Screen Printing - August/September 2019 - 28
NEXT GEN PRINTERS
Feeling labor shortage pains? Get involved to
hone the skills of your future employees.
ANDY MACDOUGALL, ASDPT
ith Printing United approaching, it brings us face to face
with the future of print (doesn't it every year?) and what may be
the final transformation of a tradeshow that was originally
started by screen printers. We've heard the word from above
about all these other sectors moving in - offset, flexography,
packaging, converting, 3D, and more - with the idea being, if our
regular SGIA attendees come for the specialty graphics part they
may wander to the next hall to look at some of the other areas in
print manufacturing. Or, in a perfect world, the big printers
running Heidelbergs or Manroland Goss web presses will
become curious about opportunities in digital or - wait for it -
screen printing... and we all live happily ever after.
As a sub-sector (screen and large-format digital) of both
print and manufacturing, we have to hope we remain relevant
and in the mix. From a screen printer's perspective, whether
you're textile, graphic, or industrially inclined, we're a small
part of a much bigger pie. Our slice seems to be getting bigger
as our two imaging technologies continue to grow. And it's
good growth - we're not poaching existing work from offset
and the other paper printers, we're creating new markets, new
uses, new products, and refining what we have. Take a bit of
pride as a squeegeedragger that the men and women who
perfected this process in the early 1900s and invented the
thousands of products that still make our world go round
decided to have an annual convention and exhibition back in
the late 1940s and spun the screen process into an industry.
That association morphed into SGIA and has now evolved into
Printing United. We can now safely drink the digital Kool-Aid.
We can automate cleaning, coating, imaging, and burning
stencils. We can branch out into other sectors like packaging
and industrial. We can sell online. We can do a lot of things to
help grow a business, to improve our products, serve our
customers, to remain in the game. No, to excel at the game.
But we can't do any of this without young, trained, motivated
personnel. I think this is also true in the other print processes.
Most readers know this is one of the critical underlying
factors behind the success or failure of a business. You can
have the best, most modern machines money can buy, but they
don't run without skilled operators. It's the people, stupid. (Not
to be confused with stupid people.) So, what's being done?
I caught up with Johnny Shell, VP of print technology and
training at SGIA, fresh from his side gig as chair of the screenprinting technology and sublimation competitions at the
SkillsUSA National Leadership and Skills Conference held in
Louisville, Kentucky, in June. He and his growing group of
industry vets are on it. "We love to complain that we can't
find skilled labor for our printing business, yet only a few will
step up to the challenge of becoming involved (in training, in
their region). By doing so, a more sustainable future for our
industry is all but guaranteed," Shell says.
Shell was part of an industry team that included Lon Winters
(Graphic Elephants), James Ortolani (PolyOne), Dennis Slutzky
(M&R), Tiffany Rader Spitzer (Roeder Industries), John Kupka
(Saati Americas), Matt Marcotte (T&J Printing Supplies), and
Betty Bassett (retired from Classic Design Screen).
They're the judges at the SkillsUSA national competition
in screen-printing technology. This year, 30 states sent
competitors from high school and post-secondary programs
who won at regional and state championships.
Shell explained the skill sets they tested for, developed to
measure each contestant's knowledge and abilities. Criteria is
supplied to all participating schools.
The screen-printing technology competition evaluated the
skills of student competitors on:
1. Tensioning mesh using a pneumatic tensioning system
2. Using an automatic coating machine
3. Exposing a screen
4. Registering the final screen on a 3-color print
5. Printing as many 6-color T-shirts as possible in a given
Students were scored on a quality assessment where
they rated several finished products with varying degrees of
quality defects. They presented a resume and went through a
pseudo-job interview that included questions to assess their
ability to handle work assignments, answer questions using
technical terms, handle situations in a professional manner,
and demonstrate critical thinking and a realistic self-concept.
Finally, student competitors completed a 50-question written
assessment to test their knowledge of screen printing.
Do your recent hires have this basic skill set? Do your
long-term employees? I can't do some of this, and I've been
screen printing nearly 40 years.
"If we want to solve the skilled labor shortage, we as an
industry must get involved. Invite a school into your shop for
a tour/demonstration. Kids are easily persuaded at a young
age, so showing them the coolness of print is a way to spark
their curiosity. Check with your state SkillsUSA to see if they
have competitions. If they don't, help establish one. If they
do, get involved by helping secure necessary equipment, or
help judge," Shell says.
Skills shortage in print - all print, not just screen - is
a critical problem. Who will run those shiny machines on
display in Dallas? Read more from my interview with Johnny
Shell online at the brand-new screenweb.com.
Andy MacDougall is a screen printing trainer and consultant based on
Vancouver Island in Canada and a member of the Academy of Screen
& Digital Printing Technology. If you have production problems you'd
like to see him address in "Shop Talk," email your comments and
questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Screen Printing - August/September 2019
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Screen Printing - August/September 2019
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