Don’t talk down printing if you want Gen Z in its future

Oct 15, 2021 at 03:15 am by admin

Expect to pay higher wages as competition for key staff becomes more intense… and don’t talk the printing industry down to potential recruits.

Those points were at the heart of a list of what to do and what not to do from Beatrice Klose, managing director of European trade association Intergraf.

While conceding that efficiency led to a reduction in manpower, she said printers talk the industry down instead of focussing on elements like technology and innovation. “They’re too used to it to communicate it properly,” she said, pointing to constant innovation in industry segments such as packaging and book printing.

More than half of respondents in a recent study of the 112,000-strong 82 billion Euros European printing industry couldn’t attract “suitable” applications for apprenticeship, and more than a third more (37 per cent) had no applications at all. And those lacking skilled staff “perform less well in business.”

So how to remain attractive to new generations of school and college leavers, members of Gens Y and Z, one dubbed the “me-me-me” generation by Time magazine, and the other digital natives who don’t know what a floppy disk is?

The answer, World Printers Forum delegates learned, is an employer that fits their values and culture; where they can “make an impact”; take on responsibility and have learning opportunities and mentoring, plus work-life balance and flexibility in working arrangements.

Klose says research has also taught that the new generations want a less hierachical workplace, with staff involvement, company values on issues such as sustainability, wellbeing at work, “and of course money”.

A presentation borrowed from sheetfed press maker Heidelberg defined company culture as expressed through such benefits as occasional food trucks, visiting speakers, and a revamped lunch area.

On mentoring, she suggests pairing a person with someone from different department, “not forcing it, but making it serious”, empowering the mentee to take charge, and allowing for “reverse mentoring”.

Intergraf’s challenge it to present print as “an industry for the future” and has produced a toolkit to help employers present it as “the right career choice for the next generation”.

That means emphasising digital systems – not “gigantic machines” – and the products that represent the industry. “Being customer driven makes you more approachable for the new workforce,” she told moderator Paul Huybrechts, managing director of Belgian giant Coldset Printing Partners, “and that you’re a highly digital technology.”

She also advocates spruiking sustainability and the industry’s 74 per cent recycling rate that “hardly anyone knows about.

“We have the perfect product for the circular economy.

Need more encouragement? Klose says that while digital is replacing print in schools, figures for Germany and the UK show that reading is better on paper.

“Comprehension is improving, but reading is less popular,” she says, with some responding that they “read only if they have to”.

Peter Coleman

Sections: Print business


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