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A New Start: Learning from Plastipak Employees Who Served in the Armed Forces

november 3, 2023

Transitioning from the armed forces to a civilian workplace can be challenging, but if you’re considering making the switch, Plastipak has your back. We’re proud to offer strong support for our veteran associates and give them a community where they can thrive.

We are always listening to our veteran employees to learn new ways to help those who are moving from the service to a new career. We spoke with some of our dedicated veteran associates to better understand their story and why they chose Plastipak.

Jayson Barker

What led you to join the service?
I was born at Clark Air Force Base in The Philippines. My father was a crew chief on C-130 Rescue aircraft supporting the Vietnam War at the time. We were in The Philippines for two years and spent time in Indiana and Virginia before moving to Jackson Center, Ohio. I grew up just a few blocks from Plastipak’s Jackson Center Extrusion Development Center where I now work.

After my father left the Air Force, he joined the Ohio Air National Guard at Rickenbacker Airfield in Columbus, OH. Throughout my childhood, I would go with my Dad to his monthly guard meetings and spent a lot of time around the KC-135 aerial refueling aircraft he worked on. I was hooked and couldn’t wait to be part of that family. As soon as I turned 17, I enlisted in the Air National Guard and attended monthly guard meetings while I finished high school. A few weeks after graduation, I left for basic training and then spent the following eight years in the 160th Air Refueling Squadron in Columbus. It made me proud that while my friends were goofing off after high school, I was serving my country working on airplanes and traveling with them on deployments.

What lessons did you learn during your time serving?
I learned to be completely committed and focused when it mattered, but never take life too seriously. I try to stay positive when things get rough, but trust that those around me will lift me up when I’m down. During the Gulf War in 1991, my father was deployed to the Middle East for several months. Since we were in the same unit, they didn’t send me overseas, but pulled me to active duty at home, supporting our squadron by servicing aircrafts that were rotated out of service due to maintenance issues. There were times when we were under the gun to get planes fixed and back overseas as quickly as possible. At the same time, I was helping out with things at home while Dad was gone.

I also learned to never let an opportunity pass you by. Chance encounters and new challenges almost always result in new skills learned and new friends and teammates made. On one occasion, I had the opportunity to take a day trip on one of our aircrafts that was flying to Wurtsmith Air Force Base in Michigan. I jumped at the chance to fly with our airplane and ended up on the tarmac in Michigan with a broken airplane and no on-base support. By working with the rest of my team, we got the plane repaired and made it back in time to go home with the rest of the weekend personnel. We all got letters of commendation from our base commander for stepping up when it really counted.

What led you to join Plastipak and what is your current role?
In 2006, I began a 12-year career at another facility working on the design of the blow molders and extrusion systems that are built at Plastipak’s EDC in Jackson Center. In 2017, I took the chance to get closer to the equipment I was working on and joined Plastipak as a senior design engineer. I currently design the extrusion systems and portions of the blow molders for new lines and in-plant upgrades and focus the rest of my time on development and innovation.

What is your favorite part of working at Plastipak?
I’ve never been in a situation where I needed support at Plastipak and someone didn’t step up to help me out. There are people who are going above and beyond to keep machinery running and bottles going out the door every day. I’ve also had times when I needed help with a project at home and coworkers gave their time to come help out. I’m grateful for all the people I work with and consider several of them as some of my closest friends.

What I enjoy the most about the work is the technology that we put into our equipment and processes. People say that we “just make plastic bottles”, but they have no clue about the state-of-the-art technology that we get to bring into what we do. The wall of patents at our corporate headquarters is just the tip of the iceberg of the innovation that has come from within Plastipak. And this innovation is not just coming from engineers. Many of the best improvements and innovations start with our associates on the floor who see a problem and help develop a solution.

Do you have any advice for other veterans who are considering joining the Plastipak family?
Regardless of what branch of service you are coming from, if you have a positive attitude and can work as part of a team, there is a place for you at Plastipak. If you need a challenge, we have plenty of those, and your hard work will not go unnoticed.

Ricky Sears

What led you to join the service?
In my junior year of high school, I was in an auto shop program. I really liked it, but I was interested in working on diesel trucks. When I learned that the Army has nothing but diesel engines, I figured it was the perfect opportunity to learn more about them.

What lessons did you learn during your time serving?
My time in the Army taught me to be more confident in myself, as well as to be more comfortable trying new and challenging things. It definitely made me grow out of my shell. The leadership opportunities that I have had also taught me what it is to be a leader and how to build relationships and trust among my team members.

Another big lesson was that not everything bad that happens is the end of the world. It is just a bump in the road. With the right people, you can get through just about anything.

What led you to join Plastipak and what is your current role?
I joined Plastipak in 2018 after meeting my current boss at a golf league. After taking an interest in my experience in the army, he told me about the opening and asked if I wanted to apply.

My boss and I started to talk about the job more, and it sounded very exciting. I love working with my hands, so working on the blow molding and injection machines was right up my alley. There is definitely a lot more that goes into research & development than I ever thought, but it’s awesome to see your work getting put on store shelves.

I’m currently an engineering technician at the Medina Packaging Development Center, tending to and programming blow molders and other downstream testing equipment for the development process. I am also a part of the Food Safety Team.

What is your favorite part of working at Plastipak?
I’ve made some great friends here, and we all work well together. I also enjoy being able to run and work on multiple different machines we have, either in injection or on the blow molding side. I truly enjoy that every day is different. There is always something new to learn and keep you busy.

I feel very lucky that Plastipak picked me. It has been an amazing place to work, giving me the flexibility and support I need as I’m still in the national guard.

Do you have any advice for other veterans who are considering joining the Plastipak family?
Do it! There is plenty of support from Plastipak itself and other organizations that help. Getting out of the military or starting something new is never as bad as it seems. The opportunities for veterans in the workplace are endless. 

Looking for a New Start?

At Plastipak, we offer the chance to grow and challenge yourself through your work while earning a good living. We’re always looking for committed workers who want to connect with their coworkers and solve problems together. If you’re interested in working for us, visit our careers page to view our open positions.

About Plastipak Packaging, Inc.
Plastipak Packaging, Inc., a wholly-owned subsidiary of Plastipak Holdings, Inc., is a world leader in the design and manufacture of high-quality, rigid plastic containers for the food, beverage, and consumer products industries. Plastipak is also a leading recycler of rigid plastic packaging, producing food-grade post-consumer recycled resin for inclusion in new packaging. Plastipak operates more than 40 sites in the United States, South America and Europe, with a total of over 6,500 employees. Its customers include some of the world’s most respected and recognized consumer brands. Plastipak is also a leading innovator in the packaging industry, holding more than 420 United States patents for its state-of-the-art package designs and manufacturing processes. In addition, Plastipak licenses various packaging technologies around the world. Plastipak was founded in 1967 and is headquartered in Plymouth, Michigan. Additional information about Plastipak can be found at its website www.plastipak.com

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