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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 has declined by 47% between 2001 and 2021, 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 remain steady to 2025. Print Finishers and Screen Printers, Printing Assistants and Table Workers, and Graphic Pre-press Trades Workers employment levels are also predicted to remain steady during this time. The only VET-related occupation predicted to experience employment growth by 2025 is Graphic and Web Designers, and Illustrators, at nearly 8%.

Training trends

Training snapshot

Program enrolments in Printing and Graphic Arts-related qualifications fell substantially from around 2,090 in 2016 to just under 900 in 2020. Program completions have also experienced a significant decline from approximately 540 in 2016 to just under 240 in 2020.

The majority of program enrolments in Printing and Graphic Arts-related qualifications during 2020 were at the certificate III level (71%) followed by certificate II (26%).

The qualifications with the highest enrolments in 2020 were the Certificate III in Printing (41%), the Certificate II in Printing and Graphic Arts (26%) and the Certificate III in Print Communications (21%). 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 2020, Printing and Graphic Arts-related qualifications were largely delivered by TAFE institutes (60%) followed by private training providers (39%). This did vary significantly between qualifications, with TAFE institutes delivering 90% of the Certificate IV in Printing and Graphic Arts and 83% of the Certificate II in Printing and Graphic Arts, while private training providers delivered a higher proportion of Certificate III in Print Manufacturing (65%) and Certificate III in Printing (62%).

Enrolments tended to be Commonwealth and state funded (88%) across all provider types, however, private training providers accounted for the largest proportion of international fee for service (18%).

Victoria had the most students enrolled in Printing and Graphic Arts-related qualifications in 2020, with 44%. The majority of the remaining students were from either New South Wales (16%), Western Australia (15%), Queensland (10%) or South Australia (8%).

Almost half of training was delivered in Victoria (49%), followed by Western Australia (15%), New South Wales (14%), Queensland (10%) and South Australia (9%).

Apprentice and trainee commencements fell almost three quarters (73%) between 2011 and 2020, noting a significant but brief rise (of over 410 commencements) occurring in 2012. A small increase in commencements also occurred between 2017 and 2018 (approximately 230 and 250 respectively) followed by a decrease to less than 200 in 2019 before another small increase to just under 230 in 2020. Apprentice and trainee completions peaked at just over 800 in 2015 but have declined overall between 2011 and 2019, with a further significant decrease of 70% since 2019 to just under 70 completions in 2020.

Almost three quarters (74%) 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 2020 (36%), followed by New South Wales (26%), South Australia (13%), Queensland (12%) and Western Australia (11%).

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 Sales and Marketing Manager, and Printing Machinist, 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 over the past five years 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, Employment Projections, available from the Labour Market Information Portal:

  • by ANZSIC 2 digit Printing (including the Reproduction of Recorded Media) Industry, employment projections to May 2025
  • by ANZSCO, selected occupations, employment projections to May 2025
    • 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 2021, 6291.0.55.001 - EQ06 - Employed persons by Industry group of main job (ANZSIC), Sex, State and Territory, November 1984 onwards, viewed 1 August 2021, https://www.abs.gov.au/statistics/labour/employment-and-unemployment/labour-force-australia-detailed/may-2021   

  • Employed total by ANZSIC 2 digit Printing (including the Reproduction of Recorded Media) Industry, 2001 to 2021, 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 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 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 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:

  • 2016 to 2020 program enrolments
  • 2016 to 2020 program completions.

 

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:

  • 2011 to 2020 commencements
  • 2011 to 2020 completions
  • apprentices and trainees in-training October to December 2020 collection, by qualification and state and territory.

 

Job vacancy data have been extracted from Burning Glass Technologies 2021, Labor Insight Real-time Labor Market Information Tool, Burning Glass Technologies, Boston, viewed July 2021, https://www.burning-glass.com.

Data shown represent most requested generic skills, occupations and employers according to internet job postings in Australia between July 2018 and June 2021 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
    • 263111 Computer Network and Systems Engineer
    • 232411 Graphic Designer.
Updated: 19 Jan 2022
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