Jason is the Owner and Managing Director of Atlas Packaging and the Enterprise Adviser for Ilfracombe Academy.

It’s always been my ideal to promote people from within the business, rather than recruit. When you have people from within they understand the culture, they can adapt to the role and it gives them an opportunity to grow – that’s a recipe for success. We expect people to work hard and we have fun as well, that’s vitally important.

The main thing I enjoy about my role as Managing Director, is the people and the variety of challenges. I get involved in the production, people and product issues that can crop up at any time. I like to be able to step up, use my experience and make a valued contribution to improve things. It’s a dream job, I feel like I’m making a difference.

I’ve worked with Ilfracombe Academy as an Enterprise Adviser for 4 years. We do some of the same things every year, but each time you see different faces, it’s like a wave of people coming into the job market.

My concern is that the cost of labour is expensive for businesses and robotics, automation and machinery is cheaper, which means businesses hire fewer people. Young people can still carve out a career if they have the right attitude and determination. You meet some who’ve got it and others are a bit lost and you hope you can give them pointers.  

I’ve learned that as soon as you give students one-to-one attention they start paying attention. I started at Atlas as a trainee, with no experience and the person who interviewed me saw something in me.  

My advice to students would be that if you are given an opportunity, work hard, be passionate, give 100%, there are possibilities.   Never think that it’s not your time to be the best you can possibly be. Don’t live someone else’s life, live your own.

When young people come here they are surprised by the scale and the variety of roles. They’re always amazed at the brands we work with – Kinder, Sony, Bassetts. Students have no concept of business to business, but that’s where a lot of jobs are.

I felt like I connected with the students and it made a difference, it was a rewarding experience. They were interested in rates of pay of people on the shop floor, there was a spark, an interest there. They learned that you don’t necessarily need any qualifications.

It’s important young people don’t feel written-off. I like to think that if a student has visited here while they are at school and then they come back, that’s a sign that they are dedicated and have seen something that they’ve liked here.

We’ve had some great experiences of taking work experience students. Three guys created a cardboard boat in Bideford during their work experience week. They worked together to build it in our offices and factory, which gave them a chance to see the business from the inside.   They took the boat out into the community as part of the Bideford boat regatta that we sponsor. We are making a small difference in lots of ways and we find it very rewarding.  

We take part in a roadshow at the school; we set up a workspace with a video and some of our products and students can ask us questions about the organisation. We also do CV writing workshops and social media skills. I like to explain that students have a digital footprint and the first thing an employer will do when they get a CV is check out their social media profiles. They have to be careful with that.

We gave the students a project by Atlas where they had to work out the commercial costs of some packaging, including the production, the materials and the time it takes on the machines. They created a quote for a customer and it helped them to understand the commercial side of business. We took a younger employee to help them and the project got glowing reviews from the students!  

As a business, we feel it’s vitally important to help the next generation. We’ve all been there and everyone who is successful has received help, assistance and guidance and we want to pass that on.