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Printing and Graphic Arts

Overview

As one of the largest manufacturing sectors in Australia, the Printing and Graphic Arts industry is a significant contributor to many aspects of the Australian economy and workforce, with more than 6,500 businesses in operation and almost 27,000 people employed in related occupations.

The industry facilitates the effective communication of messages through a range of media platforms and assists creative industries to deliver their products. There are many possible specialisations within the industry, including desktop publishing, digital printing, graphic pre-press, multimedia, print finishing, print production support, printing, and screen printing.

As different parts of the sector are contracting, growing or transforming in response to external forces, it is important that vocational education and training (VET) reflects an understanding of this industry change and the necessary adaptability and sustainability of the industry itself.

Nationally recognised training for the Printing and Graphic Arts industry is delivered under the ICP – Printing and Graphic Arts Training Package.

For graphic and other design, see Visual Arts, Craft and Design.

All data sources are available at the end of the page.

Employment trends

Employment snapshot

Overall, employment in the Printing and Graphic Arts industry declined by over half (54%) between 2002 and 2022, and this downward trend is predicted to continue to 2025. This data refers only to those captured under the ANZSIC classification of the Printing industry, and so may not include other elements of the wider Printing and Graphic Arts industry.

Printers make up the largest proportion of this workforce at just over 18%, and employment levels are predicted to decline by 13% by 2026. Graphic Pre-press Trades Workers, with just under 3% of the workforce, are also projected to decline in employment levels by 2026 (by around 4%). The VET-related occupations of Graphic and Web Designers, and Illustrators, and Printing Assistants and Table Workers, are both projected to experience growth in employment levels to 2026, by 22% and 11% respectively.

Training trends

Training snapshot

Program enrolments in Printing and Graphic Arts-related qualifications fell from 1,820 in 2017 to just under 900 in 2020, before increasing to 940 in 2021. Program completions have also experienced a downward trend, declining from approximately 430 in 2017 to just over 180 in 2021.

The majority of program enrolments in Printing and Graphic Arts-related qualifications during 2021 were at the certificate III level (80%) followed by certificate II level (19%).

The qualifications with the highest numbers of enrolments in 2021 were the Certificate III in Printing (56%), and the Certificate II in Printing and Graphic Arts (19%). The intended occupation for qualifications in Printing and Graphic Arts-related qualifications varied by individual qualification, with Printing Machinist being the most common intended occupation, followed by Printer’s Assistant.

In 2021 just over half of Printing and Graphic Arts-related qualifications were delivered by TAFE institutes (53%), followed by private training providers (42%). This did vary significantly between qualifications, with TAFE institutes delivering 91% of the Certificate IV in Printing and Graphic Arts and 87% of the Certificate II in Printing and Graphic Arts qualifications.  Private training providers delivered a higher proportion of Certificate III in Print Manufacturing (62%) and Certificate III in Printing (55%).

Enrolments tended to be Commonwealth and state funded (90%) across all provider types, however, private training providers accounted for the largest proportion of international fee for service (5%).

Victoria had the most students enrolled in Printing and Graphic Arts-related qualifications in 2021, with 44%. The majority of the remaining students were from either New South Wales (18%), Queensland (12%) or South Australia (11%). Similarly, almost half of training was delivered in Victoria (48%), followed by New South Wales (17%), Queensland (13%) and South Australia (11%).

Overall, apprentice and trainee commencements fell over three quarters (78%) between 2012 and 2021, noting a brief rise occurring in 2018, and a decline in 2019 before increasing to around 270 in 2021. Apprentice and trainee completions peaked at just over 800 in 2015 and have fluctuated since then, declining to a low of just under 70 in 2020 before increasing to around 80 in 2021.

Almost three quarters (71%) of apprentices and trainees in this industry had the intended occupation of Printing Machinist. Victoria reported the largest proportion of Printing and Graphic Arts apprentices and trainees in training in 2021 at 35%, followed by New South Wales (23%),  Queensland (15%), South Australia (14%), and Western Australia (10%).

For more data specific to your occupation, industry or training package, visit NCVER’s Data Builder.

For more data specific to your region visit NCVER’s Atlas of Total VET.

If you are interested in extracting NCVER data to construct tables with data relevant to you, sign up for a VOCSTATS account.

Industry insights

 

Industry insights on skills needs

The Printing and Graphic Arts IRC’s 2019 Skills Forecast suggests the following are priority skills for the Printing and Graphic Arts industry:

  • Managing skills
  • Work health and safety
  • Customer service
  • Teamwork
  • Communication skills
  • Critical and creative problem solving
  • Technical skills.

