The mapping study of the UK packaging industry, launched two years ago, has produced a definitive view across four key sectors of the packaging industry, which is estimated to employ 250 000 people and generate a combined turnover nearing £17bn.

The project, carried out by the IoP in association with the DTI, identified 13 000 UK companies, validating 7000 respondent businesses and analysing the responses of 2500 businesses – with 85% as SMEs. Data was drawn from converters [57%], merchant stockists [34%], packer fillers [25%] and contract packers [13%].

The research reveals many important facets of the UK packaging sector including its geographical distribution, employment patterns, age profiles and attitudes both to training and to performance, quality and environmental standards such as ISO 9000 and ISO 14000.

For example, geographical distribution of businesses shows highest density clusters in the North West and South East. Turnover profiles show 50% of businesses involved in packaging have a turnover up to £10M. Age profiles show an expected UK distribution curve with 23% of employees being over 50 and only 7.7% in the 16-21 age group.

Of the responding companies, 58% employ people with graduate qualifications, 66% with management qualifications and 43% employ those with NVQ qualifications. As much as 80% of firms responded to the training needs section but only 1-3% of turnover is spent on training.

The packaging industry has insufficient involvement with government and government agencies. Only 27% of companies knew what an NTO was.

Only 1-3% of employees or company members was involved with initiatives with the DTI or Department for Education and Skills.

The study resulted in seven key recommendations:

* To develop an agreed definition of the industry

* To develop an education and training strategy for SME’s

* To develop more relevant and accessible qualifications across all packaging sectors

* To seek a wider education and training programme

* To carry out similar research covering machinery manufacturers, consultant and packaging designers

* To maintain and expand the database created by this mapping project

* To set up an industry forum, proposed as part of the competitiveness study carried out recently by the Packaging Federation and PIRA.

Copies of the project are available in CD form only, price £75+VAT, from Pam Creed at the IoP, tel: 01664 500055.