As the representative for Domtar at industry trade shows, I have the opportunity to attend many educational breakout sessions. One of the speakers that I found of real interest is Jacob M. Walker. He is CEO of CP Graphics in Tucson and has a candid, thought-provoking speaking and writing style. During the session, he invited attendees to share any of the information from his blog. One post that I found particularly enlightening is titled The Biggest Threat to the Future of Print, where he talks about the shortage of talent entering the industry and some ideas to not allow this threat to affect your organization.
According to the latest data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median age of the print industry is 47.4. The total employment median age is 42.2. So we have an industry that is 12% older than the average. There are positives to this data. It indicates that the experience level should be high and that folks tend to stay in the industry. The threat becomes if not enough young folks enter the industry, there will be a massive shortage of skill and know-how in the near future. So, what are some strategies to address this?
If a young person expresses interest in an opportunity to be part of your team, give them a chance. If they have an interest in joining the industry and are willing to tackle problem-solving, you can train them for the “craft” side of the trade. In general, the candidate is likely already comfortable with technology and will bring with them strong general PC skills. They have grown up with a smartphone in their hands, a laptop at their desk and all the gaming hours on the Xbox, Playstation have prepared them to navigate the technical arena. They might be a resource to others from day one in this area.
Don’t focus on hard skills
Focus more on their attitude and their work ethic than the hard skills that they currently possess. If the desire to learn is part of their core, they can be trained to develop the knowledge. To make an analogy to the sports world, you want teammates who have positive outlooks and a desire to get better on your side. This type of person will focus on improvement. They will take pride in their effort and will execute the fundamentals. They will dress professionally, show up on time, and reply to e-mails, voice mails in a timely fashion. They will represent your company well.
There are still schools, universities that have print curriculum and are generating graduates with talent. Walker’s company has had success with Arizona State University. Pittsburg State in Kansas, Clemson University, and RIT in New York offer Graphic Communication degrees. There are others around the country. It might be a good investment to develop relationships with the academic leaders of these programs in schools near you. Offer to give time to educate the students and share the vision that your company has. You just might find a future leader for your team.
What is your experience with training young people in the print industry? Do you agree with Jacob Walker’s assessment? We’d love to hear from you.