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Vital Signs: Help Wanted

Wraps industry suffering from a lack of qualified installers

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If you’re in the business, you know that the definition of what a wrap is can change daily. Vehicles are included, sure. But so are building exteriors, interiors, appliances, floors, prosthetic body parts and even coffins. For the wrap professional, the world is your oyster, and I’m looking forward to seeing my first wrapped oyster.

But a serious issue has arisen in this industry, and it’s born of success. The wraps market has been growing at a rate that makes other advertising media green with envy, and with that comes growing pains — mainly in the area of finding qualified employees. One in five shops say it’s their most pressing concern, according to our most recent survey. It’s not unusual these days for shops to spend time and resources training a new installer, only to see that installer become a competitor down the line – with the only satisfaction for the original shop owner being that the former installer will eventually go through the same thing. And raise your hand if you’ve recruited family to help out at the shop. There has to be a better way to recruit an employee than saying, “Let’s have another child.”

While I would love to say that schools are cranking out qualified wrap installers at a record pace, that just isn’t the case. I dream of a world in which every K-12 school has its own digital printer and adhesive film supply to allow students to decorate their school’s hallways, which if memory serves, could often use a little touch-up every year.

The truth is that our industry is so young that very few people have any idea that jobs in the wrap-installation field exist, much less that there’s a growing need for people to fill these jobs. 

In this magazine as well as the pages of Sign & Digital Graphics, we try to provide as much helpful information as we can to help installers become more efficient, more precise and more profitable. Film and printer manufacturers frequently hold classes and training seminars to bring installers up to speed or make current installers more efficient. But it’s just not enough to fill the growing need. More often than not, it’s up to a shop to turn a green recruit into a professional installer.

How do we even put out the word that we need installers? Do people outside of our industry even recognize what a vehicle graphics installer is? I see some online employment ads from wrap shops asking for people with sign experience. Some ask for people with window tint/clear bra experience. Mobile retail advertising installer? OK, these all seem like good places to start. But it’s important to use the right language to avoid receiving resumes from college graduates with advertising degrees wanting $75k a year because they don’t understand what you are looking for. The reason you need to bring in another installer in the first place is so you can go home to your family at a decent hour, not spend more time on paperwork.

As an industry, we need to do a better job of creating a pipeline of employees to feed this growing beast. You’d think in a world where jobs don’t grow on trees this wouldn’t be an issue, but here we are. Have signs for your business out and prominently displayed when working on location. Make your shop vehicles the best piece of advertising you’ve ever done. Go out of your way to install a wrap at community events because the general public is still very impressed that these amazing wraps aren’t paint. But most importantly, don’t forget to be a true representative of just how cool these jobs are, because you never know if someone is looking on and wondering how they can become you.

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Matt Dixon

Matt Dixon is the editor of Sign & Digital Graphics.

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