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Print Education

The rapid development in digital and cloud technology is changing printing industry’s landscape. The need for training and skilled work force is more than ever. But what are the options for people who want to work in printing industry and receive education and necessary skills for a long lasting career. Here are some options from around the world.

Fewer students than ever before in USA

The printing industry is no exception. In the U.S. the printing industry is a mature industry that needs about 60,000 new employees every year to replace those who leave the industry. Some of these employees come from other printing companies because it is far easier to hire someone who already has the required skills than expend the time and cost of training someone from scratch (50 percent). Another group comes from schools. About thirty percent come from high schools and fifteen percent from 2-year and 4-year colleges. Five percent come from trade or manufacturer schools,” says Frank Romano from Rochester Institute of Technology.

He adds: “Printing institutions today have fewer students in college-level programs for printing than ever before. In 1980, U.S. graphic arts colleges had about 20,000 students enrolled, most of whom had taken graphic arts in high school or had family members in the industry. In the late eighties high schools started to change graphic arts programs to desktop publishing. Laser printers and PCs were less costly than printing presses and graphic arts equipment. Students spent more time designing than printing, and thus, today, less than 4,000 students are enrolled in U.S. college programs for printing, but almost 40,000 are in graphic design programs. Manufactures train on how to use new equipment or specific machines. Colleges teach management and analysis. There is a vital need for employees at both levels.”

“You can plot the decline in printing college enrolment from the time high school students decided to pursue graphic design rather than printing educations. Colleges saw printing school enrolment decline as design schools saw enrolment growth. Four-year college printing programs face a dilemma-the need for graduates is high, but interest in attending is low. Without teens opting for printing at the college level, we will suffer as an industry. We need workers at every level, from machine operators, to computer specialists, to pressmen, to management staff with strong analytical skills. High schools, community colleges, and 4-year colleges each provide graduates at levels needed by industry.”

“Most 4-year graphic arts programs have being renamed graphic communications in order to attract students. Some include cross-media content: XML, PDF workflow, e-publishing, and more. One critic claims they will not be printing managers because the programs are not called printing management and the curriculum does not look like the one from 1980. The industry does not look like the one from 1980.”

“Graphic arts education must be ahead of the curve so graduates can help their employers get ahead as well. The printing company of the future will be an information factory and print will be only one output. But most schools cannot afford the equipment and software to teach with–and suppliers can only support so many schools. We need to promote print as a viable career opportunity. Once graduated, college graduates have a future in printing. Almost all find excellent jobs and build great careers building printing companies for the future.”

Senior management positions are needed in Germany

“The state of the printing industry today is a difficult one in most states of the western world, due to a tendency of over-capacity. Over-capacity appears to be an inherent problem in the industry as long as the technological progression proceeds at much faster rates than the rates of growth of the market. The result is a fierce price competition and unsatisfactory profit margins and last not least decreasing numbers of print shops. The low rates of growth of the print market are induced by the growing attractiveness of the new media, the internet in particular. As a result there is a tremendous need for increases of the efficiency, what amounts to the same thing as cutting cost. Apart from material cost, the biggest item is labour cost. That is why the employment in the printing industry has been witnessing a sharp decrease for years already.” says Hartmann Liebtruth from university of Wuppertal in Germany. 

 “On the work force level, the percentage share of ‘skilled’ operators is high in comparison to other branches. Skilled workers are those who have received a vocational training of three years. This training is a combination of work at the workplace in the company and at a vocational school. At present there are 16850 apprentices and among them 6640 are in their first year of vocational training. It is interesting to note that the number of beginners have increased by 10 percent. This a clear signal of increasing confidence in the business prospects.”

 “The courses in print and media technologies at one of the universities of applied arts are completely different from short term training sessions held by companies for their employees. Training sessions offered by–usually machine manufacturing companies–are targeted at their employees and the applicants of the technology in question. That means their attendants have at least some basic knowledge of the subject matter – many of them from their earlier studies at one of the universities of applied sciences. In many cases such sessions are about demonstrating the advantages of new technologies as opposed to older ones. The objective of university training is a theoretical approach to the subject. The target groups are students without any knowledge of the subject matter upon which the university could design its courses. It must be said, however, that a substantial part of the student applicants are already linked to the printing industry by their vocational training and their qualification as a ‘skilled worker.’ They usually want to qualify for a higher position within the industry.”

The online option

The website learn4print offers online courses to people from around the world.

