This is a piece that I wrote for the PIA/GATF World magazine. Along with this piece I had an opportunity to speak about this subject matter at both the PGSF Educational Summit held at GraphExpo and the Atlanta PIA/GATF Workflow Conference. The facts are clear that the print inndustry has some serious challenges facing it in regards to the future work force. Reaching in and connecting with a new generation of people used to the Internat as their primary communication tool presents unique challenges. These challenges can be over come.
Where do I find the new breed of employees?
Brian Regan, President, Semper International
We all know that the industry has changed and many of the skills associated with printing have changed, too. None of these is more evident than in prepress. The new workflow solutions are often daunting to a company not versed in them—database management, mailing, digital asset management and fulfillment to name a few. Where does a printer who for years knew how to reproduce the best color work now find the new breed of employee?
What used to require a knowledge base of a very specific and talented craft has become a requirement of the new age and computer skills.
Who am I looking for?
Of course, the first requirement is for anyone to be able to handle prepress skills. (Even press operators have to be computer literate. All you have to do is look at recently introduced presses.) There are a lot of prepress skills that can either be taught as long as a person is comfortable behind a computer, or already exist in today’s job bank (in no particular order):
1) Color management: Someone who can learn how to calibrate and monitor soft and hard proofing using color management solutions.
2) Design skills: Whether a printer provides a design department for true creative work, or if the skills are required to fix existing files, it is always helpful to have a resource of people who can work their way around the Adobe Creative Suite or QuarkXPress.
3) Communications experts: IT departments need people who can work their way around the ‘pipes’ of the company: The Internet, browser, the web site, the internal network, firewall/security, and the other ancillary services.
4) Workflow experts: These are the true, trained prepress workflow experts, who have both computer and prepress knowledge and skills. These are the architects and administrators of a prepress department.
5) Premedia: As we all know, many printers don’t focus on just print, any more. There’s broadband and the Web, Web 2.0, and personalization that requires database expertise.
6) Programming: C++, PERL, HTML, JAVA, PHP and others. If you expect to build a competency, you likely will require some customization.
A state of mind
What my company has also learned is that skills are just one piece of the puzzle. The other is, for lack of a better word, behavioral. Unless someone has been formally trained in a printing school or environment, you have to acquire someone who can do well with the correct skill set or training in the graphic arts.
What do we usually look for? Well, it’s a wide set of traits. Someone who has good math skills is a start. An analytical problem solver is helpful. So is someone who can deal with multitasking. In positions requiring customer interaction, we search for people socially motivated. In fact, we use a behavioral test to hire all internal Semper personnel. It helps us staff our locations with people naturally inclined to work well with others.
Then there are the personal skills. How does the person deal with stress? If the prepress system is down due to a malfunction, you’d better have someone who steps up to the challenge. The same with the ability to work well with a lot of different people.