Commercial Printing's Aging Workforce: It’s Not Somebody Else’s Problem to Solve
Recruitment, retention, and training of the future workforce has been consistently identified as the No. 1 issue facing the commercial printing industry. The question is what to do about it — and who is responsible for doing it.
As noted by the study, “Workforce Concerns in Graphic Communications,” by the Graphic Communications Workforce Coalition (GCWC), the percentage of the printing industry’s workforce on the verge of retirement is growing. In 2016, 36% of the workforce was aged 51-60 years old. If the staffing dynamics hold true, in 2021, that means 36% of the workforce will be 56-65 years old.
“Think about that — 36% of printing employees are at or nearing retirement age,” notes Jeff White, director of development for the Print and Graphics Scholarship Foundation (PGSF), which offers scholarships to students looking to make a career in the printing industry. “As those workers retire, those positions need to be backfilled with younger workers, and there simply aren’t enough in the pipeline.”
Yet, what are printers doing about it? Many have fairly low turnover, so they assume that, when they need to make a hire, they’ll figure it out. However, they might be in for a rude awakening.
“There are fewer and fewer graduates from four-year schools like Clemson and RIT, and high schools and trade schools that used to be pipelines for bindery and [offset] press operators have been phased out,” White explains.
“Job placement sites like Monster and Indeed may provide candidates with mechanical aptitude, but those workers still need to be trained, and that training takes time. Bindery operators can be trained in a matter of weeks, but press operators can take years.”