Apprenticeships fill an “urgent need” in the printing solutions industry

Mary Redon | for editor and editor

Printing equipment manufacturer Heidelberg is stepping up its efforts to recruit apprentices in the United States. The call for new talent comes as many U.S. companies struggle to find workers and the country has seen record quit rates in recent months.

Yet, perhaps surprisingly, Heidelberg’s apprenticeship program has not been particularly affected by the current general climate, said Rogers English, in-service skills development manager, who runs the apprenticeship program. “We are only looking for people who really want to work.”

Rogers English, Service Skills Development Manager, Heidelberg

Heidelberg’s American apprentices are trained at the company’s U.S. site in Kennesaw, Georgia, and typically advance to field technician positions in their home region, English said. However, finding people with the right skills who accept the travel inherent in field technician work is a hurdle. “As our industry evolves, it has become more difficult to find qualified technicians and competent operators,” he said.

Retention has been “below average,” he also reported. “It’s not always easy to find that talent that will stay with you. In addition to an identified sponsor for each apprentice, we now have a whole team of people who monitor the progress, qualifications and supervision of apprentices.

Kyle Wilson was hired as an apprentice in Heidelberg in 2020. (Photo by Heidelberg)

English communicates with colleges across the country, with the goal of delivering learning presentations to their students and graduates. Social media, job networks such as Indeed and ZipRecruiter, and referrals from existing technicians offer additional recruiting channels.

Heidelberg has been hiring individual apprentices since 2007. At the end of 2020, the company started recruiting in greater numbers. English says he has nine in the program now. Heidelberg aims to hire 25 more people in the United States over the next two years. Candidates must apply before the end of May and the program begins in June.

In Germany, Heidelberg has recruited more than 120 people to begin training at one of the company’s four locations in fall 2021. Heidelberg USA is part of Heidelberger Druckmaschinen AG, headquartered in Wiesloch-Walldorf, Germany. Germany.

passionate defender

The other manroland printing solutions companies Goss web systems and Koenig & Bauer are also making learning efforts in Germany, the largest European location for the printing industry and a country renowned for its emphasis on learning. .

“We do not offer apprenticeships in the United States at this time, but we have discussed the need to do so in the future as our workforce ages,” said Jason Elliott, vice- President of Sales, Americas, for Manroland Goss Web Systems at Editor & Publisher (E&P). “We are also looking at options to attract young technicians from the few trade schools that exist and develop them from there.”

Elliott said manroland Goss, headquartered in Augsburg, Germany, and US headquarters in Exeter, New Hampshire, is proud of the active learning program it operates in Germany. “There is a relationship between these young apprentices and the North American market as they support our domestic customers in the field alongside our American, Canadian and Mexican technicians,” he said.

Elliott is a printer by trade, with six years of formal education and practical experience at the Oamaru Mail newspaper, Oamaru, New Zealand. “I’m a huge advocate for the apprenticeship system and especially countries that have done it the right way by ensuring that apprentices are trained through a structured program to develop specific skills and not just a workforce. ‘cheap work’, he said.

He has advocated at industry conferences and in his roles at manroland goss to develop industry people, independent of formal programs, to develop interest, retention and passion in the industry. “As a trainer at manroland, I have seen how powerful the professional development of operational personnel is in improving equipment performance and developing the passion and motivation to be better in their roles,” he said. he declares. “I’m very passionate about it.”

great opportunity

Koenig & Bauer’s apprenticeship program was launched five years ago; it is a collaboration between the company’s North American and German operations. In Germany, the company is headquartered in Würzburg; The US headquarters is in Dallas.

“With the labor shortage in America, especially from a mechanical and electrical standpoint, we went to two-year technical colleges and looked at students in automotive, power and energy, aircraft maintenance or general mechanical skills. We trained these young people in the printing industry,” explained Eric Frank, senior vice president of marketing, recruiting.

“We show them how important it is, how bigger we are than the video industry, bigger than the music industry, and the benefits of working in the print business, whatever segment you are in, then we take them and send them to Germany over an 18-month period,” he said.

“It’s very common to have these apprenticeship programs in Europe,” Frank added.

Kaitlin Sullivan is an electrician who graduated from the Koenig & Bauer apprenticeship program. (Photo by Koenig & Bauer)

Koenig & Bauer aims to recruit four people per year into the program and works with Texas State Technical College and other schools to achieve this goal.

To recruit in these tough times for workers, “we’ve given them even more of an incentive,” Frank said, making the program more lucrative as the company competes with airlines and automakers, who also face challenges. shortages.

“We gave them a few opportunities to travel, which is very interesting for some people, because in other sectors you can be fixed in one place. We have several manufacturing plants across Europe and, of course, have customers throughout North America. So between the financial incentives and the opportunity to gain more experience through travel, we’re opening their eyes to why they should stay in the printing industry,” he said.

Apprentices can land jobs with an annual salary of between $50,000 and $60,000 — more, with overtime, he said.

An urgent need

For every 10 people working in graphic communications companies, almost four are expected to be between the ages of 55 and 64 by 2020, according to a survey report released by the Graphic Communications Workforce Coalition.

All employees, in thousands, printing and related support activities, seasonally adjusted. (Source:

“With a well-known shortage of skilled labor across the U.S. workforce, print shops and manufacturers are desperate to replace their skilled and highly experienced workforce,” a statement said. press from Heidelberg.

“This is not a problem that can be solved overnight,” Cedric Muenzing, vice president of lifecycle operations for Heidelberg USA, said in the statement. “It takes the commitment of companies like Heidelberg to train and help our industry move forward. It can be difficult to recruit in this particular field, but we have taken great steps to ensure competitive pay and benefits as well as growth opportunities for everyone hired into our program.

“It’s an understatement that there is an urgent need for a new generation of skilled professionals in the printing industry and beyond,” Muenzing said. “We are committed to identifying and training people who are good with their hands, who aren’t afraid to get dirty, and who enjoy working on equipment – even without prior printing experience – to learn and grow with Heidelberg. and gain a true understanding of our state-of-the-art technology and equipment.”

The Heidelberg program lasts two to three years, beginning with training at the company’s Print Media Center outside of Atlanta. It’s the largest printing demonstration facility in the United States, Heidelberg boasts, and one that just got a new director, Jeff Powalisz. The training covers all operational, electrical and mechanical functions of a Heidelberg press, as well as pneumatics, software and application, or type of work and print run.

Apprentices are paid throughout the training period and receive a per diem for travel and food, their own set of tools, and the option to qualify for a company-paid car. After passing a final exam, apprentices start as qualified service technicians specializing in one of Heidelberg’s product areas and have the opportunity for long-term development within the company.

To be accepted into the program, applicants must be at least 21 years of age and have basic mechanical repair experience and familiarity with mechanical tools. Electrical skills are a plus.

Upcoming Print Events

Looking ahead, a drupa live industry fair is planned for May 2 to June 7, 2024 in Düsseldorf, organizers told E&P. The National Leadership and In-Person Skills Conference will return June 20-24, 2022 in Atlanta. The event had already occurred in Louisville. At the Las Vegas Convention Center, an in-person Printing United Expo 2022 is scheduled for October 19-21, 2022.

Mary Reardon is a Wisconsin-based writer and editor.