Pulp and Paper Careers Outlook
The success of the pulp and paper industry has been an indication of the high standard of living of the people of the United States and other parts of the world. In the United States, the pulp and paper industry is ranked among the top 10 in manufacturing industries. Almost 700,000 people work in the pulp and paper industry, producing paper and allied products with a total value of more than $150 billion.
Because almost all of the pulp and paper industry’s products are consumer oriented, its economic outlook is tied very closely to the overall health of the U.S. economy. Because exports have accounted for 60 percent of the industry’s growth in shipments over the last decade, the global economy is key to the outlook of the pulp and paper industry.
Jobs in the pulp and paper industry have been steadily declining at a slow rate over the past several years. This is mainly due to increased computerization of papermaking processes, which results in the need for fewer workers to oversee operations. However, paper and paper products are in high demand both domestically and abroad. U.S. paper manufacturers have been increasing exports as a result of the North American Free Trade Agreement, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, and other trade regulations. Many companies are expected to enter the international marketplace as general paper and paperboard producers, however, which will create intense competition between already-established U.S. manufacturers and the new arrivals. Another result of the internationalism of the industry will likely be increased competition from foreign companies within the American market. Thus, although there will be jobs in this industry for many years to come, workers with computer and other technical skills will have better chances of landing jobs in this increasingly competitive field.
One of the industry’s greatest challenges in the coming decade will be addressing environmental issues. Waste disposal and water pollution are major concerns for paper manufacturers, and during the past two decades, the industry has sharply reduced the volume of pollutants— airborne, waterborne, and solids—to comply with federal and state environmental regulations. In the late 1990s, the Environmental Protection Agency established Cluster Rules, the first attempt to combine water and air regulation for one industry. These rules, designed to reduce the amount of toxic water pollutants and air emissions by the primary pulp, paper, and paperboard industries, revised the water effluent and air emission standards. As a result of these rules, employment opportunities for researchers in wastewater management, emissions control, waste recycling, and energy recovery should be good.
The paper industry is also concentrating on the problem of how to dispose of its products after use and is rapidly increasing its ability to use recovered paper in the papermaking process. In the coming decade, the paper industry will continue to make huge investments in new mills, in maintaining existing mills at worldwide competitive standards, in maintaining renewable forest reserves, and in expanding its use of recoverable paper.
The increased automation and computerization of the industry is creating more opportunities for process engineers, computer scientists, and technicians in these fields, but decreasing the need for other employees by performing much of the work previously done manually. As the automation trend continues over the long term, hiring will primarily center on replacing workers who have left the industry or retired.
At the corporate and managerial levels, the industry offers a wide variety of opportunities for office workers, accountants, market researchers, sales managers, and salespeople, as well as for the many other professionals needed to run a major corporation. With the international expansion of the industry, more positions in sales and marketing may be created. In addition, the push for new product development at many paper companies may translate into more product management and marketing positions.
Related Career Fields:
- Bindery Workers
- Chemical Technicians
- Environmental Engineers
- Export-Import Specialists
- Forestry Technicians
- Industrial Engineers
- Industrial Machinery Mechanics
- Logging Industry Workers
- Mechanical Engineering Technicians
- Mechanical Engineers
- Operating Engineers
- Paper Processing Workers
- Printing Press Operators and Assistants
- Quality Control Engineers and Technicians
- Wood Science and Technology Workers