According to Utta Dettling from Learn4print with possibility of using e-learning in a flexible way, students remain the focus of the teaching method

“After registration, which is free of charge, the user receives his personal access data and is given access to the online modules. Upon request, the student can earn a certificate which requires the completion of all learning modules and successful conclusion of the final test. Support by an expert tutor who will assist the students with any questions they may have about the subjects taught is offered as an option.”

“The most favourable approach is the use of e-learning as a supplement to classroom-based training. For these reasons, the theoretical contents are additionally combined with traditional classroom courses where practical subject matters are taught. These classroom courses can for example be organized by a central institution or by the specialist schools and companies as part of the training they are giving.”

“After the e-learning courses, we offer 2-week (basic) and 3-week (advanced) practical courses which are all based on the theoretical knowledge acquired in the e-learning modules” said Dettling. “Since the knowledge of the participants is at a similar level thanks to the theoretical training supplied by the learning platform, the focus during the classroom course can be placed on hands-on training.”

Printpromotion believes print is attractive for young generation

Roger Starke from Printpromotion which is a training institute in Germany believes youngsters’ dream of a career in media designing as they think that working with the PC is attractive. 

“In an assessment, we must of course consider that there are different institutions for the different educational levels. In Germany, we have the dual system for the initial training of skilled staff (printers, media designers, bookbinders), i.e. practical training is given at the company, and theoretical training is given at vocational schools which are financed by the state. The number of training places is generally rising in Germany. However, many, many youngsters wish to pursue training to become a media designer (prepress, new media) because they think that working with the PC is attractive. In this respect, some have the wrong expectations, since a large portion of their work is not creative at all, but now consists of the preparation of print data. In the course of the last few years, large training capacities have been created for the computer design segment (not only in Germany and also by private training institutions). The demand, however, was not and is not that high. The situation is different as to the training of printers and bookbinders where there is a lack of suitable applicants in the long term. Youngsters are not aware of the attractiveness of these jobs. In this respect, more must be done for young people to see their advantages in real life, for instance what the job of a printer offers, i.e. interesting working environment, sole responsibility for the performance of the individual print job, absolutely state-of-the-art complex machines, good earning possibilities and career chances.”

“For further education, there are a lot of industry-specific training institutes which are either supported by associations or affiliated with other institutes (vocational schools, universities). The number of purely private training institutes is small. Besides subject-specific short training courses, the training institutes offer part-time/day release and/or full-time courses for qualification as master printer/bookbinder, a certificate in printing technology or as media specialist. As far as the subject-related short courses are concerned, a strong decline could be seen over the last few years. The only explanation for this is the drop-off in prices and the decreasing willingness of the companies to invest in qualifying measures. What is forgotten in this respect is that only qualified staff will work efficiently and be in a position to make full use of the competitive edge offered by modern machines. The latter qualifying courses (e.g. for master printer) are well attended although the number of institutes offering this kind of training is high and their levels differ strongly. Many newcomers in the printing industry with a different training background (coming, for example, from the electronic media segment, public relations), will find suitable training for future managerial jobs at these institutes.”

“I am of the opinion that young people tend to choose courses aimed at a degree in media rather than a technically oriented course. Making a statement for the whole world is very difficult. In nearly every country there is a school dealing with printing. No doubt, there is a global demand considering that the printing industry in many countries is still at an early stage of development. Summing up this item, one can say that more training is required for sales/marketing, management and technology. While, it is true, young persons are strongly interested in prepress and new media; chances on the labour market are rather moderate.”

“I think that the knowledge taught at vocational schools is, in most cases, not sufficient in order to come to grips with the daily routine of a printing company. Unfortunately apprentices often learn more at their training company than at school. This is due to manifold reasons. On the one hand there is a lack of young experienced junior staff at universities and specialized schools. And in many countries, the teaching profession is not as financially attractive as a job in industry. Added to this, there are no appropriate offers for the further training of specialist teachers. This is why PrintPromotion has organized international courses especially for specialist teachers since the beginning of the 1990s. The machinery manufacturers and associations have also recognized this necessity and offer corresponding advanced professional training.”

“The problem with many schools is their equipment lacking more or less modern machines and devices. As a result, training is often limited to a very theoretical level. On the other hand, it is not the task of machine manufacturers to equip schools with the necessary technology world-wide and free of charge. Primarily, this ought to be done by the printing companies themselves. Everybody who only expects to find well-trained staff on the labour market without investing in any basic and advanced training aggravates the sad state of training. In Germany, many entrepreneurs think that practical training is the business of the schools. It is, however, the companies` own business since there is the dual system.”

