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Why are printers ignoring Generation Y?

Thursday, 23 August 2007
By Print 21 Online Article

Mark McCrindle of McCrindle Research found that the supply of young people in the workforce is low, due to the ageing of the Australian population and the relative decline in the number of young people.

"Occasionally in history, rapid technological change combines with massive demographic change and with one generation change society alters altogether," McCrindle said.

"Today we are living in one such era."

Key findings in the report were that 30 per cent of the total workforce is employed on a casual basis, while for Generation Y this has risen to over 40 per cent, and that employers have to ensure Gen Y are effectively trained and managed for work outcomes and productivity to be maintained.

The printing industry is not adequately promoting itself to those who fall inside the Gen Y age bracket, according to McCrindle.

"I don’t think they are doing enough," he said.

"When it comes to apprenticeships, many people say that Gen Y aren’t interested in those traditional trades so we look to older and overseas workers when we have a whole TAFE industry to get young people into traditional trades [like printing]."

Printing Industries CEO Philip Andersen agreed that the skills shortage would be around for a long time, but added that there are also procedures in place to attract youth.

"We are now in the midst of a technological revolution affecting the way traditional production is handled and creating a new myriad of communication products and services. With this comes the need for people with new skill sets, in particular Generation Y people who have been brought up with technology and would relish technology-based careers," he said.

"We are currently working with the Institute of Trade Skills Excellence to get a star rating for Registered Training Organisations to provide employers and potential employees with a guide to what they can expect from the many different training institutions."

Part of the solution lies in throwing some light on an industry that is all too often associated with the dark ages. Effective marketing will go a long way in doing this, McCrindle said.

"The industry has to reposition itself as offering real careers," he said. "In the early 90s, the accounting industry re-branded itself. It once had a daggy reputation but they turned it around and made it attractive. The military has also done quite well in promoting itself to young people."

Anderson recognises that this is often the case. "Poor perceptions of what the industry can provide still abound," he said.

"Our film Imagine: A World Without Print? took a step in the right direction of changing these perceptions, but it’s only one step on a very long road. We are working with government and the various skills councils to get better results for the industry including wider promotion of the skills packages to young people."

Industry identity Colin Bowd sees the DVD as merely a starting point in what must become an ongoing conversation with youth.

"The DVD was a good start but we need some evolution from it," he said. "Going out to visit schools is a good idea."

Being dynamic and proactive will win out, McCrindle believe. "We’ve got to show young people not just the dirty old factory out the back but the fact that printing is 21st century and involves innovation, new technology, entrepreneurism and all the things that Gen Y want," he said.

"It [printing] is more than dirty hands and overalls."

Andersen concluded that: "There are no simple solutions for the skills shortages and, as the McCrindle research shows, no quick and simple solutions to fix it."

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