A new generation and an old industry

A new generation and an old industry

Look around most printing companies (mine included) and one thing we see a lot of is an aging workforce. A few years back, a study conducted by several Printing Industries of America (PIA) affiliates asked the question: What percentage of your skilled workforce 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%) of their workforce would retire in that period.  The same survey showed that the median age in the offset pressroom was over 45 in nearly two-thirds of the companies surveyed.

We are not alone in this challenge.  Many other businesses that fall under the umbrella of manufacturing face the same dilemma as baby boomers retire and a new generation enters the workforce.  

One thing that is unique to printing is how we are perceived among younger individuals, particularly millennials and the even younger Generation Z.  Many of these younger folks look at printing as a dying and old-fashioned industry which presents us with a challenge and an opportunity:  How do we change the dialogue to educate younger generations on the optimistic future and possibilities within our industry?    

One advantage in attracting younger folks into our mature industry is that, with older, more tenured employees retiring, more senior positions are becoming available and thus opening the opportunity for advancement at a faster pace than before something any ambitious, young employee will find appealing.  

And not all news about the younger generations is gloomy.  It’s noteworthy that Neil Howe, who coined the term “Millennial Generation,” writes in Forbes that Millennials lead other generations in reading and prefer print. Print marketing — especially with a long-term investment — has a significant advantage over more ephemeral touchpoints because it’s memorable. In the age of tweets, Instagram stories and Snapchat, touching a printed material can stir the senses in more ways than one and create a real memory.  Now, we just need to translate that experience in a way that lets younger generations know that print is not dead, but is alive and well and working in the printing industry can be a great career choice.  

Join me at the Fall Conference Nov. 1-5 to learn more about this important topic.  Ryan Jenkins will be speaking about “Next Generation Engagement: Proven Strategies to Attract and Retain Millennial Talent” on Sunday morning. 

Onward and upward!