“There is a plethora of possibilities to improve the training situation. In some countries, training institutes are financed for specific branches of industry partly via contributions of companies (e.g. in Brazil, South Africa). In Germany, joint training systems are created by companies and free institutes for training. During practical training at industry-wide training institutes and at other companies, the youngsters are given practical training over a broader spectrum. Private training institutes must finance their machines through the training fees they receive. This, however, cannot be done with the present demand for training. In countries where all training is given at schools, theoretical training is, of course, predominant.”

“At the universities, theoretical training predominates as well. For university training, this is okay since certain knowledge and experiences are set as prerequisites and they mostly train junior staff with broad engineering knowledge for development departments of manufacturers, while the specialist schools (e.g. universities of applied sciences) are more practice-oriented. The equipment available at universities differs and also depends on the other (research) projects carried out there. Stronger co-operation between industry and universities could improve the situation.”


London College of Communication aims at changing the image of printing industry

“The demand for print based manufacturing style education has seen a major decrease in recent years; which has fuelled demand in other related areas such as publishing and graphic arts. Increasingly, printing is seen as one type of media to be appropriated for a specific use within a toolbox of other media that creative professionals can manipulate just as well,” says Sara Pandit from London collage of Communication.

“The UAL (University of Arts, London) represents the largest UK print based education provider Whilst we still offer traditionally based ‘training’ courses, our major provision is offering a broad based yet rigorous curriculum within the production and management of print production and services. Overall, whilst there is an increased demand for print related education, that is, education that does not simulate this process but gives students first hand practical knowledge of the process, management and production, the demand is reducing for a purely print related curricula.”

“It is unrealistic to draw too stark a contrast between company training and educational providers. The main distinction lies with accreditation and companies can rarely offer accredited training particularly without an educational partner. In- house training may be very good and can often train individuals in specific tasks; however the UAL offers educational programmes and not ‘training.’ We develop graduates to be able to react to unforeseen circumstances and to see links between their current knowledge and any new knowledge they need to acquire.”

“The future is very bright for these graduates who go onto further study, enter the industry at mid-level management and even enter other industries because they have demonstrated knowledge and ability to manage within manufacturing and service sectors through a qualification like the BA (Hons) Print Media Management.”

“The printing industry has an image problem. It is perceived as industrial, lacking creativity and lacking dynamism. This does not reflect the actual situation and therefore makes the printing industry unattractive to anyone without prior knowledge of it. The social structure of the majority of developed countries is changing as the workforce becomes older which means there are less young people relative to the demand. It is therefore incumbent on education, government and employers to develop opportunities to develop the knowledge and skills of not just young people, but older workers both currently within and outside the industry. This problem is not unique to the UK. We talked to educationalists, printing companies and manufacturers from around the world who are all facing the same problems.”

The demand for printing education in India is high

Asha Pal from Manipal Institute of Technology says:  “India has one of the fastest growing economies in the world. This economic boom has benefited a number of sectors including the printing industry, which has been cashing in on increased marketing, consumer magazines and many other printed products that are being driven by growth. The Indian printing market is expanding rapidly, valued at $25.1 billion in 2012.

“Though our industry has kept pace with the current industrial & technological boom, the fact remains that aspiring students are sometimes not aware of the ample opportunities that are available to them. Only those students who are aware of these opportunities are those with some printing background. The dilemma being that the term “printing” is related to just the Newspapers, magazines and Invitation cards. To tackle this situation the name of the department is rightly coined as ‘Printing and Media Engineering’.”

 “The demand is gradually picking up pace as more and more students get to know the real picture. When companies train their employees they have certain plans, both for the industry and the employee. That makes the training unique to individual employees. For example if a company is purchasing a new machinery or implementing a new system (say ISO) then the company would select suitable employees who have shown potential and train them as required. This is not the same with an institute which is preparing a student for the whole industry in general. At institute level, the curriculum is designed to train the students for the industry as a whole giving them all the basic knowledge which is required by the industry. ”

“There are only 8 institutes that offer this course. The output from these 8 institutes is less than 500. The reason for only 8 institutes to offer this course may be the lack of infrastructure in terms of good faculty and equipments. A printing department requires a good setup of laboratories. To acquire these basic requirements for the department is in itself a Herculean task. The other reason may be the lack of vicinity of a printing industry to the institute for the right exposure.”

“The main problem faced by the industries which come to our department is the unavailability of students for recruitment. The reason being that our department output is only 33 and the industries that visit us late are unable recruit any graduate. We have considered this and to increase the intake of the department is one of agenda in department objectives.”


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