According to the job vacancy data, the top requested skills by employers in the Printing and Graphic Arts industry were communication skills and being detail orientated. The most advertised occupations were Printing Machinist, and Sales and Marketing Manager, and the top employer listed as CSG Limited.

The Printing and Graphic Arts IRC’s 2019 Skills Forecast has identified key drivers for change within the Printing and Graphic Arts industry, an industry which is currently in a period of disruption. These drivers include changing market demand, technological change, and broader product and service offerings.

Changing market demand has caused a level of disruption within the industry, with a decline in some products such as print newspapers and magazines, and potential growth opportunities for other areas of the sector. Potential growth products include printed consumer advertising (e.g. printed catalogues and direct mail), packaging, food labelling and packaging, printing for publishing, general business products and events. These changes to the type of outputs expected from the industry may mean a change in the technical skills required of workers in order produce these products on a range of levels for diverse communication purposes.

Technological change has been highlighted in the Printing and Graphic Arts IRC’s 2019 Skills Forecast as falling into four different categories. The first includes the shift from offset to digital printing technology, meaning that newer digital printing technologies such as commercial inkjet printing are resulting in rapid turnaround printing services, as well as signifying a decrease in the number of technical staff required for the printing process but also requiring workers to have precise time management and prioritisation skills. Secondly, growth in on-demand printing, largely driven by newer printing technology, enables book retailers and publishers to hold digital copies of books and only print books as orders are received presenting potential opportunities with niche or technical publishers. Thirdly, the industry is well positioned to capitalise on parts of the major growth area of 3D printing which is expected to have implications for all industries. Lastly, automation is expected to impact parts of the industry over the longer term, with print production workflow being one area of the sector with the potential for automation.

Broader product and service offerings means that industry workers will increasingly be employed by organisations with a wider product focus such as customisable products, targeted promotional material, emerging product offerings, extended services, multi-channel marketing, sustainability and augmented reality. This widening scope of potential products and services affiliated with the Printing and Graphic Arts industry means workers will be required to broaden their skills and knowledge.

In addition to the changes outlined above, the Printing and Graphic Arts IRC’s 2019 Skills Forecast also describes changes to job roles, meaning workers are increasingly working within multidisciplinary communications teams as opposed to being employed by businesses that solely focus on Printing and Graphic Arts sector related activities. Workers with printing and / or graphic arts skills and qualifications are being employed by a diversity of businesses and industries, so even though it may appear like there is a disruption to sector activity, it may mean workers are being brought in-house into non-printing businesses.

These views are supported by the Printing and Graphic Arts Industry Snapshot, which also reveals revenue in this industry has declined as demand for traditional print products has fallen and prices have been driven down by improved technology. The largest proportion of industry products is advertising materials at 51%, but demand has declined in recent years, largely due to the availability of online alternatives and consumer concerns about the environment.

According to the IBISWorld report Printing in Australia Industry Trends (2015-2020), consumers have increasingly sought information online, and retailers have responded by increasing their digital advertising spend. Traditional print materials are slower and more costly to distribute than digital equivalents. As a result, more businesses have been trading online without using printed materials.

IBISWorld reports that the Printing industry's performance is projected to continue declining over the next five years. As mentioned above, digital alternatives are anticipated to further weaken demand for industry services, particularly in the advertising, magazine and newspaper segments. Changes in the financial and business segments are also likely to reduce demand for printed materials, as more transactions are conducted and processed online. To remain competitive, industry firms may need to focus on niche segments or offer integrated end-to-end services such as designing, marketing consultancy and distribution solutions.

Also affecting this industry are society’s changing attitudes towards environmental issues. Broad concerns over issues such as waste and pollution and their effects on the environment reduce demand for print products. According to the Printing and Graphic Arts Industry Snapshot, environmental concerns were cited by Coles supermarkets in August 2020 as the reason it ceased production of seven million weekly copies of its catalogue. The catalogue used 10,000 tonnes of paper a year, with presses producing 10 billion pages a year for the job.

According to FutureNow, in a drive to ensure workplace succession industry has identified the promotion of the printing industry to schools as a key strategy to promote viable career options to a younger demographic and to shift the public perception of the printing industry.

