It has long been recognised that packaging is a large and diffuse industry. In fact, it is an industry so diverse that it has always been difficult to define.

Yet we still struggle to achieve a tangible identity, let alone create a wider recognition of being a major contributor to our quality of life, a major employer and a significant generator of wealth in the UK.

The Packaging Federation, Pira, The Faraday Packaging Partnership and The Institute of Packaging have undertaken a great deal of work over the last three years or so. By working closely with the DTI, the results of this work will help bring the packaging industry into closer focus, as well as defining the key drivers of this sprawling industry.

So how do we begin to define the training needs that, in reality, are as diverse as the industry? The Institute of Packaging report, which will be unveiled at a conference in January, represents the first ever comprehensive analysis of both the training requirements of the industry and also the training provision.

It will be found that there is a very considerable gap between the two and it is the Institute’s firm intention to set about reducing and ultimately eliminating this gap.

Another important issue has emerged. All of this work has highlighted the need for a coherent voice for the industry and ‘a single point of entry’ to government.

It has been suggested that an Industry forum be set up with the sole purpose of bringing together all of the many voices across the industry in order to secure meaningful representation to a clearly defined sector within government.

This can only be of enormous advantage to the industry. It will give coherence and credence to our cause and will enable us to build on the many strengths, both in terms of innovation and also of production and employment, which packaging brings to the UK economy.

John Webb-Jenkins is chief executive of the Institute of Packaging.