tunongeneral secretary of Filpac-CGT, federation of the book, paper, cardboard and communication agencies industry, and employee of “Canson” paper mills
- Catherine Goujonmarketing manager for Stratus packaging group
- Caroline AnquetilGeneral Delegate of Unidis (Inter-sector paper-cardboard union for dialogue and social engineering
- Christel TroxlerHRD of Stratus packaging
- A central CFDT union delegate working in the paper and cardboard sector for a company of more than 300 people
- Marie-Noelle AmiotCEO of Thiolat
- Isabelle ValentineMember of Parliament, co-author of the information report on the paper recycling sector
- Camille Galliard-MinierMember of Parliament, co-author of the information report on the paper recycling sector
Source: the paper and cardboard industry website
Understanding the paper-cardboard sector: a rapidly changing sector victim of its old reputation
With a turnover of 20.3 billion euros, the French paper and cardboard industry ranks third in Europe, behind Germany and Italy. The industry matters 1,280 companies and 63,500 employees in France who occupy 70 professions. But it suffers from a lackluster reputation:
- He had to face the de-industrialization suffered by France since the 1980s. Between 2005 and 2020, the French paper and cardboard industry lost nearly 20,000 jobs while the Germans reinforced their workforce.
- It is directly affected by the decline in the reading of newspapers on paper, the reduction of leaflets, over-packaging but also the digitization of administrative documents (2023-2025), the decline in printing on paper due to teleworking… New habits that affect paper production, even if the need for cardboard packaging for online sales has exploded.
- Added to this image of an industry in decline is a (false) vision of paper and cardboard polluter.
Consequence: employers need to hire but they struggle to attract candidates.
“The situation is very critical with companies not finding candidates particularly for technical positions occupied by technicians and engineers, deplores Isabelle Margain, director of Afifor (Training Association for the paper and cardboard industry) and, as such, employment-training director of the branch. An example: in September 2022, we proposed 72 offers from apprentice paper engineers. Only 22 contracts have been signed. The other places have not been filled. It is more or less the same situation when it comes to attracting technicians, supervisors and executives. It’s even worse for the workers.
However, between now and 2030, the sector will have to face retirements and at one increase in labor requirements. Afifor estimates that 4,000 employees will be found per year, including 700 executives.
Above-average wages in paper-cardboard
Both employers and employees consider, however, that the sector is not lacking in assets. The first is related to the substantial salaries that are practiced there. In this branch of the economy, the average salary is 42,000 euros gross per year. That’s a lot, with young engineers, according to the 2022 IESF study, starting at 38,000 euros gross per year on average.
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“Our graduates find work very easilyillustrates Sébastien Silvestre, director of Esepac, the higher education school for packaging where future project managers in packaging development are trained via the Master’s in packaging design engineering. We graduate 80 a year while the market could absorb twice that. With 55% female graduates, 400 offers per year for 80 graduates, the hiring salaries of our graduates are around 36,500 euros gross per year. They are then packaging designers or packaging development managers. In 10 years, on average, they will receive around 67,000 euros gross per year to end up at 80,000 euros gross per year, especially in Ile-de-France. Beyond that, but it is rarer, they will integrate the management of a site, a factory or a general management”.
This is corroborated by Carlos Tunon, secretary general of the Filpac-CGT, federation of the book, paper, cardboard and communication agencies industry, himself an employee of the “Canson” paper mills. “A young executive starting out in our sector receives around 35,000 to 40,000 euros gross per year. We are above the branch minima”.
For Emmanuel Maingard, the federal delegate of the CFDT union in charge of the paper-cardboard branch, we must not paint too idyllic a picture. “Without advising against coming to work in the paper-cardboard sector, I will temper this vision . Some employers pay well and offer quality internal agreements. But, overall, if the sector is having trouble hiring, it’s because it doesn’t offer working conditions attractive For the young. We thus experience major difficulties in negotiating wages, training, working conditions at branch level. If I had to choose, he continues, jI would rather send my child to the pharmacy sector than to the paper-cardboard sector”.
Are the working conditions in the paper-cardboard industry attractive?
Suffering from a lack of image, a shortage of candidates and, sometimes, managerial practices from another age, the sector has had to do its updating to attract executives.
A culture of internal promotion
The trump card of the paper-cardboard sector for attracting candidates: possible career paths. Like Catherine Goujon’s career: she started as a sales assistant at Stratus packaging groupe (specialist in printed labels) with a BTS in her pocket Some 20 years later, she became its marketing manager. “Career progression is part of our employer’s values”, she comments.
A third of “old-fashioned” employers
Working conditions also depend on the companies. “I would advise someone close to join our sector, adds Carlos Tunon, of Filpac-CGT. Two-thirds of employers are quality. But a third poses a problem with their armada of petty bosses, brutal methods, anti-unionism where executives are used like lemons, squeezing them while there is juice and then rejecting them… That being said, in two-thirds of quality, internal promotion is a reality. Our sector gives a chance to those who work even if I note an upsurge in burn-out among managers, linked to an increasingly heavy workload”.
A spearhead sector of the circular economy
Another major asset in 2023, the sector is one of the most virtuous in terms of circular economy. According to Afifor, the paper-cardboard is made from 80% recycled raw materials. This allows waste to be reused.
“In addition, the cardboard paper uses noble resources from responsibly managed forests”, adds Caroline Anquetil, the general delegate of Unidis, (Union Intersecteur Papiers Cartons for Dialogue and Social Engineering), the employers’ organization responsible for the employment and training policy of the paper industry.
A formative sector
Finally, the sector trains its employees. “We have just hired our Quality Manager from the Hem site (North), details Christel Troxler, the HR department of Stratus packaging, 460 employees and a recruitment of 40 salaried employees including 5 executives in 2022. At 33, she holds a Bac +4. We offered him a 3-week integration course to discover the company, its businesses, our ways of working. It’s important to us. We transmitted to him our knowledge, our values”. Then there will be a 2nd course which also lasts 3 weeks to train her for her specific mission.
In a sector actively seeking employees, applications from retraining employees are welcome.
An example ? At Thiolat, an SME from Blois (Blois / Loir-et-Cher) with 150 employees, the new production manager hired at the start of July 2023 is not from the seraglio.
“He studied in thehas mechanics and the automotive sectorexplains Marie-Noëlle Amiot, the general manager of Thiolat. We will then train him for a month before he takes up his post. To come and work in our sector, it is therefore essential to want to learn”.
To integrate this paper-cardboard sector without professional experience, the task is made easier for employees-workers. It will be more complicated for the executives.
But it’s getting easier and easier. It will be necessary to measure who are the employers of the sector in its employment pool and to get closer to Afifor which relays the CVs to its members, explaining to them all the advantages of hiring a “reconverted”.
“We have a culture that “gives a chance” to future employees. Admittedly, this requires training them, but in any case we have to.”, points out Isabelle Margain, the director of Afifor. “This having been clarified, moderates a well-informed observer who prefers not to be quoted, However, bridges from one sector to another remain rare and difficult”.
According to a parliamentary report, paper-cardboard could be the banner of the circular economy
The industry is hiring. But beware, according to the Information Report submitted in January 2021 by the information mission on the paper recycling sector and written by MPs Isabelle Valentin and Camille Galliard-Minier, “France is in the forefront of European countries for the recycling of paper and cardboard, with a rate of more than 79%. But its industrial sector is in crisis although it is based on solid foundations: mobilized players, innovative research and a quality industrial tool.
This dark picture could give the image of an industry…