Bureau of Labor Statistics Update…. The Full Story

By | August 25, 2011

Vice President, Mountain States Printing Education Foundation

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics had promised it was finally going to post many of our industry’s real production-related job titles/occupations on July 15th after almost a decade of work, initiated by Mountain States Printing Education Foundation. They are now saying that the “16.0 Database will come out the end of July/beginning of August. New O*NET online with 16.0 database will be released in September.” This continues to be one of the most frustrating endeavors that those of us who have been working on it have ever encountered.

In 2001 we (Mountain States Printing Education Foundation and Printing & Imaging Association Mountain States) were approached by the City & County of Denver to begin a funded training program for our industry, which they considered one of their largest and most important industries. The impetus changed after the tragedy of 9/11, but the following year we began working with them again.

What came to light at the time was a major discrepancy with what we and the City knew to be true and what the Department of Labor (DOL)/Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) had to say about our industry. We learned that all of the Federal industry data was completely incorrect and most of the information that they were reporting about the industry was 30-50 years old, although there were a few current job titles/occupations listed. We were extremely fortunate that our information prevailed at the time and we began training programs for current and potential industry employees. The funding underwrote training for 36 employees, one of which is now a member of Mountain States Printing Education Foundation – Melissa Rogers.

Prior to starting the classroom training, we assembled a number of Colorado printing related firms to review the job descriptions/occ upations that were posted on the Department of Labor’s Occupational Information Network (O*NET). Once that was accomplished (changes made to existing job information, very outdated jobs listed for removal and new jobs added) we hired an intern to gather and prepare a list of all current industry-related jobs and submitted them to our first contact person at the Department of Labor. That process took until early 2004. At the same time, a gentleman who had been hired as a consultant by DOL’s Employment & Training Administration (ETA) contacted Ben Cooper, former VP of Government Affairs at Printing Industries of America, to get his approval of the printing industry information posted on O*NET. By then, Cooper was aware of what the Foundation had discovered and sent the gentleman to work with us. With the approval of all the PIA Affiliates around the U.S., the Foundation took on the task of being the voice of the industry to “fix” the misinformation that was being purported about the industry.

Part of the “fixing” process was to have our intern, Nelson Alfred who was attending Platt College at the time, collect a list and short job description of every job in the industry and prepare a brochure which was sent to BLS noting every job that “Requires Industry Related Education or Formal on-the-Job Training”. That information was basically rejected by BLS since it was industry generated. We then partnered with the Colorado Department of Labor to generate a survey (in government manner and lingo) which confirmed our information, forwarded it to BLS and again the information was disregarded. At the same time Jim Kyger and Ron Davis from Printing Industries of America sent their surveys of job information (wages, job titles and The Print Market Atlas) to their contacts at the DOL – same result.

There were many theories about why the government information was wrong, one of which was that because there were no current apprenticeship programs, it was suggested that by writing new, modern apprenticeships – the information would be updated. We worked with the Colorado representatives from DOL’s Bureau of Apprenticeship & Training (BAT) to write the needed programs which were approved by DOL and the Union only to have them listed under classifications that no longer exist in the industry. At that point we pulled the apprenticeships until changes were made to the “job titles/occupations”.

Throughout the process former PIAMS president and Foundation secretary/treasurer Kathy Lauerman had ongoing dialog with various BLS/ETA/BAT representatives. One of the BLS representatives was also on an international SOC Code group (Standard Occupational Classification codes) that adopted our updated titles on an international level – but not in the U.S. This gentleman also took it upon himself to informally confirm our information in the Washington DC area, and of course it was confirmed.

Requests for approval and input continued from the BLS and at that time Carol Hurlburt of NPES and Kathy Lauerman of PIAMS, who have both since retired, were both heavily involved in the dialog. Promises were made over the years from various DOL departments to update the information but none came to fruition. In 2007 the Education Summit Group for Graphic Communications, a group sponsored by the Print & Graphics Scholarship Foundation (PGSF) adopted the cause as one of their action items. By then many Graphic Communications programs around the country were being closed – Most of which because of the misinformation being purported by the BLS about our industry. In addition the number of industry employees generated by the Department of Labor was also underreported because they only count production related numbers not full industry employment numbers.

The Education Summit Group active sub-committee members who continued the effort under the chairmanship of Mark Nuzzaco of NPES included Pat Klarecki from Ferris State University and Kathy Lauerman with tremendous support from Jim Kyger at Printing Industries of America, who ultimately took the reins to continue pestering BLS (and still does) to get correct industry information posted.

There are so many people to give credit to for helping with this decade long project and the list is far too long to cover – but you all know who you are. Thank you for your input and persistence. We would be remiss though in not thanking the woman who first came to us from the City & County of Denver who believes strongly in our industry and is a great proponent of what we do – Priscilla Bohl, not your typical bureaucrat. And, an additional “thank you” to Alexandra Hall and Joe Winter of the Colorado Department of Labor, who we can’t wait to eventually send a note to when the Feds finally update our information. Having correct job title/occupation information will also help them collect proper statistics on a state level.

Now all we can do is sit, wait, and continue to pester the DOL to get what has been approved and posted in the O*NET/SOC taxonomy placed on the actual O*NET website that is used by schools, economists, and all government agencies.

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