Finding Answers to Print Labor Shortage

Concerned about the long-term viability of staffing your own print business? According to Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median age for the print industry as of 2017 is just over 47 years old. It’s not news that print business leaders are thinking about the implications. But there is a bright spot. Some motivated members of a “certain generation” are thinking about it, too. Read this post from Xerox’s Jackie Stewart for a look at the elite of the next-gen print industry labor pool.
The major challenge facing the print industry during the next 10 years isn’t technology and marketing, but rather finding and training good people. A recent study by several Printing Industries of America (PIA) Affiliates asked: What percentage of your skilled workforce (production personnel) do you estimate will retire in the next 5 to 10 years? More than 50 percent of the respondents indicated that a significant amount (30-50 percent) of their workforce would retire in that period. The same research showed that the median age in the offset pressroom was over 45 in nearly two-thirds of the companies surveyed.
As the print industry struggles with shortages of skilled workers, it has also placed increased emphasis on attracting a pipeline of younger talent. Enter the 54th annual SkillsUSA National Leadership and Skills Conference, which took place June 25-29 in Louisville, KY.
The SkillsUSA National Leadership and Skills Conference is a national competition for public high school and college/postsecondary students enrolled in career and technical education programs. The world’s largest showcase of skilled trades brings together more than 18,000 students, teachers, education leaders and representatives from over 600 national corporations, trade associations, businesses and labor unions.
Working in close partnership with SkillsUSA, Xerox Corporation participated in the digital press operations portion of the Graphic Communications competition. Students completed pre-press, printing and finishing tasks on six Xerox Digital Presses. These accomplishments demonstrated interest and proficiency in key skills required for jobs in the Graphic Communications/Print industry.
“It was such fun meeting so many bright young future Graphics Communications professionals. They came to compete, and we could tell from their attention and intensity that they were eager to learn, so that they would succeed. It was very refreshing,” said Kate Leme, Instructor/Developer and G7 Expert with Xerox Learning & Development.

Mentoring and Coaching Make a Difference

SkillsUSA and Xerox support same goal
Students in the SkillsUSA graphic communications championship practice using the Xerox and EFI equipment the day before the competition.

Students received coaching and mentoring from onsite marketing, technical and training resources from Xerox, as they practiced with mock exercises prior to the final competition. By Day Three, students were highly focused and ready to compete. During the awards ceremony, the top three performers won gold, silver and bronze medals in college and high school divisions.
Previous gold medal winner, John Bohnett (he took the Skills competition in 2012), and now employed in Press Support at Quad Packaging, stated: “SkillsUSA put my skills to the test and introduced me to companies that would develop this skillset. When I talk about this organization to others, I cannot express how greatly it has impacted my career.”

Skilled Print Workforce Is a Common Goal: “Competitors in business become partners in education.”

“I don’t know of anywhere else that industry comes together in this way. Competitors in business become partners in education, working side by side to promote our industry and support these young competitors,” said Dan Wheeler, DK Wheeler Training & Business Services, and Graphic Communications Technical Committee Chair of the conference. “If you don’t know about SkillsUSA, you’re truly missing a great opportunity to tap into a lifeline to your future workforce. I’ve seen some of these competitors now two and three years in a row. The transformation and growth in some is really quite impressive. These young people are the cream of the crop – the elite. We strive to attract, excite and engage our future workforce, and our contest is evolving to remain current and relevant to our industry. There is no way better I know of than SkillsUSA!”

Xerox Digital Career Pathway Program Teaches Skills

Providing a skilled workforce for the Graphic Communications/Print industry is a goal shared by SkillsUSA, Xerox Corporation and EFI. To further that objective, Xerox developed a robust learning and mentoring platform – the Xerox Digital Career Pathway Program (XDCPP). XDCPP provides digital production printing curriculum and hands-on training to teach skills aligned to the National PrintED Accreditation process. Currently in use in about 20 states, the Xerox program supports building the future print industry workforce through education (K-12, community and technical colleges), state and government agencies, and corrections and juvenile facilities. The program provides students and adult learners with opportunities to acquire the skills and knowledge to be successful in digital production printing and workflow careers.
Today’s print industry is changing, and demand for skilled digital printing workers is increasing. Traditional offset printing is a mature technology, while digital technology gives businesses the opportunity to cost-effectively print in smaller quantities, personalize content and achieve stunning quality. The industry clearly recognizes the need for digital capabilities and the skilled workforce to address the need.
What’s the answer? It’s a recommitment to training. For some, a four-year college degree and ensuing profession is the right choice. But for others, a different approach may be more appropriate. Skilled trades can provide an excellent alternative or bridge to further education. A four-year college degree may not be right for everyone, but opportunity is. And that’s what SkillsUSA and our Digital Career Pathway Program provide.
We’re thrilled to join SkillsUSA to celebrate the value of print and interact with the future minds of the industry. At Xerox, we’re passionate about shaping the next generation of print professionals. Efforts like these provide the future workforce with the fundamental tools to succeed.


Share this blog with your network. The labor force connections you need might be out there looking just as hard for you.

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