Our Changing Workforce
To compound matters, many outside of the industry—and for that matter too many inside the industry—were forecasting the death of everything print. Anyone who understood the craft of print and was employed was not too excited about leaving their present job. Especially in light of a rapidly shrinking industry where closures and consolidations were occurring at historical rates. And young people had no interest in getting into a “dying” industry. That’s how we got here.
A People Problem
The major challenge facing the industry over the next 10 years is not technology and marketing, but finding and training people. A recent study conducted by several Printing Industries of America Affiliates asked the question: What percentage of your skilled workforce (production personnel) do you estimate will retire in the next 5–10 years? More than 50% of the respondents indicated that a significant amount (30–50%) of their workforce would retire in that period. The same survey showed the median age in the offset pressroom was over 45 in nearly two-thirds of the companies surveyed.
Where will we find people with the right skills (attitude, ability, and work habits) to replace our existing workforce? More important—how will we train them? The industry predominately uses OJT to train (85% per the PIA Affiliate survey); consequently the industry’s “trainers” will very quickly be departing the industry. By the way, our industry is not the only one facing this challenge. Many firms in the manufacturing sector are seeing identical issues. The baby‐boomers who comprise a large subset of skilled employees are beginning to leave, and changes in technology and workflow are making them look beyond their competitors for personnel. We’re not alone. What’s the answer? It’s a recommitment to training.
In the past management relied on labor unions and trade schools to develop a core of trained individuals. That is no longer an option. Equipment manufacturers no longer have the organizational depth to provide training as in the past, and the trade associations don’t have resources to create print schools which historically were supported by public dollars.