Canada’s Printers Confront “An Industry Redefined”
A new study of Canada’s printing sector declares the industry to be in a state of heightened competition—
By Patrick Henry
Published: September 4, 2009
A new study of Canada’s printing sector declares the industry to be in a state of heightened competition—with itself. The study, produced by the Canadian Printing Industries Sector Council (CPISC), reexamines data about industry segments and processes to arrive at what it believes to be a more accurate and comprehensive definition of “printing.” It also analyzes workforce issues that bear upon the ability of Canadian printers to remain viable as service providers and employers. The study’s core question is, “So what exactly is a printer?” “It is clear that the traditional definition—that of an individual or organization that operates a printing press—is no longer adequate. Its narrow scope neglects the thousands of enterprises that produce comparable products on sophisticated copiers and printers, as well as companies that exclusively offer prepress, finishing and bindery services.” CPISC says that the standard classification of print and its related support services now also includes converted paper product manufacturing; newspaper, periodical, book and directory publishers; graphic design services; business service centers, and packaging and labeling services. The study maintains that these segments, far from being separate and distinct, frequently overlap competitively with one another because technology makes it easy for them to do so. “Already equipped to tackle virtually any job, printers in one industry segment need only make relatively minor adjustments to their processes to produce the products characteristic of another segment,” the study asserts. “There are now no longer firm lines to distinguish a copy shop from a quick printer, for example, or a specialty printer from a package printing company.” According to the study, nearly 50% of a company’s services typically fall into second, third, and even fourth industry segments. The result: “Canada's commercial printers—the 8,345 Canadian companies that specialize in printed and related support services—are now in direct contest with the 17,636 firms active in these new market segments.” The study’s human resources section addresses labor market trends of perennial concern on both sides of the border. These include “an aging Canadian workforce, too few training opportunities for new and existing workers, and a lack of awareness among young people and other job seekers about the career possibilities in the printing industry.” Canadian printers will need to replace roughly 50% of their 274,134 collective workers,” the study warns. “But with whom? A shortage of skilled labour compounded by an aging workforce and a lack of awareness among young people of jobs in the sector threatens the productivity and sustainability of the entire sector.” Four related papers, available here, propose remedies. The Canadian Printing Industries Sector Council (CPISC) is a national not-for-profit collaborative forum that receives its principal funding from the Canadian government. Its general objectives are “to enhance the industry's public image; make the industry a workplace of choice; and, maximize the career potential of every employee.” Comment: What would be wrong with having a governmental counterpart to CPISC in the U.S.? America’s printing industry needs accurate classification, image enhancement, and workforce development as much as Canada’s. An office for print industry affairs at the federal level wouldn’t be a cure-all, but it might serve as the national focal point for change that the industry lacks.