In an industry where perception is often reality; the focus therefore becomes about changing any misrepresentations. It's a motivation shared by Holmesglen Program Manager (Printing) Robert Black.
A current study conducted by the National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER), and cited in a published article via Print21.com.au, observed printing apprentices have declined by almost 50% over the past two years.
However, upon a further analysis, the figures are not necessarily reflective of an industry in despair, but rather a field experiencing a skills shortage. Accordingly, a glass half-full viewpoint suggests this presents significant opportunity for those looking to commence training.
"It is the "perception" that we need to change," Mr Black says. "Print is one of the communicative media channels that permeates our whole environment and, like many industries, is adaptive to the impact of digital technologies. The Australian print industry has been an amazing absorber of digital technology."
In an effort to address these perceptions and contribute to new training opportunities, Holmesglen will soon launch a dedicated print program. The courses will develop print apprentices in respective areas overseeing digital printing, flexographic and lithographic forms.
"Utilising a blended delivery model, Holmesglen will develop a capacity to deliver training programs at the entry, apprenticeship and the post trade levels. We will also focus on meeting the needs of the whole industry and in particular the SMEs that make up almost 90% of the industry's enterprises," Mr Black explains.
Importantly, much like the swift progress of new technological forms, the print industry has taken proactive measures to maintain education and develop professionals within the sector.
PIAA's Future Print Apprenticeship Project was created to curb the drop in skilled workers and review how the industry could remain current in an ever-changing workforce. As Print21.com.au points out, the initiative "engaged 311 apprentices across 118 printing businesses."
"In responding to the needs of industry, Holmesglen has been developing very close relationships with the key industry stakeholders. The Printing Industries Association of Australia, the Flexible Packaging and Label Manufacturers Association and the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union have been instrumental in supporting this initiative," Mr Black says.
However, for a well-rounded perspective it's also important to confront the realities of the print industry. While some traditional print forms have since diminished, they have now transferred to new and innovative forms. On-demand books, publishing, ink-jet technologies, large format printing, digital packaging applications, and 3-D printing are some apparent examples of this development.
"The industry is not without its challenges. The new digital technologies have also provided new products and opportunities [though]."
These new products mean the choice of employment stream is becoming diversified, with print work undertaken in fields including commercial printing, packaging, converting, signage and publishing.
"Print permeates our whole existence. Take thirty seconds the next time you enter a supermarket or newsagent, buy any product or follow any sign and think how it was created. Print's industry segments are alive and will be around for a very long time."