26 November 2012
Technology driving down employment numbers in print sector
TORONTO—The number of employees in the printing sector are steadily decreasing, but that's not all negative, according to Josh Ramsbottom, director of the Centre for Excellence in Print Media at NorQuest College in Edmonton.

Josh Ramsbottom at Print World

Ramsbottom made a special appearance at Print World in Toronto last week. He said during his session that in 2001 there were 81,000 workers in the Canadian printing sector, as opposed to 56,000 in 2010 (those numbers don't include many businesses that have printing as a secondary function, he pointed out). "Is the decline a bad thing? Technology has allowed us to do more with less," he said, noting productivity is up.

Another trend is that the number of administrative positions such as customer service reps, salespeople and IT professionals is proportionately growing. The future will mean fewer employees with a wider spectrum of abilities,  according to Ramsbottom.

Regarding technology, Ramsbottom said despite the recession, the industry invested heavily in equipment from 2007 to 2009. "We had a strong Canadian dollar, we were cash rich in 2009," he explained, adding later in his talk, "Printing is not a craft for the most part. It's a technology-driven industry."

While print sales (shipments) dropped significantly from 2006 to 2011 ($12 billion to $8.7 billion respectively) the numbers are bouncing back this period, with a projected finish above last year ($5.6 billion as of August). However, Ramsbottom predicted printing exports will be down in the near future thanks to the U.S. economy and market fears. "The biggest challenge we have in Canada is not the Canadian economy, it's the American economy," he said.

He noted the printing industry's success is tied to other industries, and that packaging will be a big growth area due to the growth of the food sector.

He also recommended becoming a "total provider" to offer value-added services such as print installations (partner with an outside firm if necessary), while he advises businesses to invest more effort into what they're already doing well. "Know your core business, do not chase business," he said.
— Jeff Hayward
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