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Education in the Industry To Provide a Skilled Workforce

Committing to doing all that we can to support the future of our industry. Can you step-up to do your unique part to help ensure a world-class workforce as well?

By Ashley Arneson, SGIA

SGIA has always recognized the important role educational institutions play in providing a skilled workforce to the trade. Today, this is as important as ever.

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  • Educators are finding it difficult to keep pace with this ever-evolving industry due to constant advances in technology and the lack of resources and funds available for specialty imaging programs.

    To combat this, SGIA has committed itself to developing and providing educational resources to the community. Not only will this stimulate industry growth and advancement, but also it will reinforce a sustainable future and empower SGIA to further engage with the industry to ensure a world-class workforce.

    USA Science and Engineering Festival (USASEF)
    SGIA brought the science of specialty printing to the Third USA Science & Engineering Festival (USASEF)in Washington, DC this past April. Showcasing its educational resources and demonstrating screen printing as a career path, SGIA taught students how to print their own T-shirts.

    "Specialty imaging is everywhere - in our stores, on our highways, on walls and buildings, in our electronic devices, and on the apparel we wear," said Shell. "In SGIA's interactive exhibit, USA Science & Engineering Festival attendees were given the opportunity to learn about our diverse industry, and we were excited to teach them."

    The festival attracted more than 325,000 people, the majority of which consisted of kindergarten through twelfth-grade students. Attendees were provided a glimpse of screen and wide-format digital printing through videos highlighting various pieces of equipment, as well as different print processes and installation techniques.

    The USASEF is a free, not-for-profit event developed to increase public awareness about the importance of science, and to encourage youth to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

    This past June, SGIA helped oversee both the Screen Printing and Graphics Communication - Sublimation competitions at SkillsUSA Nationals for the second year in a row. State winners in both the secondary and post-secondary school divisions competed against one another, surrounding the entire printing process from preparation to the finished product. Through added oral interviews, this competition gives students a head start in developing valuable professional skills such as communications, interpersonal abilities and time management.

    Shell also presented at SkillsUSA University, which is a series of educational sessions scheduled throughout the SkillsUSA conference. Sessions included buzzing topics in the specialty imaging industry and the wide range of products produced, as well as digital technologies that have emerged for decorated apparel and the capabilities of each platform. All sessions emphasized SGIA's focus on developing educational, informative programs conducive to the enlightenment of the industry.

    At the close of the competition, the Screen Printing and Graphic Communications - Sublimation technical committees met and unanimously voted Shell as Chairman of both committees. SGIA will be working with its membership to diversify the equipment and supplies used during the national competition to better accommodate the educators' needs with what is used every day in their classrooms.

    SkillsUSA is a partnership of students, teachers and industry representatives working together to ensure America has a skilled workforce. It provides quality education experiences for students in leadership, teamwork, citizenship and character development. Its programs include local, state and national competitions in which students demonstrate occupational and leadership skills. SkillsUSA programs also help to establish industry standards for job skill training in the lab and classroom, and promote community service.

    PrintED & GCEA, Formerly IGAEA
    SGIA had a strong presence at this year's 2014 PrintED National Teachers' Conference, which co-located with Envision Graphics 2014, the 89th annual International Graphic Arts Education Association (IGAEA) summer conference in Mansfield, Ohio. The partnering of these two events allowed attendees to learn from and collaborate with graphic arts educators about what teachers of print, publishing and design need to be addressing, and how best to present the material.

    Graphic communications programs are often utilized by schools to promote various activities and functions. Shell presented a session guiding teachers through the variety of products that specialty printing can bring to their programs. Fundamentals of available technology platforms and end products that can be produced, key considerations before integrating new platforms, and required skillsets needed for optimum performance were all discussed during this session.

    Marci Kinter, SGIA's Vice President of Government and Business Information, spoke at the Envision Graphics event regarding sustainable print, beyond the substrate. Highlights of this presentation included the initial development of a sustainability policy, the need for continuous improvement projects, and integrating sustainability into curriculum.

    PrintED is a national accreditation program based on industry standards, appropriate for secondary and post-secondary schools offering graphic communications curricula. This program is administered by the Graphic Arts Education and Research Foundation (GAERF), which SGIA assisted in updating its screen printing competencies earlier this year.

