Everyone knows that the printing industry is changing and evolving from an industry that was dominated by traditional printed products to more print related services and digital technologies. Well not everyone knows this, because if young people were aware of the evolving importance of digital technology then maybe they would be more interested in pursuing careers in the graphic arts. But they are not and we are about to experience a crisis in staffing. The question is why and what can we do about it?
Part of the problem is that the projections from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) says that printing jobs will decline by 8% and prepress jobs by 18%, which is misleading. According to the Canadian Printing Industries Sector Council (CPISC) nearly half of all employees are approaching retirement age, with 30 percent of all industry employees between the ages of 46 to 54 years and 19 percent older than 55 years of age. Therefore, even if the number of jobs declines if half the existing staff retires there will be huge opportunities or gaps in staffing.
This is compounded by a lack of on the job training. In NAPL’s Organizational Development & Compensation Study only 13% of companies spent more than 1% of their annual revenue on training. How much training do leading companies offer staff? Some experts have argued for figures as high as 5–6%, but the available statistics show that training across all industries has averaged between 2 and 2.5% of payroll for most of this decade, with leading companies spending as much as 3%.
But the greatest issue is that the graphic arts industry is simply not attracting young people. Graphic arts and printing programs in high schools and vocational schools are disappearing. I am working on an assignment for a university with a printing program and they tell me that there used to be 15 local high schools and vocational schools driving students into their program – now there are only 5.
The result for the industry is an approaching shortage of skilled workers with the ability to work with these evolving and changing technologies. The Skills and Technology Roadmap report released by CPISC found that the industry needs new workers that are able to operate complex print machinery and also those who can understand and leverage the information and digital technologies.
For most high school counselors and students the impression of a career in this industry conjures up images of dirty, low paying jobs with no growth opportunities. As staff approach retirement, this is going to become an overwhelming problem. Clearly there are no quick fixes, but what do you think can be done to address the crisis in staffing?