In recent years, the print industry has faced many challenges. Electronic media has dented demand for conventional ink on paper products. Digital manufacturing, increased variability and postal logistics have all reshaped our profession. But print continues to evolve and adapt to needs of the market. Savvy marketers are rediscovering the power of relevant print in an increasingly digital world, and print—particularly direct mail—remains a strategic part of the most successful marketing campaigns. All these signs are encouraging. But the future of our industry’s workforce is a bit more uncertain.
Continued industry growth requires the development of a new generation of print professionals and leaders. It’s no secret that the average age of printing professionals has been inching upward. As of February, 2017, the median age for those working in “printing and related support activities” is 48 years old. (Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics) Retirement and consolidation have taken a toll, and our teams need to inject new workers, ideas and energy into our industry.
As we visited universities across the country interviewing print and graphic communications students for summer internship positions, we discovered the print programs—which are tasked with developing our industry’s future leaders—were also evolving and facing new challenges. SPC felt the need to carry the message that print is alive and well to the educators and administrators at the universities. We also saw a need for them to interface with industry pros, who could share insights from the business world that could help them enhance and strengthen their programs moving forward.
Not content to sit on the sidelines, SPC hosted the first Growing Print Forum in Chicago in November. SPC’s Executive Vice President of Sales and Forum Chair, Ryan LeFebvre, said:
We are really excited about what’s coming for our industry, and we felt like it was time to roll up our sleeves and help shape some of the future. We’re focused on building strategic partnerships with both educators and those in our industry, to help develop the people who will keep doing this work tomorrow. We hope our effort will serve as a template for a way forward – not just for SPC, but for others too.
The two-day Forum was attended by representatives from top print programs across the country, including Clemson University, Rochester Institute of Technology, Western Michigan University, Ferris State University, University of Wisconsin-Stout, and California Polytechnic University. The attendees engaged in lively and productive discussions moderated by SPC representatives on topics such as student recruitment and retention, curriculum content, alumni outreach and networking, and career planning and placement. Guest speakers included representatives from Walt Disney, Komori, Veritiv, Epsilon, and the USPS.
Feedback from all who attended was extremely positive. Attendees appreciated the opportunity to share ideas with faculty at other universities and industry representatives and were invigorated by the discussions that grew from the event.
Plans for the next Growing Print Forum are already on the drawing board as we at SPC drive forward with our commitment to grow print and build our industry for generations to come. Stay tuned.
Vice President of Administration & General Counsel