By John Berthelsen, VP-Development, Print & Graphic Scholarship Foundation
Companies throughout the industry (and this includes suppliers) are facing a common problem. They have an increasing number of employees who are reaching retirement age and are wondering where they are going to find replacements for these skilled workers. While this has always been somewhat of an issue for our industry, today it is becoming mission critical. A 2018 industry survey listed the top three business challenges as 1) Finding skilled sales personnel (65%), 2) Finding skilled production employees (42%), and 3) Recruiting and retaining employees (38%). How we address this going forward is of vital importance to the future survival of the graphic arts community. This article will not address the need to fill an opening that you have to solve in the next month but intends to look at the macro view of how you can address this issue long term and more globally.
Traditionally the graphic communications industry has done a poor job of promoting itself. In the eyes of most high school guidance counselors, and the typical parent, “printing” is thought of as a dirty non-essential and old-school industry. All over the country at both the high school and post-secondary level graphics programs are being dropped by school administrators. As a statement, very few graphics companies make an effort to support their local or regional educational programs, or to do any industry promotion.
The main focus of the Print and Graphics Scholarship Foundation is to award funds to students who are enrolled in a vocational school or college program. But an equally important mission is to actively encourage young people to consider the graphic communications as a viable career path. It has several tools and aids available to enable recruitment of young people into the industry and to support efforts of companies on a local basis.
Get Involved on a Local Level
So, what can a company do in its own area to improve recruitment and encourage young people to consider the graphic arts as a career choice? Here are a few ideas…
- Hold tours at your company. Let the local middle and senior high know that you are available for class tours to show how the company operates and what you produce. Place an emphasis on digital, wide format, creative and other new technologies that showcase the modern aspects of the industry.
- When offering tours, don’t forget about Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Yearbook staff, Design club, Journalism class or any other related group that may have an interest in touring or learning about your company or manufacturing process. You never know where you might strike an interest.
- PGSF has a Career Guide flyer available that you can give to visitors that describes the industry and lists several potential positions available in a typical company. Downloadable files are available so that you can add your own logo and information on the back cover to produce your own localized version.
- Send speakers to local high school career days whenever the opportunity exists. Hand out literature (see previous note) and use interesting graphics or display materials if your company produces them. One company I know of produced a life size cutout of Justin Bieber and every kid in the room wanted to take a selfie with it. Do one of your local sports team mascot. Send one the youngest and best talkers you have - who will relate to the kids – not just any senior VP or manager.
- Do whatever you can to promote the industry in whatever venue you can. PGSF has updated our Career Poster that is available to anyone requesting it. It can be posted in schools or anywhere kids will see it. It is intended to pique their interest and encourage them to consider a career in the graphic arts. Several companies have made large banner size copies for posting at strategic locations in their facility.
- If you know of a student who is planning on going to school to get a one, two or four-year degree in a graphics related program, encourage them to apply for a scholarship with PGSF. This year we will give out 217 scholarships totaling over $500,000.
If enough companies start taking action, we will certainly be able to move the dial, and be able to ensure that we have enough young people entering the workforce to replace those that are leaving. Support a local or national scholarship program to perpetuate the workforce of the future. Let’s get started!
For more information on PGSF, to download files, or how you can support its programs, go to www.pgsf.org.
John Berthelsen retired from his position as CEO of Suttle-Straus in Waunakee, Wisconsin after leading the company for over 35 years. He is now working with individuals and companies to create the future employment workforce, support education and increase funding for the Foundation.