December 5, 2012

For More Information Contact:
Contact: Eileen D. Cassidy
(703) 264-7200


Skilled Worker Shortage: Myth or Reality?

Reston, VA—Article after article continues to lament the skilled worker shortage that cuts across all manufacturing industries. Finding a qualified worker who has the special skill set, knowledge, and ability to accomplish the assigned job is an ongoing challenge. This 'skills gap,' is growing more severe, forcing many manufacturers to scale back their growth plans.

To get a clearer picture of what this 'skills gap' means specifically to the graphic communications industry, the Graphic Arts Education and Research Foundation (GAERF) developed a survey titled, "Skilled Worker Shortage: Myth or Reality?" Distributed to the memberships of the Printing Industries of America and the National Association for Printing Leadership (NAPL), the survey received 362 responses to the five questions posed, yielding illuminating results.

A large majority, 73.9% (264 respondents) concurred with the survey statement, "While the national unemployment rate hovers above 8%, hundreds of thousands of jobs go unfilled because employers cannot identify candidates with the required knowledge and skill set." They further identified the top ten job positions that were the most difficult to fill:

  1. Bindery Technician
  2. Account Executive
  3. Customer Service Representative
  4. Press Operator
  5. Estimator
  6. Marketing and Sales Representative
  7. Prepress Operator
  8. Digital Imaging Specialist
  9. Graphic Designer
  10. Computer Systems Technician

When these printers were asked  to identify the resources they use to find new employees, the survey revealed position openings are most often filled by promotion from within the company:


Response Percent

 Promotion from within the Company


 Job Board (e.g.,;, etc.)




 Colleague Referral 


 Local Schools


 Temporary Agency




When printers were asked if they preferred to train a new employee or hire someone who had already trained for the specific available job position, 76% indicated their preference for hiring trained personnel.

The survey concluded with an invitation to provide additional comments. A sampling of the 90 respondents' insights and perspectives revealed:

  • The challenge we have faced is finding managers and sales professionals who can understand and apply the capabilities of the new more digital and faster technologies. It requires more creative problem solving and management of an accelerated workflow.
  • Finding someone with working knowledge of the latest social technologies is difficult.
  • Machine operator positions require already trained operators, who are fewer in number due to aging of the industry and a lack of new talent coming in.
  • It is very difficult to find people who have a good work ethic.
  • Because most companies are running so lean, the positions that are vacant demand an experienced worker over a newly trained one.
  • Employers in our area are in dire need of skilled technicians in all production areas with press and finishing being the largest need.
  • Many of the personnel who have left the industry due to layoffs or closure have entered other industries.
  • Finding print-experienced personnel is tough. We can find designers, but no designers with printing experience.
  • We're not hiring. Fewer people are doing more.
  • Bindery positions are the most difficult to fill. Skilled bindery workers are aging or have left the trade.
  • It is harder and harder to find quality people these days. Companies need to treat loyal, talented employees like assets and invest in their growth.

For more information about the GAERF 2012 Workforce Survey, contact GAERF Director Eileen Cassidy at phone: (703) 264-7200 or email:

The Graphic Arts Education and Research Foundation (GAERF) was established in 1983 by the National Association for Printing Leadership (NAPL), NPES The Association for Suppliers of Printing, Publishing and Converting Technologies and the Printing Industries of America. These three national associations jointly own the Graphic Arts Show Company (GASC). GAERF was created to channel a portion of the revenues earned by GASC-managed shows into projects supporting a strong future for the industry. For additional information about the Foundation and its programs, visit the GAERF website at: or call toll-free at: (866) 381-9839.