Benjamin Franklin famously said, “We must, indeed, all hang together or, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately.”
This quote rang in my ears as I listened to Phil Kelley, President and CEO at Salem One, discuss the educational crisis facing the printing industry.
In my last blog, I discussed how I was intrigued by Phil’s idea that, as an industry, we should not let others define who we are. Instead, we must determine who we are and, once we do, we’ll find there are endless career opportunities available for young people in the “Corporate & Brand Communications Industry.”
In this blog, I’d like to share some of Phil’s ideas about using facts and data to introduce young people, their parents, and high school counselors to the industry.
Sizing Up the Competition
Many industries are actively supporting education and recruitment efforts throughout Southern California. For example, there are apprenticeship programs in place in many community colleges in Los Angeles and Orange Counties. Other industries need little or no promotion to fill the needs of employers. This creates a problematic situation for the printing industry.
In a recent education group discussion, Ken Starkman, Dean of Technology and Engineering at Fullerton College, noted that recent website statistics showed that while there were several hundred click-thru’s to web pages for various technical/trade programs offered at Fullerton College, less than 50 visited the printing pages. This is terrible and we can only look at ourselves in the mirror for blame.
If students leaving high school already have an idea of a career path (i.e., lawyer, doctor, marine biologist, etc.) and others are encouraged to enter an apprenticeship program once attending a community college (i.e., machinist, HVAC, construction, etc.) who’s left to be educated and trained to work in the printing industry?
Right now, company owners are looking for employees, and they wind up with a person who can’t find a job elsewhere. According to Phil, owners have to spend two years or more training a new hire. He said, “If we’re lucky, one in five works out. If not, we have to start all over again. It would be far cheaper for each of us to send a $10,000 check to a local printing educational institution to train the workers of tomorrow than taking the leftovers.”
We need to come out of the shadows and promote our industry. We promote environmental consciousness. We inform on the effects of various regulations and laws. Where do we talk about printing and its significance in our everyday lives? We assume that everyone knows about printing…we all know what happens when you assume!
Printing SA, a brand of the Printing Industries Federation South Africa NPC, is using humor to help educate the public about the importance of print. Should our association follow suit?
Three areas on which to focus
Phil believes that there are three areas that we need to give sizable focus if we want to attract high-quality young people to work in our industry.
- Stop letting others define our industry. We don’t need a new name for our industry; we need to promote all the skill sets that will find a happy home in our industry.
- Every single print education institution needs the industry’s support. If we do not pour our resources into our educational institutions, we will each feel the result of that inaction. Support takes all forms: financial, time, etc.
- We need to promote the amount of “higher than average” to “extremely well paying” jobs available in our industry and will be available for the next 30+ years.
Using Facts to Sell the Industry
There are a number of facts that Phil likes to share with young people regarding the printing industry.
1) Who has more establishments McDonald’s, Burger King or the printing industry?
– Answer: There are more printing establishments than both fast food chains combined!
2) Which industry is larger, the printing industry or the American automobile industry?
– Answer: The printing industry.
3) Which industry has the need for the widest array of skill sets?
– Answer: The printing industry.
A high school diploma and two years at a community college or trade school and young people can have a career that will last them a lifetime. In fact, during the last three years, the schools that Phil and his colleagues have worked with have seen 100% of their graduates receive employment offers.
In addition to the employment offers and good pay, we need to share with students the path they can follow to attain their goals. Lawyers and other professions have a path to follow to become a professional. We need to show that there are opportunities for trade school, community college, and university graduates in our industry.
The problem we’re facing is that young people, their parents, and school counselors don’t know these facts. Hell, they barely know that there is a printing industry. As an industry, we help companies promote their products and services, yet we fail to promote our own industry and the career opportunities available.
“It’s the industry’s fault,” said Phil. “We have jobs, and we need to promote this in the Wall Street Journal, in local papers, and anywhere else we can.” You’d think the communications industry could get the word out.
Here’s one of Phil’s ideas that I think I could get behind. After students take their SATs, within the next week, they receive printed materials about colleges and universities. We should be able to get that list and mail our own promotional materials to these young people.
Another one of Phil’s points that I can agree with is the same point that reminded me of the quote from Benjamin Franklin. Phil says that, as an industry, “we must either pull together to fix this employment problem or we’re each going to suffer.”
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