Your keys to developing the next generation print workforce
Many print and graphic communications companies are seeing significant improvement in customer demand for printed products. While this could be a sign of clear sailing ahead, the reality looks far more choppy. Historic labor challenges are depressing business growth and optimism, leading to reduced operational efficiency and margins.
Our industry’s labor shortages stretch well beyond print, touching all levels of manufacturing. Adding to the burden for print service providers, our industry is underestimated, misunderstood and even unknown to many career seekers.
Print careers generally are not considered like other comparable industries or trades. Even those currently serving within the print production workforce often lack a clear path to advancing their career.
Driven by a narrative that is weighted in the wrong facts, print is flying under the radar of young people today. While an ever-struggling postal system, a sea change in news consumption and the growth of digital advertising are well-documented facts, they are nowhere representative of the enormous impact print manufacturing has on the global economy, our local workforces, and our everyday lives.
The pandemic delivered print’s significant influence in our lives from out of the shadows. Printing of logistics, packaging, labeling, health instructions, safety-related signage (and much more) literally helped keep us safe and our economies moving.
In addition, the importance of print in an integrated marketing and visual communications campaign was heightened in a world where “touching” customers became increasingly difficult. While digital channels are critical to every marketer’s communication plan, not factoring in print is proving too often to be a deal-breaker.
To meet customer demand for printed products, we must first solve our industry’s workforce development crisis. The average age for press operators is closing in on 60. To make matters more complicated, record numbers of employees are leaving the workforce. The decline of print and graphic communications school programs continues, unabated.
These sobering facts have the recruitment, retention, and training of our future workforce the most critical set of long-term issues facing our industry.
We must widen our search to attract a more diverse audience of career seekers. This will only be accomplished by creating foundational changes in the recruiting, hiring, and training practices of our businesses. Business leaders that empower their human and financial resource executives to create and implement a strategy of retention, culture and innovation will be the most effective in employing the required workforces of tomorrow.
To inspire parents, students, teachers, and all career advocates to the opportunities of print, we must find ways to share how print is more than they know. Print and graphic communications jobs are high-tech, highly-skilled, creative, and innovative. As an industry, we need to better support all print stakeholders in sharing the real-world opportunities of print careers. Changing the public perception gap of print is critical to meeting our industry’s future hiring needs.
Retaining current workers in today’s environment is a critical part of any workforce development strategy. While companies scramble to get work out the door, employers can lose sight of the need to ensure their production employees have a clear path to advancing their career and pay through improved skills-training.
Whether an entry-level employee or a long-time professional, effective training requires more than gaining access to self-paced videos. A key to transforming the notion of training to one of learning is addressing the realities that we all learn differently. While some can learn at their own pace, others need more oversight and support.
Our industry must support education that is competency-based, task-driven and experiential in ways that actually cements the instruction.
To meet our industry’s workforce challenges, we must empower all stakeholders to share the understanding and awareness of the print industry, awaken potential career seekers to exciting and rewarding careers in print, and establish respected industry accreditations in our most needed disciplines using effective methodologies that will actually result in inspiring the next generation of print professionals.
Steve Bonoff – Founding Partner at Print Industries
Steve Bonoff is co-founder of Print Industries, a national thought leadership and workforce development organization serving the advanced manufacturing sectors of print and graphic communications, offering industry advocacy, career guidance, and experiential learning to inspire, recruit, and train our next generation workforce.
Join Steve at Americas Print Show, August 17-19, 2022, in Columbus, OH. His presentations will be brimming inspiration and practical tools the Print Industries has created to support employers as they recruit and train the next generation. Register for these presentations and so much more at www.americasprintshow.com.