A Training Crisis in the Bindery?
Oh, where have all the vocational courses gone? Does anyone here remember shop class?
Once upon a time (long ago), vocational classes in schools taught everything from car mechanics to woodworking. In my case, I came close to getting my airframe and powerplant license! Back in the day, there were lots of vocational options for non-college-bound students. New York City even had the New York School of Printing in Hell’s Kitchen, which became the High School of Graphic Communications Arts. Sadly, it breathed its last in 2016.
The current options for vocational training or apprenticeships, specifically in print finishing are few if any. Which also links to the other question of candidates for jobs in trade binderies and commercial and digital print. While bindery automation is better than ever, it still takes a fairly good understanding of the paper and its finishing possibilities to make a good finishing systems operator.
This is really true in book printing (which is actually doing fairly well). The variety of finishing options involved in both softcover and hardcover book printing and finishing require a solid knowledge of the components and techniques that produce a quality book. From PUR binding to thread sewing to case making, there is a lot for the beginner to learn. Mistakes can easily erase the profit from short production runs. So, what are finishing operations to do when their most experienced (and older) operators decide it’s time to smell the roses?
Develop an in-house training program. Most machinery vendors (including the one I represent) offer very detailed operator and maintenance training on their equipment. That’s a start. If you couple that with in-house staff who can adequately train new hires on your firm’s finishing operations and practices, you will be able to bring those “newbies” up-to-speed.
I have seen this first-hand with many of my customers. New finishing hires that came “off the street” with no prior knowledge have bloomed into proficient operators under the guiding hands of the old school folks. So, the answer to training up the bindery is you. Use the years of accumulated finishing experience of your most senior people to train your new people. And use them before they head out the door. Better yet, use them to develop a structured training program that can survive any staff retirements. The resources of yore are no longer in today’s environment, so it’s up to you!