Those of us not old enough to have seen what the industry was like in the years immediately after World War II can get a fascinating glimpse in Printing, a vocational short subject released in 1947 for the “Your Life Work” series and preserved for posterity at YouTube.

Full of scenes showing bygone production technologies in action, Printing is a treat for print history buffs of all ages. But what makes it most worth watching now is the fact that it’s a recruiting film: an industry overview that promotes careers in printing by appealing to young people’s interests in craft skills, earning potential, job security, and professional advancement.

[Editor's note: This video is in the public domain and is available for download from the Internet Archive at]

In a manner suited to its time, Printing tries to do what industry-sponsored recruiting efforts have been trying to do ever since. Our ongoing anxiety over the difficulty of attracting talent tells us that we haven’t hit upon the right formula yet. But I have to wonder whether Printing, a cinematic relic from more than 60 years ago, doesn’t contain elements that latter-day recruiting initiatives would benefit from imitating.

Compare Printing with The Pathway to Prosperity, Choosing a Career in the Graphic Communication Industry, produced last year by Kodak’s Graphic Communications Group and the Print and Graphics Scholarship Foundation (PGSF). Printing, a straightforward documentary, depicts in detail what printing occupations are like. The Pathway to Prosperity, a staged dialogue between an industry executive and an actor, mostly talks about them. Printing challenges would-be entrants by advising them of the knowledge they will have to acquire and the skills they will have to master. The Pathway to Prosperity has less to say about who is qualified and what it takes to break in.

Both are earnest and well-intentioned attempts to pitch careers in printing to those who might otherwise have overlooked them. Certainly, The Pathway to Prosperity is the more upbeat of the two: it paints a bright and well-documented picture of job opportunities, whereas Printing somewhat dourly notes that “chances of securing employment normally are good.”

But Printing is the more realistic portrayal of the what the industry has to offer newcomers, and that is where I think its value as a model for career promotion lies. As we plan the next outreach, let’s take a cue or two from Printing. Wouldn’t it be great to see this unsung gem from 1947 updated for the recruiting quest of 2009?