Well-expressed comments by "Nick" and Kellie Gibson in the thread about recruitment raise a legitimate issue in the debate about meeting the printing industry's present and future staffing requirements. If printers are having trouble hiring and retaining qualified people, does part of the problem lie in the fact that some of the positions they’re trying to fill just aren’t very desirable?
Without wishing to generalize from the posters' remarks, we hope that they will open up the discussion to the following related questions:
• Given that individual matters of compensation, working conditions, advancement, and training can be resolved only in negotiations between print industry employees and the companies they work for, what exactly is the proper role of national trade associations in promoting print as a career? Is there a fundamental disconnect between what Ms. Gibson calls "Reality USA" and broadly based campaigns to spiff up the industry’s image as a place to work?
• Nick’s belief that "very few printers or pre-press houses want to train employees these days" runs counter to the claim by PIA/GATF that nearly half of printers surveyed plan to increase training as a response to the retirement of veteran staff members (see Staffing the Future: Human Resource Needs in the Printing Industry 2006–2010 from PIA/GATF Economics and Market Research Department). Yet data from the NAPL Organization Development and Compensation Study 2007 suggest that about 40% of printers offer nothing beyond vendor-provided training, and that the industry’s average investment in training is only .7% (seven-tenths of a percent) of annual revenues. Just how strongly are printers committed to making better workers of the people they already have?
• Employer-subsidized union schools used to be talent incubators for some segments of the industry, but these institutions have waned along with the labor organizations they belonged to. Should employers explore the idea of sponsoring cooperative printing trade schools in their regions without the union context? Should local printing associations be championing the idea?
• Speaking of "Reality USA," do current and prospective printing employees have realistic expectations about what a career in printing entails? Conventional printing is, after all, a form of manufacturing that takes place in a factory environment—in factory conditions, at and factory wages. This isn’t to say that the working amenities and the pay scales shouldn't be all that good people deserve, but is it a mistake to gloss over the nitty-gritty aspects of printing jobs when trying to promote them?
As all of the comments to the thread indicate, recruitment is a deeply layered problem that forces us to make a number of uncomfortable admissions. One of them is that more, and probably much more, needs to be done at the level of the individual employer in order to attract talented people to the industry and keep them there. Another is that a perception vs. reality gap does no one any favors when it comes to making the right choices about careers in printing. What's your verdict on what’s real, and what isn’t, in the common effort to keep the industry's ranks filled?