It’s not an exaggeration to say that the print industry has undergone seismic shifts in the past twenty years. Those changes have been economic, cultural, financial, and operational—and they’ve been discussed at length elsewhere. One part of the equation that gets much less attention is the human side of printing and how that part of our world has changed.

Lifelong print professionals are retiring or moving on and they are taking decades of experience with them. Many college and trade school programs aren’t equipped to produce enough graduates to fill these gaping holes in our workforce. Well-paying jobs are often left unfilled because of a lack of knowledge and awareness of the possibilities in print. Because of a preoccupation with all things digital, printing is sometimes seen as a lesser-choice in careers, but that’s an outdated story we need to correct. Just like many other historically-industrial professions, printing has graduated from a trade passed down from master to apprentice to one that now includes dynamic technologies and differing opportunities for today’s print professionals.

At SPC, we’ve taken on the challenge of helping grow the next generation of print professionals. We’re motivated somewhat by self-interest, as great people are the lifeblood of our company. But more than that, the well-being of our industry is at stake here. We are committed to bringing new and diverse people into the field of printing, and with them their fresh perspectives and energy. Our future as an industry will depend on them.

The State of Printing

The technical side of print is intricate, digital and quickly evolving, and it lives right alongside the craft-oriented culture of printing’s past. Press operators, pre-press technicians, bindery operators, machinists and others keep our equipment (both cutting-edge and legacy) running at optimum levels. All of these aspects of the business are supported by front-office team in sales, marketing, estimating, logistics and operations. In short, many hands keep our ship sailing.

These efforts are spearheaded by a small team within SPC—Ryan LeFebvre (Executive VP of Sales),  Kiki Heron (Account Manager) and Mike Baig (VP of Administration & General Counsel)—cultivating a new generation of print professionals through a wide variety of initiatives and activities:

Growing Print Forum

In its second year, SPC’s Growing Print Forum brings together members of SPC’s team, industry representatives, and leaders of the premier print programs in North America to discuss ways in which we can share ideas to help bolster the programs and ensure graduating students have the tools they need to succeed and be leaders in the industry. The close working relationships SPC has built with Clemson University, California Polytechnic University, Ferris State University, Rochester Institute of Technology, Ryerson University, University of Wisconsin-Stout, and Western Michigan University have enabled us to have an active hand in nurturing the next generation of print professionals, and create and lead initiatives like the Forum.

SPC Internship Program

SPC’s Internship Program is a comprehensive, 12-week immersive experience. Students spend dedicated time in every department at the company working alongside industry veterans who educate and instruct through hands-on experience in all phases of our business. SPC pays competitive wages and provides comfortable, fully-furnished housing within close proximity to our facilities. Many of our students have gone on to careers in the printing industry, taking with them the knowledge they’ve gained within our walls.

Western Michigan University Print Advisory Committee Leadership

Ryan LeFebvre has recently accepted the position of President of Western Michigan University’s Print Advisory Committee (PAC), whose main goal is to help Western re-invigorate its Graphic and Printing Science program. The Committee will provide curriculum and program input, insights on industry technology and trends, support in recruiting and job placement, and facilitation of stronger professional community links and relationships. Members of the Committee have spoken at other universities about partnering to drive interest in print and expand the size and sophistication of their programs as well.

Support of Girls Who Print

Deborah Corn runs the professional network of women in printing, called Girls Who Print. It’s the largest platform on the planet for women in the Printing and Graphics Arts Industry—with a membership of more than 8,000. The group seeks to increase and enhance opportunities for individual members, small companies, educational institutions, associations, and corporations to be more engaged with each other and the industry. SPC is a supporter of GWP, and we look forward to collaborating with and helping the organization in the future.

Strategic New Hires

Finally, we are seeking to shake up the status quo, even within our own walls, where things are working well. We believe that in order to be competitive—and for the health of the printing industry in future decades—it’s crucial that we broaden our team. We need new, diverse perspectives on print from a generation that has gotten fewer and fewer print experiences. To them, print is not just a commodity, but a unique experience when compared to their mostly-digital experiences of the world. We’ve added team members from our internship program and college recruiting, often creating positions specifically designed for them or allowing them to move forward in ways that utilize their potential and help our company evolve as well.

Also, these new hires have a whiff of the old days in them—as industry newcomers learning to step into roles vacated by previous generations who are retiring or moving on. This passing of the baton happens in every business sector, but in a light industry like printing, it’s even more important—as the skills, experience and approaches learned over the decades need to be passed on to tomorrow’s leaders. We’re ready to make room for them as they rise from our ranks.

Printing will continue to change and grow, and at SPC, we welcome the evolution. The only way to grow is to change, and we look forward to meeting tomorrow head-on.

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