COVID-19 impact

The Printing and Graphic Arts Industry Snapshot reveals the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on printing and printing support services was immediate because of significantly reduced demand in the wider business community. Print customers in publishing and the arts and other industries were affected by government restrictions and curtailed or completely ceased operations. The sudden nationwide economic downturn led to a steep fall in advertising revenue. Print orders for newspapers, magazines, signage, and catalogues were cancelled. Industry believes turnover may only return to 80% of pre-pandemic volumes but if it does not reach this level, redundancies and cost-cutting may be considered.

IBISWorld’s Special report: COVID-19 Economic Assessment reveals revenue for the Printing industry is expected to have declined by 6.4% in 2020-21, with a further fall of 2.8% anticipated in 2021-22, as reduced discretionary spending and an increased shift to online media affected downstream demand for finished products.

However, there was some growth in some segments of this industry in 2020. Due to the high demand for food, cleaning products, and small signage, packaging and label printers did well during the pandemic. Demand for printed self-adhesive vinyl floor graphics (mapping out social distancing limits) surged as retailers, shopping centres, schools, office buildings, gyms and workplaces re-opened. Early in the pandemic, some 3D printers geared up to help manufacture equipment for medical staff throughout Australia.

Links and resources

Below is a list of industry-relevant research, organisations and associations. Hyperlinks have been included where available.

IRC and skills forecasts

Printing and Graphic Arts IRC

 

Relevant research

Current Projects: Promoting Printing Industry To Schools - FutureNow Creative and Leisure Industries Training Council

Printing and Graphic Arts Industry Snapshot - FutureNow Creative and Leisure Industries Training Council

Printing in Australia Industry Trends (2015-2020) – IBISWorld

Special report: COVID-19 Economic Assessment - IBISWorld

 

Industry associations and advisory bodies

Australian Graphic Design Association Inc. (AGDA)

Australian Sign and Graphics Association (ASGA)

Design Institute of Australia (DIA)

FutureNow Creative and Leisure Industries Training Council

Print and Visual Communication Association (PVCA)

 

Employee associations

Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU) Print Division

Data sources and notes

Department of Employment 2021, Industry Employment Projections viewed 1 August 2021, Labour Market Information Portal:

  • by ANZSIC 2 digit Printing (including the Reproduction of Recorded Media) Industry, employment projections to May 2025

 

National Skills Commission 2022, Occupation Employment Projections viewed 10 August 2022, https://www.nationalskillscommission.gov.au/topics/employment-projections

  • by ANZSCO, selected occupations, employment projections to May 2026
    • Printers
    • Graphic and Web Designers, and Illustrators
    • Printing Assistants and Table Workers
    • Print Finishers and Screen Printers
    • Graphic Pre-press Trades Workers.

 

Australian Bureau of Statistics 2022, 6291.0.55.001 - EQ06 - Employed persons by Industry group of main job (ANZSIC), Sex, State and Territory, November 1984 onwards, viewed 1 August 2022. https://www.abs.gov.au/statistics/labour/employment-and-unemployment/labour-force-australia-detailed/may-2022   

  • Employed total by ANZSIC 2 digit Printing (including the Reproduction of Recorded Media) Industry, 2002 to 2022, May quarter.

 

Australian Bureau of Statistics 2017, 2016 Census – Employment, Income and Unpaid Work, TableBuilder. Findings based on use of ABS TableBuilder data.

  • Employment level by 2 digit Printing (including the Reproduction of Recorded Media) Industry, and 4 digit level occupations to identify the relevant VET-related occupations in the industry as a proportion of the total workforce.

 

Training data has been extracted from the National VET Provider Collection, Total VET Student and Courses from the following training package or qualifications:

