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Role of Design Print and Packaging

by Diarmuid Everard

I am delighted to take over the role of Chairperson of the Design print and Packaging Skillnet.

In doing so I would like to express our gratitude to Joe O’Callaghan for his chairmanship of the Skillnet and to the members of the steering committee for their time and expertise as volunteers to contribute to the overall well- being our sectors.

Our Skillnet was formed as a result of review of the training needs for the Printing sector carried out by Des Geraghty in 2006, and was organised by the late Lorcan O’hObain who was also our first Network Manager.

We were originally set up to support the Print and Packaging sector and later on we included the Design sector.

Our brief then was the same as it is now to identify the training needs of our industry through regular consultation with company owners and to provide that training.

The three different sectors in our Skillnet each face significantly different challenges.

The printing industry is severely affected by technology. In recent years some world-class companies (over twenty) employing hundreds of people closed when the paper products they manufactured were replaced by electronic commerce and/or communication, this will continue as is evidenced by the recent decision to close the newsprint manufacturing plant owned by INM in Citywest. Since 1990 the number of Litho printing companies in Ireland has fallen by 70%. If this trend continues into the next decade there will be too many Litho companies in the Print sector and there will be a need create a forum where company owners would be given the opportunity to exit the marketplace which would create fewer but more modern companies, (similar to what happened in the fishing industry).

Our goal is to reach out company owners in the Print sector encourage them to engage with us to identify their training needs for their staff and themselves. It is disappointing to see that in a recent survey only 20% of companies have training planned for 2020.

The Packaging sector faces different challenges notably around climate change and the use of products that are perceived as being harmful to the environment (e.g. single use plastic).

As we all become more aware of the impact on our environment of the disposal of packaging we will all become much more discerning in our buying habits to ensure the products we buy do not contribute to waste mountains and or damage the environment.

The Design sector will also be impacted by environmental issues and companies will be very keen to show that they are not damaging the environment. Our steering committee member Gwen Kenny
has a keen interest in this sector and if you wish to see some of her design ideas check out the Teelings Whiskey building in Newmarket Dublin 6.

From our experience with our member companies over the thirteen years of this Skillnet we have found that the companies who are interested in training their staff and the company owners who were interested in training themselves do better. Training not only improves the skill set of the employee but also helps in staff retention and contributes to a learning culture in the company.

There are no downsides to training, our Skillnet has access to the best training companies in the country and we can organise in-house programs as well as group programs all of which are subsidised.

For our own part in Printcom had we not had access to the various training courses organised by Skillnet we would not now be in existence.

All the training we availed of in Finance, Sales, Pre-Press and Production has helped us survive the impact of electronic billing on our core product, enabled us re-focus our business and begin to grow again.

Central to this was the fact that we were able to train every member of staff in their own specific function. With the help of Skillnet we introduced Lean Manufacturing, I completed the Master’s
program and changed my role in the company, completing the Master’s programme helped me begin work as an instructor on a Start Your Own Business course which I give in ETB in the evenings.

In Printcom we added wide format printing and digital printing to our services, our operators were trained in these new skills on courses organised by the Skillnet.

Brian Colleran is our new Network Manager taking over from Dianne Dignam, we want to thank Dianne for all the work she did on behalf of the Skillnet. Brian brings considerable experience to the role having worked both in the Skillnet organisation and the Printing sector before taking over as Network Manager. Brian and Maureen who has been part of the Skillnet as network administrator from the very start are ideally suited to help drive the Skillnet forward.

Brian has just submitted our TNP Programme 2020-2022 3 Year Plan and our proposal for Innovation and Future Skills 2020.

Charles Darwin said “it’s not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change”.

We want to help our members manage their own futures, organise training for company owners and their staff in whatever areas they feel are necessary to help them prosper and grow. In doing so our
brief has not changed from our first steering committee meeting in November 2006.

However for us to fulfil our mandate we need company owners to engage with us, tell us what they need and help us to help them. Given the scale of the companies that have been unable to withstand changes in the marketplace company owners cannot believe that a similar fate won’t become them.

The Print sector in particular is facing the perfect storm of electronic commerce, digital marketing and the fact that many people feel that using paper to transact and or communicate is obsolete. One way to try and deal with future challenges is to at least be aware of them and have a plan and skills to cope.

That is our job and we are willing and able to help all and any company in the Design, Print and Packaging sectors who engage with us.

Diarmuid Everard is the Chairperson of Design Print and Packaging Skillnet and MD of Printcom.