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Features Profiles Women in Manufacturing
Spotlight: Jennifer McConnell, director of operations, Royal Printers

May 3, 2024  By PrintAction Staff



Jennifer McConnell has been in the printing industry for almost 25 years. She spent most of these years at MET Printers. In October 2023, McConnell took up the role of operations director at Royal Printers in New Westminster, B.C. Established in 1932, Royal Printers is a family-owned company. McConnell’s focus at Royal Printers is to maximize overall efficiencies of the plant, foster an empowering staff culture and assist in creative solutions that’ll set up the company for long-term success. McConnell is also passionate about creating meaningful career pathways for students interested in the print industry. Here’s an excerpt from an interview with her.

What is the state of the print industry today, in your opinion?

JC: I think the print industry is being challenged more than ever. Pushes for new technology to produce high quality work in shorter turnarounds keep our equipment vendors on their toes. Supply chain issues are constantly changing accessibility to materials and supplies. Finding individuals interested in learning the machinery is challenging, as most high schools do not actively promote print-related trade work. The sustainability of our industry relies on individuals who favour building long-term careers, but we are seeing more turnover as the newer generations have different priorities. If employees are not being engaged or supported, they move on and not always within the industry; we are losing them altogether. Having said all this, I strongly believe print is not dead. Although digital media and marketing have grown immensely, consumers are getting tired of the countless spam emails, and pop-up ads. Print can be used quite effectively along with digital marketing. I believe our industry has a huge opportunity (and responsibility) to educate our clients and provide meaningful solutions that include print.

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What attracted you to the print industry?

JC: My father owned a print shop in White Rock, B.C. When I moved to Vancouver from Toronto, it only made sense that I would work for him and see where things went. I never expected to fall in love with print, but here I am. This industry has become my life, and the print community has become my second family (possibly even my first!).

How can the industry attract more young people?

JC: There needs to be a collective effort from print and vendor companies to create a plan that includes opportunities for apprenticeship, internships, succession plans and mentorship. We have made headway with the Print Entry Level Training (PELT) program, but we need do more.

In such a competitive landscape, how can printers win more sales?

JC: It doesn’t matter what you’re offering, there is a market for it. Take the time to get to know your clients, fully understand their needs, challenges, and budgets, and then provide them with appropriate solutions. Be knowledgeable, helpful, and cost-effective. Stay in your lane, build up a solid foundation of customers and build off those relationships over time.

What are some of the biggest opportunities in the print industry?

JC: The biggest opportunity I see and the only one I really want to talk about (because I truly believe it is the most important one) is to create mentorship programs and succession plans to help our industry bridge the gap between the baby boomers who are now retiring and their replacements. Many expert technicians and trades people are planning to retire and have told me they don’t have someone coming in to take their place. I know there are considerations around the equipment aging out, but it’s the commitment and passion for the trade that I’m most afraid of losing. The skill that these folks bring to the table isn’t taught in schools, and we are about to lose a treasure trove of knowledge unless we, as an industry, act.

What do you think is the most exciting thing about print today?

JC: The most exciting thing today is the advancements in technology and the improvements we are making in both quality and efficiency. Some of the newer machines practically run themselves. That being said, it still takes a skilled press operator to create print perfection.

Jennifer McConnell’s response was edited for length. For more Q&A Spotlight interviews, please visit www.printaction.com/profile.

This article originally appeared in the January/February 2024 issue of PrintAction.


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