Who’ll Fill Your Shoes? —Michelson
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.