Plastics, like other U.S. industrial sectors, faces a demographic challenge. For the past twenty-five years, as manufacturing has fallen out of favor as a career destination due in part to the migration of industrial capacity to developing countries, young people have gravitated to technology, healthcare and financial careers. As a result, the plastic industry finds itself with an aging and decidedly male workforce at a time when it is experiencing a revival of dynamic growth. With many senior leaders in the industry approaching retirement age, recruiting and retaining young talent is a top priority. By the year 2020, millennials will make up 40% of the workforce. Many industries, including plastics, will have to proactively change their approach to finding the right talent.
Two current M. Holland employees—both millennials—share their experience with the company and why their generation is a huge asset to today’s workforce.
What Millennials Like about Working at M. Holland
John Urbaitis, Age 23
Job Title: Accounting Associate
John Urbaitis graduated from the University of Wisconsin in May 2014 with a degree in Economics. Upon graduation he took the summer off and did a great deal of traveling. “When I came back home, student loans started kicking in quickly,” he laughed. Knowing that he wanted to be in the Chicagoland area, he put his job search into overdrive. He first accepted a position in sales; it wasn’t his chosen career path so he began to work with a corporate recruiter. In May 2015, he joined M. Holland.
The dynamic atmosphere is something he noticed immediately. “Everyone seemed happy, everyone was chatting when I was walking around. No one seemed like they were sad office drones. As I learned more about the organization itself, I learned we were expanding rapidly. Jon Walsh (Director of Finance and Controller) told me there would be opportunities for advancement here. I saw that as a huge opportunity.”
Like most young people, John likes variety. M. Holland has provided him with that. “There is no such thing as a typical day for me. That helps keep things new and exciting,” he commented. “I do all of the accounts receivable cash application for the company. I work on multiple projects, help teammates with their issues and do a lot of ad-hoc analysis. I also work very closely with our credit department. I am never bored.”
This being John’s first “real” job out of college, he wasn’t sure what to expect. “The biggest surprise for me was how people eat, breathe and sleep plastics. I didn’t have anything to base it off of but I didn’t know how passionate people could be about plastic resin and what a massive industry could be created out of its distribution. I have found that more fascinating than anything!”
John says he takes an approach of wanting to learn something new each day that he walks into M. Holland. “Here’s a bunch of people I can learn from, and I can teach them while they teach me. I think that is how any young professional should approach their career.”
Although he is one of youngest members of the M. Holland team, John really feels as though his voice will be heard.
“I’ve made suggestions about how we can be more efficient as a team and how we can do a better job of embracing technology—I can tell when I talk here, people listen to me.”
His advice to employers wanting to bring in the next generation—“Let them know their opinion is valued and it is okay for them to speak up. It’s a hard hurdle to get over when you are one of the youngest people in the room but when you know people are listening it is fun to come to work every day.”
Oksana Solovei, Age 29
Job Title: Accounting Associate
Accounting Associate Oksana Solovei says M. Holland is her ideal company. Having worked in a similar accounting role in the real estate industry she believes that M. Holland is a great place for young people.
“I like the fact that people throughout the organization listen to millennials like me. They want to hear about my experiences and what I have to offer.” While she is brand new to the plastics industry, she has learned a great deal in the past 18 months that she has been with M. Holland. When she joined the company, she took a brief course called Plastics 101. “I like the opportunities for advancement and, at the same time, it’s not a huge or overwhelming company.”
Born in the Ukraine, Oksana’s family lives outside of the United States. “My teammates make me feel like I am a member of the family. Being surrounded by such a good group of people helps me feel like I am at home.”
A graduate of Northeastern Illinois University, Oksana holds a BA in Accounting. She is fluent in several languages, including Ukrainian, Russian and Polish. “I always want to continue learning,” she commented. “That’s why I chose to learn so many languages.” Oksana is currently studying to become a CPA—she hopes to have that completed within the next year.
On a day-to-day basis she is responsible for handling cash flow, invoices and reconciliations. “There are a lot of opportunities in accounting—people think it’s boring but I find it fun,” she laughed. “I plan to stick with accounting, I love numbers.”
The biggest surprise for Oksana—how good the leadership is to the employees.
“I talk to my friends and we certainly have a lot more perks. I truly appreciate everything that M. Holland has to offer. The leadership here encourages team building.”
Oksana says her favorite part of M. Holland is the family vibe and the diversity. “The accounting group is very diverse in terms of age and background. That diversity is why we work so well together. Sometimes it doesn’t feel like work.”
The company has changed a great deal since she arrived. In 2015 the company announced two acquisitions, meaning there would be a lot of work for the accounting department. Oksana said it wasn’t a big deal. “Everyone at M. Holland works hard. I always wake up with a good feeling—I am always ready to go.”
Oksana knew M. Holland was a good fit during the interview process. “I felt a really good vibe the first time I walked in. I chose the company and it happens that they also chose me. It’s been a great year and a half.”
Oksana advises employers recruiting millennials to keep them engaged. “For our generation, it’s about the people, environment and culture. It’s the small things that make us happy.”