Fewer degrees please

The comment in late January from the Tertiary Education Commission chairman Andrew West addressed a serious problem facing this industry as well as many others – serious skills shortages.

PrintNZ and PAITC chief executive Joan Grace says that she regularly sees companies having trouble filling positions in key areas.

“Many youngsters get turned off industry training routes because of pressure from their parents. We need the Andy Wests of this world saying these kind of things in order to help reverse these attitudes.

“People are being encouraged into the degree race without looking at what we really need in terms of skills, so [West’s comments] are a message that we need people to hear.”

The number of full apprentices in the printing industry has grown rapidly since the turn of the millennium. Grace says this is thanks largely to changing attitudes in the industry and a realisation by employers that great ideas are nothing without the people to make them happen.

Total numbers in print industry training have risen from 491 to 639 (30 per cent) from December 2001 to December 2003.

The figure includes 460 government-subsidised apprentices (up from 418 in 2001) and 171 Print Management Diploma students. The number of diploma students has risen rapidly since its launch in 2001.

Despite a strong push by PINZ over recent years to boost the number of apprentices, Grace says the organisations couldn’t take all the credit for the growth.

“We listen to the industry and find the areas they need help with. We are out there, and they make contact with us, so it’s a joint effort. We are very much a part of the industry.”

The government has ambtious growth targets for the number of people in industry training. From the current level of 100,000, the government’s goal is 150,000 by 2005 and 250,000 by 2007.

Grace says that she doesn’t believe the printing industry will achieve a doubling of its training numbers over this period, but she does anticipate strong growth.

She says that it is a great industry to work in, but it needs people to know more about it: “It is a dynamic, live, real industry. Apprentices talk with pride about the things they do. There is real tangible evidence of their work and that can be extremely rewarding.”

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