I recently received an email from my daughter’s high school counseling department looking for parents to talk at their Career Day.  Under the list of careers, grouped as Arts, A/V Technology and Communications, was Printing Technologies. As I considered whether or not to accept I started thinking about how I would pitch our industry to high school students.

With printing in such transition what will it look like in 2018 to 2020 when these students graduate from College? It is hard to imagine what 2014 will look like, much less 2020. Our county does have a center for Arts and Technology that teaches printing and design. But beyond that how do you present to the youth of today careers that they would be interested in?

Most paper mills are continuing to predict declining output of printing papers and are diversifying into other areas. It is hard to say if this will level off or continue to decline year after year. If the decline continues our industry will be less paper focused and more media focused. Dr. Ronnie Davis, the PIA chief economist, has predicted the future by looking at different types of printing, those that inform/communicate, market/promote and product logistics. He expects total printing growth to increase a few percentage points or become flat by 2021. Inform/communicate would decline and marketing and logistics would grow. That prediction would continue to see a strong paper based industry.

What are colleges doing? How do they see the future? I checked out Printing Degrees on the web and found eleven schools on Campus Explorer. Many of the schools listed offered Advertising, Graphic Design, Communications and Public Relations. Clemson University, who used to offer a Printing Management degree, now offers a Packaging Technology degree geared towards Packaging Engineers, R&D and Material Testing.

Rochester Institute of Technology no longer offers a printing degree either.  You now graduate with a Media Arts and Technology degree. This program is geared towards advertising production, digital imaging, print production and web design.

Some of the careers listed on this website in the printing area include:

  • Visual and Exhibit Designer
  • Advertising Designer
  • Database Manager
  • Social Media Marketer
  • Print Media Marketer
  • Print Buyer
  • Web Developer
  • QC Manager

Clearly, colleges are looking at a changing landscape as well.

The industry is consolidating and continuing to look at various forms of cross media. Digital imaging is continuing to grow but still represents a small percentage of total output. High speed inkjet printers are growing faster and wider. Over time they will continue to change the landscape, hopefully opening up new applications and making existing ones more efficient.

So what do I tell these high school students? To me it looks like a great time to be considering the printing industry. While we are undergoing some major changes look around at other industries, which are experiencing rapid changes as well. This is part of the world we live in. Someone is always going to be selling something to someone. We need packaging, signs, printed circuit boards and ways to communicate.

The Graphic Arts will always appeal to the creative types. The same concepts apply, whether you are designing a brochure or a web page. As for other people, a changing industry provides plenty of opportunity. The concepts of mobile technology, mobile apps, one to one marketing, database marketing and social media marketing are all fitting into the printing industry.

And for the entrepreneurs of the group there will be plenty of opportunity to start your own business.  One of my neighbors’ sons started an online vinyl sticker business and is doing quite well. As for sex appeal, the wide format inkjet area has plenty: vehicle wraps, large graphic applications and printing on almost anything.

I found this whole exercise to be very thought provoking. Perhaps trying to imagine what your future will look like would also be a useful exercise as you navigate the changing waters of our industry.