The Workforce Solution is Career Awareness

By Donna Painter, assistant professor, Department of Applied Engineering, Safety & Technology, Millersville University

Currently, there is a lot of unpredictability in the future of the print and finishing business, but there is one thing that is known for certain – an infusion of skilled young talent is needed to continue to innovate and thrive. While struggling to manage the risks and uncertainties of doing business during a global health crisis, talent development may seem like a low priority, but consider this: When the economy emerges from this pandemic, the workforce will be older, and businesses still will be facing an impending workforce shortage. Finding, attracting and retaining young talent remains one of the industry’s primary challenges.

effectiveness-workforce-development-optionsThe Graphic Communications Workforce Coalition (GCWC) was formed last year to coordinate a cohesive, industry-wide effort to attract, recruit and retain the next generation of workers. GCWC has completed a comprehensive survey of the industry and released a white paper, titled “Workforce Concerns in Graphic Communications,” detailing the results and recommended actions. Survey respondents covered all areas of the industry, including service providers, suppliers, associations and schools. The purpose of the survey was to identify current efforts to cultivate talent and define areas that need support. The primary finding of this paper was that the young talent so desired is not aware of the career possibilities in printing and graphics.

To determine the kinds of workforce development options that are most needed, this survey asked participants to rank seven items from most to least effective. Highly ranked options designed to draw in new employees were internships, hands-on equipment training, skills training and certifications, and apprenticeships, but career awareness clearly was ranked as the most effective means to attract and retain workers. Rankings of all seven items are shown on the chart Effectiveness of Workforce Development Options.

The young talent the industry desperately needs is not aware of the careers available in print media, because the industry is not showing these young people what it looks like to work in this field. This industry offers high-tech, highly skilled positions that require creative problem solving and critical thinking. It has interesting, desirable jobs – but young people think it is old tech, low-skill and boring. The industry needs to overcome that flawed perception. With an increased awareness of careers in printing and graphics, and opportunities through internships and apprenticeships, it could motivate students to pursue this field of study and ultimately help to meet the workforce needs of the industry. GCWC will be working through its membership to provide positive messaging about graphic communication careers.

The complete white paper, “Workforce Concerns in Graphic Communications,” can be downloaded by going to the GCWC website.

Become an active part of the Graphic Communications Workforce Coalition. The Coalition consists of associations (including the FSEA), educators and industry representatives that have joined together to coordinate the efforts of organizations to create awareness, recruit new people into the industry, provide a framework for apprenticeship and training programs, and retain the existing workforce. Join GCWC at

Donna M. Painter, M.Ed, is an assistant professor at Millersville University and a GCWC Board Member. She teaches graphic communication and writes and presents about the need to develop the next generation of leaders. For more information, contact