Nearly every online print provider is familiar with the dilemma – there are scarcely any qualified online print professionals in Germany. And what’s more, leaving the Top 5 employers aside, the search for qualified professionals often inhibits growth and development in the industry. It’s time to do something about it.
“Oh, how beautiful Panama is” – is what Janosch gets one of his protagonists to long for in his children’s book, “The Trip to Panama” – and one or two online print providers might also be overcome by a sense of yearning for qualified human resources, if they start searching for a new online print manager or specifically for a marketing manager with online print skills. Granted, there’s a whole bunch of onliners out there in the eCommerce sector, who are looking for new jobs, but entering the “print industry” is something that many eBusiness folk can’t quite get their heads round. I often have conversations with eCommerce managers and observe that many of them can’t conceive of being employed by a “print company”. The lure of promising brands like Zalando et al is too enticing. And all too often these eCommerce professionals are not primarily concerned with money or a career, but with a job that excites them – print does not seem to be worth their while…
This situation has existed for a couple of years now. Unfortunately there are just a tiny handful of strategies aimed at solving this problem. Ira Melaschuk is teaching eBusiness at the University of Wuppertal. Occasionally I hold seminars in collaboration with the VDMB (Verband Druck und Medien Bayern) on this subject – but a dedicated teaching department at one of the universities or universities of applied sciences is not on the cards. There are scarcely any alternatives, if you ignore guest lectures. How embarrassing is that, because Germany is a global leader in the online print sector. There are no training courses for future professionals and even the advanced training courses available are few and far between. What is also a statement of the obvious is that Melaschuk Medien and zipcon consulting offerings are but a drop in the ocean at a time when online print is booming.
“Educational crisis in the online print sector – now is the time to take action and tap new educational sources to train up those urgently needed skilled professionals.” – Bernd Zipper
It’s courtesy of the initiative by Holger Busch, CEO of the VDMB, and Jens Meyer, head honcho at Print-X Media Bayern, that we have now been able to develop a new approach. In collaboration with manymize (www.manymize.com) and zipcon consulting, the association now provides training to enable people to qualify as certified eBusiness Print Managers. Details can be obtained from www.vdmb.de/e-business-manager.
However the problem is more serious than many people assume – because the skills shortage also shows how unattractive the “print” sector seems, especially to younger people. Granted, specialist print departments still exist at the universities and universities of applied sciences, but the days when they were swamped by students are long gone. I say unfortunately, because as well-disposed readers might suspect, I love print and continue to regard print as a firm fixture in nearly every communication chain. Luckily I’m not the only one that thinks this way.
As previously mentioned, the top online print providers are nevertheless popular with young people. And therefore I wonder why that is and have done a little bit of research. I see five aspects as being relevant here:
- Brands play a major role as far as appeal is concerned. Many of those starting their careers would prefer to learn from their employers rather than having to explain why, for example, social media are of importance to print providers.
- A company’s corporate culture and work culture are extremely important to most newcomers. Nobody wants to work in a dusty old backroom office at a print company and it only makes limited sense to manage creative onliners in a 3-shift system.
- The assignment or job is what counts! If assignments are clearly defined, there’s no problem with them being a challenge. All that means is that it’s no use ensnaring these promising online professionals in never-ending control chains and time-tracking systems. Newcomers want to make use of the opportunity they have been afforded and show what they can do.
- Onliners also want to earn money. Starting out with an intern and managing on a shoestring budget certainly makes entrepreneurial sense at the beginning. But anybody that starts off small, usually remains small too, therefore what’s important to bear in mind is that human resources cost money and need to be looked after!
- Onliners need to learn. Every day. On the Internet nothing is as outdated as yesterday’s know-how. That’s why successful onliners have to learn and train and above all have time for further training. If that fails to materialize, then either your onliners leave or you can kiss goodbye to a successful business…
In summary it’s clear to me who’s to blame for the skills shortage – we in this industry are the ones at fault. Here too the print industry is missing the boat by not nurturing next-generation talent and training/retraining employees. It is thus surrendering nearly every online talent to the major providers and the broader eCommerce sector almost without a fight. That’s a situation that needs to be changed, don’t you think?