By Olivia Cahoon
Part 1 of 2
The print industry has drastically changed over the past decade. Print work now entails more than actual printing and the emerging workforce requires a different skill set than traditional pressman. Skilled workers are now required to be competent in database management and sophisticated design including workflow, digital color management, and personalized printing as well as customer experience.
To ensure the future workforce of print technology is well prepared, trade schools, colleges, and universities as well as industry vendors invest in training programs and education.
Print Job Requirements
Individuals interested in print-based careers have several educational options to consider including apprenticeships, certifications, degrees, trade schools, and years of experience. However, some programs are designed according to industry.
Joe Rickard, founder/president, Intellective Solutions, and co-author of the Xerox Digital Career Pathway Program Curriculum, says the work requirements for print providers vary because there are numerous types of jobs that require different skill sets. “Those interested in working in print should try to pinpoint the area of the industry they are most interested in focusing on,” he suggests. For example, those willing to work in programming and engineering departments generally need a full degree.
According to Rickard, a four-year college degree and ensuing profession is the right choice. However, a different approach is possible as well. Trade schools and STEM schools provide programs to further education. “They offer career satisfaction, good wages, job security, and are in high demand as members of these trades become harder and harder to find,” he offers.
With several educational options, the future workforce should look for programs with standard curriculum certifications. Annette McCrary, director, strategic marketing programs, commercial and industrial printing business group, Ricoh, suggest programs with certifications like Accrediting Council for Collegiate Graphic Communications Accreditation and instructor certifications.
“These will help you get a handle on how in touch with the industry the offering is, which is helpful both in terms of choosing the right coursework to gain the right knowledge and skills, and for finding employment afterward,” offers McCrary.
As digital technology continues to grow, the entire industry transforms, including the demand for skilled digital printing workers.
“Today’s digital technology gives businesses the opportunity to cost effectively print in smaller quantities, personalize the content for each recipient, and achieve stunning quality. The industry realizes the need for digital capabilities,” says Rickard. He believes the traditional pressman’s skills need to adapt from offset to digital technology—including the mechanics of operating digital technology and all-encompassing competencies like workflow, digital color management, and personalized printing.
McCrary says that according to Print Industry Chartbook: 2016 Trends and 2017-2018 Outlook, more than 76 percent of printers now offer digital printing. IBISWorld—Digital Printing Industry Report states that analysts expect digital printing establishments in the commercial space to grow by 28 percent. “That change alone is one our younger generations can capitalize on with the right education and training,” she offers.
Standards and Factors
With the innovation of digital print technology, print service providers (PSPs) expect the emerging workforce to be increasingly knowledgeable. Print work now entails more than just the actual print—it encompasses an experience based upon knowledge and customer experience.
McCrary says that multi-channel and omni-channel aren’t going away anytime soon and that the printed piece needs to be a component of a larger campaign. “The service provider needs the expertise to assist in developing and monitoring cross-media campaigns,” she says.
According to Rickard, it’s not so much that PSPs are raising standards for digital print workers, but adapting to industry changes, especially as more providers transition to digital technology. “For database management, one needs to understand how to integrate web-based, cloud-based, and digital channels,” he adds.
Skilled Worker Shortages
Acquiring new talent for the future print industry presents challenges for PSPs. Current skilled employees are aging without enough trained personnel to replace them.
“As the print workforce ages and workers with institutional knowledge move toward retirement, there are only 115 Print Education Accredited Programs in the U.S. to train the next generation of print professionals,” says McCrary. The programs are concentrated in 23 states—presenting a challenge for students nationwide.
Rickard believes the biggest hurdle of print education is the changing skill sets needed to work in today’s print environment, especially as more PSPs transition from offset to digital presses as well as finding knowledgeable professionals to fit the job requirements. He suggests hiring PSPs stay closely connected with local schools with printing programs and graphic arts trade associations. “This will help ensure that the training being done aligns with the need in the field. In that way, they can also source talent and potentially find future hires.”
Xerox offers a Digital Career Pathway Program that provides individuals with opportunities to acquire the skills and knowledge that helps drive success in digital production printing and workflow. It was created to aid in the development of lesson plans for 120 hours of instruction and labs.
Rickard says the program is designed for students and adult learners. Xerox sells the program to school districts, community and technical colleges, county career centers, veteran programs, and other learning institutions like correctional and juvenile facilities. He adds, “Xerox has also seen interest from commercial printers looking to build the skills of workers in their own print shops,” he adds.
The Digital Career Pathway Program features 34 teaching units built on 146 printing industries and approved competencies. According to Rickard, the curriculum is flexible to accommodate different levels and student learning styles. It’s also constructed so the content is easily modified. “The curriculum encourages hands-on and group interactions with real-life projects,” says Rickard. Instructors may integrate plant tours, guest speakers, online videos, job shadowing, and mentoring into the course.
Ricoh partnered with California PolyTechnic State University GrCI Institute to develop the Digital Literacy through Media Program. It is a hands-on program designed to teach the core principles of digital media design and communication including digital design, typography, color management and theory, database management, and marketing.
Ricoh also partnered with the authors of Introduction to Graphic Communication 2nd Edition. McCrary says it is referred to as a multi-book because it uses Ricoh’s Clickable Paper technology as a gateway from each page to multiple, online experiences from videos to informational text. “The multi-book combines all benefits of print, digital video, sound, and other online, mobile experiences including direct engagement among readers and with teachers, trainers, or team leaders, and makes them available in the familiar physical book format,” she offers.
While print education has improved, there’s still more that can be done. Rickard believes print associations, PSPs, schools, and education programs need to be more coordinated with one another to better connect the skills sets and requirements needed in today’s force. He offers, “it’s imperative to have one united force to maximize the understanding of what is needed in the workforce and where, if any, there are holes.”
To attract the best and brightest qualified workers, Rickard suggests PSPs get involved in local schools, colleges, and universities as well as offer internships to help identify potential talent.
“It’s best to keep an ear to the ground regarding average compensation and look for ways to treat your workers well enough that they’ll want to join and stay with your team,” says McCrary. PSPs can leverage information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and sites like Payscale to get a better sense of what the average worker expects. She also suggests PSPs provide ongoing training to help the business adapt to constant changes.
Workers looking to break into the industry should take the opportunity to learn and build skill sets to help showcase how they can be an asset to the print industry. “Make sure you know how to use industry-wide and basic software programs, including database software,” offers Rickard. He also suggests that workers develop a portfolio as they take courses—showcasing what they accomplish, produce, and solve.
Print in Education
PSPs generally seek prospective workers who have a broad knowledge of the digital printing industry. However, future workers should consider the types of jobs they’re interested in because work requirements vary based upon different skill sets. PSPs can do their part for the future workforce by partnering with local printing programs and offering internships.
In part two of this two-part series, we speak with a university that offers a print education course.
Dec2017, DPS Magazine