  • ICP Printing and Graphic Arts Training Package.
  • Certificate II in Printing and Graphic Arts (General)
    • ICP20110 - Certificate II in Printing and Graphic Arts (General)
    • ICP20115 - Certificate II in Printing and Graphic Arts (General)
    • ICP20120 - Certificate II in Printing and Graphic Arts
    • ICP20210 - Certificate II in Printing and Graphic Arts (Desktop Publishing)
    • ICP20310 - Certificate II in Printing and Graphic Arts (Digital Printing)
    • ICP20410 - Certificate II in Printing and Graphic Arts (Print Production Support)
    • ICP20510 - Certificate II in Printing and Graphic Arts (Screen Printing).
  • Certificate III in Prepress Graphic Design Production
    • ICP31420 - Certificate III in Prepress Graphic Design Production.
  • Certificate III in Print Binding, Finishing and Packaging
    • ICP31320 - Certificate III in Print Binding, Finishing and Packaging.
    • Certificate III in Print Communications
      • ICP30112 - Certificate III in Printing and Graphic Arts (Graphic Design Production)
      • ICP30115 - Certificate III in Printing and Graphic Arts (Graphic Design Production)
      • ICP30210 - Certificate III in Printing and Graphic Arts (Graphic Pre-press)
      • ICP30212 - Certificate III in Printing and Graphic Arts (Graphic Pre-press)
      • ICP30215 - Certificate III in Printing and Graphic Arts (Graphic Prepress)
      • ICP30315 - Certificate III in Printing and Graphic Arts (Multimedia)
      • ICP31415 - Certificate III in Print Communications.
    • Certificate III in Print Manufacturing
      • ICP30710 - Certificate III in Printing and Graphic Arts (Print Finishing)
      • ICP30712 - Certificate III in Printing and Graphic Arts (Print Finishing)
      • ICP30715 - Certificate III in Printing and Graphic Arts (Print Finishing)
      • ICP31315 - Certificate III in Print Manufacturing.
    • Certificate III in Printing
      • ICP30412 - Certificate III in Printing and Graphic Arts (Digital Printing)
      • ICP30415 - Certificate III in Printing and Graphic Arts (Digital Printing)
      • ICP30505 - Certificate III in Printing and Graphic Arts (Printing)
      • ICP30510 - Certificate III in Printing and Graphic Arts (Printing)
      • ICP30512 - Certificate III in Printing and Graphic Arts (Printing)
      • ICP30515 - Certificate III in Printing and Graphic Arts (Printing)
      • ICP30612 - Certificate III in Printing and Graphic Arts (Screen Printing)
      • ICP30615 - Certificate III in Printing and Graphic Arts (Screen Printing)
      • ICP31012 - Certificate III in Printing and Graphic Arts (Mail House)
      • ICP31215 - Certificate III in Printing
      • ICP31220 - Certificate III in Printing.
    • Certificate IV in Printing and Graphic Arts
      • ICP40110 - Certificate IV in Printing and Graphic Arts (Graphic Pre-press)
      • ICP40115 - Certificate IV in Printing and Graphic Arts
      • ICP40210 - Certificate IV in Printing and Graphic Arts (Multimedia).
    • Diploma of Printing and Graphic Arts
      • ICP50110 - Diploma of Printing and Graphic Arts (Digital Production)
      • ICP50115 - Diploma of Printing and Graphic Arts
      • ICP50210 - Diploma of Printing and Graphic Arts (Multimedia).

    This includes superseded qualifications and training packages.

    Data covers a range of selected student and training characteristics in the following categories and years:

    • 2017 to 2021 program enrolments
    • 2017 to 2021 program completions
    • 2021 subject enrolments.

    Total VET students and courses data is reported for the calendar year. Program enrolments are the qualifications, courses and skill-sets in which students are enrolled in a given period. For students enrolled in multiple programs, all programs are counted. Program completion indicates that a student has completed a structured and integrated program of education or training. Location data uses student residence. Subject enrolment is registration of a student at a training delivery location for the purpose of undertaking a module, unit of competency or subject. For more information on the terms and definitions, please refer to the Total VET students and courses: terms and definitions document.

    Low counts (less than 5) are not reported to protect client confidentiality.

    Percentages are rounded to one decimal place. This can lead to situations where the total sum of proportions in a chart may not add up to exactly 100%.

    ICP Printing and Graphic Arts Training Package apprentice and trainee data has been extracted from the National Apprentice and Trainee collection, including:

    • 2012 to 2021 commencements
    • 2012 to 2021 completions
    • apprentices and trainees in-training October to December 2021 collection, by qualification and state and territory.

     

    Job vacancy data have been extracted from Lightcast 2022, Labor Insight Real-time Labor Market Information Tool, Boston, viewed August 2022, https://lightcast.io/apac.

    Data shown represent most requested generic skills, occupations and employers according to internet job postings in Australia between July 2019 and June 2022 filtered by ANZSIC and ANZSCO classification levels listed below.

    • Generic skills/Occupations
      • ANZSCO major groups excluding Sales Workers
      • 16 Printing (including the Reproduction of Recorded Media).
    • Employers
      • 131112 Sales and Marketing Manager
      • 392311 Printing Machinist
      • 392112 Screen Printer
      • 251312 Occupational Health and Safety Advisor
      • 541211 Information Officer
      • 16 Printing (including the Reproduction of Recorded Media).
    Updated: 30 Nov 2022
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