Printing Impressions

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Who’ll Fill Your Shoes? —Michelson

November 2007
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NO DOUBT about it, the printing profession is far down the list of career options being considered by high school and college-age students. Chalk it up to a misconception among the general public and media outlets that print is dead. To the belief that television and, now especially, the Internet, have supplanted the printed word as the communication vehicle of choice for young Millenials and Generation X. To college guidance counselors who still think of printing as a “down and dirty” industry, not realizing the computer, electronics and information technology skill sets now mandated to perform many graphic arts industry job functions.

Admittedly, large newspaper publishers/printers are in a tailspin—trying to make up for the loss of highly profitable classified advertising to online counterparts, unable to compete with the Internet and 24-hour cable news television outlets for breaking news coverage, and watching their subscriber—and hence advertising—bases sink faster than the 46,000-ton Titanic. But other printed products, including local weekly papers, are holding their own, if not flourishing. Despite the latest round of postal rate increases, checks are in the mail for direct mail printers. Harry Potter and offshore sourcing notwithstanding, U.S. book manufacturers are seeing strong intake orders for other best-sellers, textbooks, reprints and short-run digital titles. A recent research study from Deloitte found that almost three-fourths of consumers—no matter the age group—choose to read magazines, even though they might be able to find the same information online. Specialty news publications like The Economist and The Week are also thriving.

Even so, we’re losing the battle to attract the brightest students. According to a recent op-ed piece by veteran industry educator Frank Romano, the printing industry needs 60,000 new workers each year. He says half come from printers stealing employees away from other shops, about 30 percent from high schools, 15 percent from two- and four-year colleges, and the remaining 5 percent from trade or manufacturer institutions. “At one time we graduated more than 4,000 Bachelor’s and Master’s degree students; today it is under 1,000,” Romano lamented.

Our industry is taking notice. At Graph Expo, more than 100 people attended an Education Summit hosted by the Print and Graphics Scholarship Foundation (PGSF). Some of the ideas noted by various speakers for improving printing’s image and attracting more young, skilled professionals: Reach Generation Y in places they congregate (including social networking sites and the Second Life online virtual world); use association lobbyists to change the U.S. Department of Labor’s outdated descriptions and classifications of the industry’s segments; convince more companies about the value of contributing scholarship money; and work with local economic development leaders to spend technology-earmarked money to aid print education.
 
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Most Recent Comments:
David Burton - Posted on March 14, 2008
At one time the pay for printing was exceptional. We haven't kept up with other trades ie.,. plumbing, auto mechanics and other skilled trades. For the average worker on the floor to come into a trade that offers no lunches or breaks, it is difficult to find entry level people who will stick with it.
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Archived Comments:
David Burton - Posted on March 14, 2008
At one time the pay for printing was exceptional. We haven't kept up with other trades ie.,. plumbing, auto mechanics and other skilled trades. For the average worker on the floor to come into a trade that offers no lunches or breaks, it is difficult to find entry level people who will stick with it.