Printing the future: promoting the print industry to young people
Paulo Dourado of FESPA’s Portuguese Association Apigraf speaks about tackling recruitment and retention issues in the print sector.
How has a lack of young people impacted the print industry so far and what are the disadvantages?
Young people are generally more attracted to desk jobs: I think that this is a common problem shared by all manufacturing industries. There’s still an image that industries such as ours are repetitive and lack creativity – there are just big machines to operate. Those who already work in printing or, for instance, visit an exhibition such as FESPA knows that’s not true. Of course, an industrial sector that can’t renew its workforce is doomed to failure. That’s the reason why we think that this a major issue for our association.
Do apprenticeships still have a role to play? Or is on the job training more important?
In any human endeavour, including work, there are two fundamental stages: first you should acquire knowledge, which means that you should be educated and learn. This is a fundamental stage, which only schools can provide. The concept that we all learn simply through online or digital sources is quite wrong and dangerous. COVID-19 was a tragic example of people discussing medical issues as if they all had decades of training and learning. The second stage is training on-site. And that can be provided by companies and senior staff. But you can’t have the second without the first.
What ideas, skills or benefits can young people bring to the industry?
For the first time in many decades there are at least four different generations working at the same time in companies: the baby boomers, Generation X (generally those born 1965 to 1980) and now Generations Y and Z. Sometimes there’s a gap of more than 40 years between the senior worker and the young worker working under the same roof. So, there are very different ideas and different attitudes at a workplace. The younger workers like to explore, to attempt new things, to take risks, to make different products. And that’s a great benefit to companies.
There’s no shoe sold without a shoebox, no sugar without packaging, no bottle without a label, no event without signage, no vehicle without functional printing, no mobile phone without a printed chipHow can young people be attracted and retained in the printing industry?
We all have an important role in promoting our industry, showing that we are a vibrant, high-tech, innovative,and creative industry. A worldwide campaign, using the unique network of the FESPA Associations is, in my opinion, the solution to attract and retain young people in our industry.
What is Apigraf doing to recruit and retain younger people?
We have a big interest in this theme, because it’s critical to the future of the industry. So Apigraf is making an effort in cooperating with schools that have technical courses that could lead to jobs in the printing industry. For instance, every year we have a competition for the best Christmas postcard, challenging students from high schools all over the country to make their proposals. The winner’s artwork is made into the official Apigraf Christmas card for that year.
We also work closely with universities in Lisbon and Tomar to promote the printing industry among students. Recently, we were involved in an European Union-funded project called Print Your Future that aimed to show young people how vibrant and exciting this industry is.
How do diversity and sustainability fit into the picture?
The younger generations are very keen on diversity and sustainability. Brand owners, suppliers and printing companies (the entire value chain) knows that this is an environmentally friendly industry (no more solvent inks, for instance). Our materials (such as cardboard, paper, etc) are recyclable. These are just examples of things that young people probably don’t know about us. And that’s out job, as a community, to tell them.
What does the future hold -- how can you reach out further? Are you optimistic about the future of printing?
Yes, I am. There’s no business without printing, no product sold without our industry. There’s no shoe sold without a shoebox, no sugar without packaging, no bottle without a label, no event without signage, no vehicle without functional printing, no mobile phone without a printed chip. No life as we know it, without printing.
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