take immediate action to avert a severe labor shortage in the printing and publishing industry expected in three to five years, according to local officials.
This concern was expressed at a Tuesday meeting of the Oklahoma Department of Commerce's Task Force on Printing and Publishing, which was formed to stimulate expansion in the industry, the sixth largest in the state by payroll and employment.
"We need to excite students in high school and middle school about the attractiveness of the printing and publishing industry," said Kenneth Black, sales representative for Zellerbach, a Mead Co. printing paper distributor in Oklahoma City. "We want to encourage students to think about a career - not a job."
Black was referring to the decreasing numbers of students enrolling in schools to prepare for jobs in the printing and publishing industry.
At Oklahoma City Community College, for example, enrollment in a printing program has dropped 20 percent over the last year, due to the poor economy, according to Joe Bush, professor of printing at the college.
In addition, many high school have dropped programs in printing and publishing, said Tom Herring, branch manager of Zellerbach.
To increase student's awareness of the industry, Black suggested the task force develop a public service video program which could be used at high school career awareness programs.
Black also expressed the value of enabling students involved with career search programs to directly talk with middle management in the industry regarding their printing needs.
"We need to get feedback on what skills are needed in production," he said.
A state task force will help improve both the industry and its educational needs, said Bush.
"As an outside source, the task force would have the strength to come in and identify a problem at a school," he said. "We need extra weight from the outside to implement …