Experts predict that the total number of print industry jobs will decline over the next 10 years. By some estimates, the industry may see a decrease as high as 18 percent between 2014 and 2024.
This is mainly due to advances in technology, which have reduced the demand for print. Automation has cut the number of employees needed to create printed materials, and outsourcing has forced many print jobs overseas.
In spite of these facts, employment prospects for printing specialists are still favorable. As older workers retire, they create openings for a new generation of employees. Some companies are even finding ways to expand in spite of the changing industry.
The best of these printing jobs will go to the best-prepared workers. Here's some advice for staying ahead of the curve.
Thanks to technology, the print field is evolving. Though employees traditionally gained knowledge on the job or through apprenticeships, these practices are in rapid decline. Self-training in skills and completing certifications will become a necessity for staying competitive.
For pressmen and operators, a focus on digital printing operations will be critical. Many print services are pivoting towards on-demand printing and small runs. If this applies to yours, improving your accuracy and speed with digital presses is a must.
You should prepare yourself to deal with increasing numbers of computerized interfaces. Basic operating system navigation and database management will become core skills. Postsecondary education on the mechanical repair of such press equipment will also be desired.
For graphic designers and prepress workers, your emphasis should be staying up to date on all the latest design and layout software. Like with pressmen, the trends towards computerization will likely increase. Being tech-savvy is your best method for staying adaptable.
Many companies are making use of in-house employees to create print designs, then outsourcing these to third parties for printing. As a result, it will be to your credit to gain a greater knowledge of "pre-flight," the process of checking client files for print readiness, if you haven't done so already.
As the saying goes, "The more you learn, the more you earn." This applies to printing jobs now more than ever.
If you are a press operator, you should keep your math sharp so that you can cover the duties of an estimator, too. You may also consider learning some prepress abilities so that you can alter print files as needed. Smaller shops may demand that you become more involved with the book completion process. Work on your bindery and finishing skills to stay ahead of the pack.
Designers should also anticipate a need to expand their reach. The focus on smaller print runs and on-demand services means that some jobs will fall on a single employee to complete. In smaller print shops, you should familiarize yourself with the use of press equipment and bindery machines. You should also improve your communication and customer service abilities to increase your confidence in dealing with clients.
Not every location is a bastion for printer jobs. Homing in on hot spots will increase your job search potential. Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that the top five states for print industry employment in 2015 were:
Maintaining friendly relationships with others should be a top priority. As managers move from one operation to the next, they sometimes have the opportunity to bring trusted team members from past shops along for the ride. Your chance of scoring a better position improves if you've made the right impression.
The industry will continue to become more competitive. Keep your skills current, expand on what you already know, and maintain your lines of communication so that you can maximize your likelihood of succeeding as technology continues to shift the nature of printing.