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Understanding Our Industry’s Labor Shortage

(December/January 2018) posted on Wed Jan 30, 2019

You may experience the symptoms of a tight labor market each time you place an ad on Indeed, but the roots of the problem in specialty printing run much deeper.


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By Johnny Shell

At Cal Poly, the students are not only taught the mechanics of specialty printing, but also the role it plays in advertising and marketing execution. Says Keif: “I think that integrating cross-marketing concepts, along with digital media like augmented reality, helps to keep students engaged. If students create and then measure the impact (that is, the return on investment) of print media like window clings or vehicle wraps, they not only have a sense of pride, but also see the relevance of the industry. If they can incorporate an app and use graphics to drive other students to the app, they understand that print is very relevant as part of a larger media mix.” Think about how much more valuable an employee who understands that the work you do helps your client achieve their objectives is to your business.

Some programs, including Eagle Rock, have gone a step further and structured their programs as revenue centers to meet the needs of other departments and even other schools. “Many schools do not see the benefits of running a production-based program due to the costs, both startup and ongoing [costs] for equipment upgrades and supplies,” says Laird, allowing that both the production and administrative time to manage purchasing, billing, and sales is considerable. “If you have a one-stop location for all of a school’s graphic needs, then you are offering a value to both the students who learn diverse production techniques as well as to the school. Your program is seen as an asset instead of a cost center.”

MATA has also evolved to prioritize current techniques taught on modern production equipment, taking advantage of new construction in its district. “Our county just built a new school,” Smith explains, “so we were able to focus on improving the program with new graphic equipment like wide-format inkjet and screen printing. We also 



participate in the SkillsUSA and Tom Frecska Student Printing competitions, which provide incentives and motivation to the students. We try to deliver opportunities in our program to expose students to real-world client projects.”

But staying current can be a challenge. Programs are adapting to technology that the industry adopted over a decade ago, so there is often a gap between the equipment that schools have to teach with and what is actually being used by the industry.


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