Print Shops Find Opportunities Amidst the Challenges The Buzz


With so many things being done electronically and online, it can seem that digital is the future while print is the past. But there are still opportunities in the printing industry if you can adapt to changing technologies.

"People say, 'Why go into print? Print's dead. Print's not going to survive,'" says Marie Eveline. She is the executive director of a printing industry council. "Well, that's not the case whatsoever. It's an essential component of an integrated marketing and communications strategy."

For example, the continuing growth in the packaging part of the industry means opportunities for printers.

"Packaging is what actually draws a person to a product and packaging that stands out gives a marketer an edge," Eveline says. "So there's a lot of interest in having very innovative packaging and design on packaging -- it's a very creative growth area."

Harvey Levenson agrees. He's head of the graphic communication department at California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly).

Levenson says there are many opportunities in packaging.

"We identify about 36 different industry segments," says Levenson. "Of all the segments associated with the printing industry, packaging is really the only one that has not been negatively impacted by the Internet...so we see a lot of growth and interest in that particular area.

"Another area of growth is printable electronics," says Levenson. (This refers to printed batteries that can be implanted in print. It allows print to be interactive.)

"We're going to see a tremendous amount of growth in this area, and the way printable electronics is going to be applied to printed output is going to somewhat revolutionize how print is used in the future," says Levenson. Cal Poly is developing a master's degree in this area.

"The idea is to be able to get batteries printed and included on printed documents at a price that's less than five cents a battery, and that's going to happen," says Levenson. "And that's going to change the whole landscape associated with how print can be made interactive."

Printable electronics is just one area of opportunity in the rapidly evolving printing industry. Change always brings opportunity.

"Even with the economic downturn, even with the sort of reduction in the overall number we'll need because of technology, we're still going to need significant numbers of individuals to come into our industry," says Eveline.

Despite the challenges, the printing industry is still huge and employs many people. And technological changes mean that those employees increasingly need a new set of skills.

"Technology has had an impact on both the nature of the job and the skill sets required in all three process areas within the printing and graphic communications industry – pre press, press and finishing/bindery," says Eveline.

"We're a manufacturing industry, but we're also transitioning to a service industry, so a lot of printing companies are offering a whole wide range of services now -- from design to actual printing to distribution," says Eveline. "As a result, the types of jobs that are available in the industry are quite diverse."

Colleges and universities across North America offer certificate, diploma and degree programs in all aspects of the printing process.

"Generally, for lots of positions you're looking at a college certificate or diploma. But since most of the training within the industry still takes place on the shop floor, there is definitely room for employees to gain the required skills that way," says Eveline. "It depends on the process area."

A number of universities offer programs in graphic communications management.

"In recruiting new people to the industry, we're trying to recruit people who are comfortable with technology, but also see the importance of a whole integrated approach to what printing provides," says Eveline.

"We need people who understand the whole print process and can move into management positions. There are a lot of career opportunities, although technology has probably resulted in fewer workers in our industry.

"In addition to the challenges caused by technological changes, we are also, like other industries, facing demographic challenges," Eveline adds. "There are definitely opportunities in the industry for people who want to work in a technology-based industry, given the fact that we're going to have significant retirements occurring over the next five to 10 years."

Links

Printing Industries of America
Visit this site for news on trends in the industry

National Association for Printing Leadership
This site offers resources for printing professionals

Printed Electronics
Explore this fast-growing area of the printing industry