Several UK print industry personalities have joined together to create a new group aiming to attract young people to the printing industry.

Young People In Print (YPIP) aims to ‘cultivate a passion’ for entering the industry by connecting schools and universities with local print facilities and organising ‘engaging events’ that promote print as an attractive career.

One of the group, Elizabeth Bowerman, head of UK sales at Stephen Austin & Sons, commented, ‘We are reaching out to schools and universities to enable students to see for themselves how amazing the print and packaging industries really are.’

Joining Ms Bowerman are Paul Stead of ASL group, Joanna Stephenson of PHD Marketing, Kelvin Bell of VPress, Lucy Swanston of the SMP and Nutshell Creative and Delroy Simmons of Dayfold.

According to 2023 BPIF data, the UK print sector has an annual turnover of £13.7 billion and employs around 98,000 people in 7,200 companies, meaning it remains an important economic contributor in all UK regions. It is also an advanced manufacturing sector, utilising innovation, and production technologies, connecting organisations around the world. Despite this, attracting young people to work in the industry continues to be a challenge.

Ms Bowerman pointed to an aging skilled workforce and the lack of formal print-based education available today as being major concerns for the print industry in the UK. She said, ‘The number of tradespeople working in print is plummeting – by 73% between 2006 and 2021 according to the latest data.

‘Workers are approaching retirement and there is a risk their skills will be lost, which could have serious consequences for our industry if not mitigated.

‘Sadly, our industry has an old-fashioned image, and there is very limited print or packaging education available today, apart from print apprenticeships, but even then, not all printers are using their levy to fund employees.’

Other factors cited by Ms Bowerman as discouraging young people from joining the sector are the often negative environmental perceptions about the print industry and competition from better-publicised industries like aviation, engineering, automotive and biotech.

To combat the lack of youth joining the industry and to try and change its perception, Ms Bowerman concluded, ‘YPIP has been established to promote the industry as a far more dynamic, high-tech, innovative, connected, and exciting place to work, with clear career progression routes and opportunities.’

The group said it will hold its first event connecting students and print facilities in March 2024.