Attracting and retaining the right talent will transform your business (and our industry)

The volunteer-board at the CPIA is working to create a new framework for our national association that attracts and supports new entrants into our industry. In this article, CPIA Board Chair, Richard Kouwenhoven, makes the case for a national strategy that supports the development of new talent within our industry.

If there is a will there is a way. We have the students. We have the schools. Now what we need is a nationally aligned strategy that better connects post-secondary graphic-arts students to a variety of long-term career opportunities available within our industry.

Attracting new talent to our industry is a vital strategy to help us navigate both the challenges and opportunities we are facing. This has always been the case and the pace of change seems to only be accelerating as digital transformation continues its relentless march! Business owners within our industry face a growing list of critical strategies that will greatly influence future success in this rapidly evolving (and currently very disrupted) business environment. These include:

  • Adopting the right print technologies at the right time
  • Diversifying products and service offerings to maximize value to customers
  • Implementing streamlined and automated workflows that drive operational efficiency
  • Unlocking valuable data within IT systems which can inform smart business decisions

New talent within an organization can provide an important “fresh-perspective” and critical problem-solving skills which will help drive substantial improvements to an organization. This is only a part of the equation of course, as this new talent needs the right environment and the right support to thrive.

So how can the CPIA deliver a nationally aligned strategy in better connecting the talented and ambitious graduates from post-secondary Graphic Arts programs to the industry?

Our plan is to work with regional associations across the country along with a stakeholder group representing graphic-arts post-secondary schools to develop a series of sustaining initiatives which more formally connects the school program with location and national industry players. This is not to ignore the fantastic work that has been done and continues to be done at a regional level but there is no doubt that more can be done. A collaborative approach to create a series of national student and industry engagement programs, adopted and administered at a regional level is our goal.

Our board has focussed on three initiatives which we intend on exploring within an expanded stakeholder group in the coming months:

Industry Tour Program
A facility tour has been the ‘first spark’ for many successful careers within the print industry. We envision an ongoing tour program that is launched as a partnership between one of our regional association members with a local graphic-arts program. The tours themselves can be organized by instructors and/or students, collaborating with the association and selected tour partner. The program can be designed to help the students see a range of print-related organizations (big and small), to help them understand the variety of roles within those organizations and the technologies and processes which are applied.

“Industry Insights” – Guest Speaker or Panel Discussion Events
Guest speakers and panel discussions are another important way to engage and educate students who are interested in entering the graphic-arts industry. We envision a nationally developed and regionally administered guest-speaker event format that encourages dialogue on important industry topics between local industry representatives and students/faculty with the goal of inspiring and educating all participants. As we continue to live with the COVID-19 pandemic, these events could be held virtually. A scalable model which could involve a simple “Ask the Expert” classroom guest, to a in-class panel discussion to a multi-speaker evening event.

Annual In-Person “Why Print?” Speaking and Networking Event
This potential annual-event, hosted by a participating graphic-arts program could focus on highlighting the changing role of print within the communications mix, looking ahead to opportunities in the future. An event of this nature could help recruit new students into the program while also engaging existing students. Backed and supported by local print and design professionals.

In the coming months, our Board will be engaging stakeholders from leading Graphic Arts programs in Canada to refine these concepts further. Do you have any ideas or input to share? If so, please share them by emailing the CPIA at We firmly believe the CPIA has an important role to play to help facilitate a coordinate effort among industry to engage and support the future leaders of our industry.