PaperWeek: The serious side of a sexy new industry

Pulp & Paper Canada
February 07, 2012
By Pulp & Paper Canada

The mood was generally light at the PaperWeek Canada business session sponsored by FPInnovations. Introducing the panel, Jean Hamel, FPInnovations' vice-president pulp, paper, and bioproducts, opened with comments about making the industry sexy again, polishing its battered image and attracting young, new talent, particularly engineers, chemists, and the like.

A more serious note was sounded by the first speaker, Andrew Casey of FPAC, who noted that while young brains will be needed, a robust bioproducts industry requires a robust primary industry of pulp and paper to support it, including people to cut and transport trees, and to man the mill floors. It is equally important, notes Casey, to attract all kinds of labour to the industry, to combat normal attrition. Without drawing more bodies to all levels, Casey warned, the industry won't need to attract the young minds with engineering and chemistry degrees.

Two other speakers, Theo van de Ven of McGill University, and James Olson of UBC, spoke from the other side, representing the universities that train the next generation to work in the new, sexy industry. Van de Ven spoke of the new "super network", FIBRE (Forest Innovation by Research and Education), which brings together 8 other networks under one umbrella, counting over 100 professors and 400 students, in order to facilitate exchanges across member networks. Olson introduced UBC's BERI (Bio-Economy Research Initiative), linking six of UBC's existing bodies, including its Pulp and Paper Center and its business school, in order to increase integration and innovation.

All speakers acknowledged increased competition for labour from the oil and chemical industries, and the need for greater integration between disparate elements of an increasingly complicated industry.

PaperWeek Canada is organized by the Pulp and Paper Technical Association of Canada. The week-long event took place in Montreal from Jan. 30 to Feb. 3.

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