    The Graphic Communications Education Association (GCEA), formerly IGAEA, is an association of educators in partnership with the industry, dedicated to sharing theories, principles, techniques and processes relating to graphic communications and imaging technology.

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    Moving Forward
    In addition to strengthening the relationships with the aforementioned organizations, SGIA will continue to identify, develop and disseminate resources beneficial to the educational community. To this end, SGIA reinstated the Education Committee consisting of printer, supplier, and educator members. The focus of this committee, is to support and encourage academic graphic communication programs to contribute to the future success of the specialty imaging community.

    SGIA currently offers screen printing curriculum outlines for three various levels of education: Exploratory (to encourage learner interest), secondary (high school or vocational), and post-secondary (college, university, or technical school). While the overall process hasn't changed, new techniques and products have been introduced to the industry due to new technologies. The committee is working to not only update the curriculum outlines to reflect industry advancements, but also identify and create an interactive outline to provide the support materials needed to appropriately present these topics through lecture and demonstration.

    Furthermore, as the Association has broadened its scope to encompass the wide-format digital industry, so too is the Education Committee working to develop curriculum outlines to fit within this scope.

    Web Portals
    A lack of funding has long been an issue within educational institutions alike. Such is the case particularly with educators within the specialty imaging industry who are finding it exceptionally difficult maintaining pace with new technologies due to costly equipment. Fortunately SGIA member businesses continue to offer discounts on both equipment and supplies exclusive to the educator community. To foster this support, SGIA is currently developing a web portal to better facilitate these offers solely for the SGIA educator membership. Businesses will also be encouraged to post gently used equipment that is no longer used at their facility, but is acceptable for classroom use.

    In order to assist in providing a skilled workforce to the industry, SGIA is developing an employment and internship page on its website. Whether long-term or for a position to fulfill the needs of a student on winter break, the best way to learn the trade is through hands-on, real-world experience. Educator members will be able to access available position openings in their desired geographical region and distribute this list to their students.

    Awards & Recognition
    Graphic instructors who hold an Educational Membership are invited to submit samples, on behalf of their students, into the annual Tom Frecska Student Printing Competition. This award is highly sought after by graphic arts students around the globe, regularly receiving entries from schools in Germany and Australia along with many others within the US. Members within the Academy of Screen and Digital Printing Technologies honor superior imaging work within a variety of categories. Entrants represent secondary and post-secondary students. A Best of Show award will be given to one entrant from each division (secondary and post-secondary), awarding $500 to both the student and the school to put towards their specialty imaging programs. All entries are displayed to industry leaders - and possible future employers - from around the world at the annual SGIA Expo (Atlanta, November 4-6, 2015). The educator membership will continue to be encouraged to submit their students' work to create an even more robust and competitive event.

    In memory of one of the strongest supporters of the screen print industry, the Academy dedicated its Student Printing Competition to Tom Frecska, the late editor of ScreenPrinting Magazine. Tom, who passed away suddenly in 2009, supported and recognized the importance of student education in the screen printing process. The competition was rightfully renamed the Tom Frecksa Student Printing Competition.

    Financial support, or lack thereof, can be a determining factor in deciding whether to continue one's education. Therefore, SGIA will be developing undergraduate scholarship assistance to talented men and women seeking careers in the specialty imaging industry. Research and development of a scholarship is currently ongoing; further details will be announced as they become available.

    Education isn't a topic that can be addressed by one organization alone. SGIA will continue to support the efforts of the organizations mentioned, as we all share a common goal in further advancing and assisting in the continued growth of the specialty imaging industry. Whether you're able to provide financial support, additional equipment or supplies to a local school, or open your doors up to your facilities to give students a taste of real-world experience, everyone has a part to play. SGIA is committed to doing all that we can to support the future of our industry. Can we count on your support, as well?

    Ashley Arneson joined SGIA in March of 2008 and began participating in the education initiatives of the Association in early 2014. As part of the technical services department, she is committed to developing the imaging industry workforce through new educational programs for both students and professionals.

    This article appeared in the SGIA Journal, September/October 2014 Issue and is reprinted with permission. Copyright 2014 Specialty Graphic Imaging Association ( All Rights Reserved.

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