The Imperfect Storm: Jobs Dwindle, Workforce Ages
Last week, CBS news cited a CareerBuilder study regarding the five careers that are growing, and five that are shrinking, among middle-income earners. It is interesting to note that customer service representatives, who earn $32,000 a year, will see roughly 172,000 new hires in the corporate ranks.
So that's the good news. The bad? Eh, I'm sure you're not all that surprised.
Printing press operators win the day, so to speak, with a list-topping -9% job growth during the next five years, with about 15,000 jobs going away during that period. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, press operators pull down about $37,000 a year. That the study factored in newspaper printing kind of queers the numbers a bit.
Another study conducted by Printing Industries of America (PIA) affiliates, interestingly enough, shows that 59.2% of press crews fall between the ages of 45 and 55. Another 6.8% is older than 55, which (if my math is correct) means 66% of press operators (45 and older) can remember a time when black-and-white TVs were fairly common.
It's the perception stemming from reports such as the CareerBuilder study that will make it tougher in the court of perception to encourage younger manufacturing-bent people that printing is still a viable industry to work with their hands. But that's not the entire problem. According to Joe Polanco, who authored the PIA study, "The baby-boomers who comprise a large subset of skilled employees are beginning to leave, and changes in technology and workflow are making [firms] look beyond their competitors for personnel." Thus, it's impacting many firms in the manufacturing sector.
Polanco wrote that the answer lies in a recommitment to training. Labor unions and trade schools used to be the solution, and manufacturers don't have the depth to provide training from their end.
Down-n-dirty printing isn't going away, but even if the CareerBuilder study is way off the mark on losses, the printing industry still needs to reconcile an inconvenient truth. The trend toward cross-training needs to continue not only at the more highly-evolved facilities, but everywhere. History says we are due for another recession at some point, so it will be even more incumbent upon printers to make sure their employees are Jacks/Jills of all trades.