Overcoming Industry Staffing and Labor Shortages in 2023 — and Beyond
March 6, 2023 | Posted in: PGSF News | PGSF Blogs
Credit: Getty Images
PGSF Chair Jules VanSant contributed her experience and thoughts to this annual review of the state of staffing in the print and graphics industries
by Toni McQuilken, Printing Impressions
Retaining. Staffing. At the crux of the challenge is that finding — and keeping — qualified, passionate people isn’t easy. Global and economic factors over the past few years certainly accelerated some of the pressures, but these challenges were looming for years before COVID was part of our collective vocabulary. And they will continue to play a critical role in the success — or failure — of printing businesses for many years to come.
The personnel problems facing the printing industry aren’t issues that can be resolved quickly or easily:
- There is a growing lack of highly-trained personnel as older generations retire and take that institutional knowledge with them.
- There has been a major reduction in the last decade of school programs for trades of any sort, so younger generations aren’t being exposed to manufacturing jobs as a career choice.
- There is a lack of interest in the printing industry — there is a perception that it is “dead,” or that it is a dirty, messy job and not a modern career choice.
- There is a lack of active, consistent industry recruitment, so those who do make their way into print do so more by accident than by design.
- There is a lack of training and mentoring, making it easier for employees to walk away.
All of these problems, combined with the challenges of a pandemic, supply chain issues, and the looming possibility of a recession in 2023, are a perfect storm that have left commercial printers both large and small scrambling.
“Not surprisingly, companies in the printing industry will continue to have difficulties in attracting and keeping talent in 2023,” Joe Marin, senior VP of member services at PRINTING United Alliance, says. “There is a skills gap, and people with industry experience and technical expertise experience are in increasingly high demand.”
But that doesn’t mean there aren’t steps that commercial printers can be taking to help improve the situation. It won’t be quick — or easy — but embracing the new talent landscape will help printers attract and retain some of the best talent out there.
Competing for Young Talent in a Tech-Savvy World
First and foremost, printing companies need to realize that they aren’t just competing with other printers for the top talent — they are competing with companies like Amazon, Google, Apple, and Microsoft, just to name a few. As newer generations enter the workforce, they are exposed to high-tech companies and industries, and pushed by parents, teachers, and society to covet careers in those spaces. To stand out, commercial printers need to embrace technology as well.
“One of the challenges printers face is that they aren’t investing in new technologies and equipment, and they are going to have a harder time recruiting,” Jules VanSant, founder, Bubble & Hatch, and chairman of the Print & Graphics Scholarship Foundation (PGSF), points out. They are staying with what they have and, because of that, they’re going to have a smaller pool of talent to draw from.