The print industry is always changing as technology such as digital print, personalized digital marketing, variable data, and online capabilities (such as email-marketing, online storefronts, and web-based solutions) continue to evolve. To add to the revolution, there is a wave of Millennials and Gen Z employees entering the workforce. The “under 30’s” are enthusiastically exploring industries that offer less traditional office roles, and fortunately, that includes the world of print.
This younger workforce tends to have an innate comfort working with new technology. Complex web-to-print systems, or sophisticated order management and production software, can prove much less daunting to this group than to some of their older coworkers that are used to doing things in a certain way, and more quickly learned and applied in the workplace.
Millennial employees can also help reinvigorate their teams by bringing a fresh perspective on what is new and interesting in the digital world. There has been a lot of discussion and research about how e-commerce will dominate the print world and millennials are at the forefront of changing expectations on product ordering and customer service. And they are going to need to thrive, as it is estimated that they will soon rule the labor pool. Experts predict that as soon as 2020, millennials will make up 35% of the overall global workforce, with Gen Z making up 24%, equating to over half the personnel.
There is a technical school in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, that is very much aware of these types of trends and prides itself on aligning curriculum with the needs of the shifting workforce. Thaddeus Stevens College (TSC) is a premier residential, two-year, accredited technical institution that educates Pennsylvania’s economically and socially disadvantaged, as well as other qualified students, for skilled employment. They have been recognized by the Aspen Institute, an independent research panel, as one of the top two-year colleges in the country for three consecutive years – the only technical college in the state to receive these honors.
With a whole host of workforce training programs, The Graphic Communications and Printing Technology program stands out amongst the rest as it aims to provide a comprehensive understanding of the entire printing process and related fields while creating well-rounded students that are highly qualified for employment in the industry. The students receive training in all major areas, with preparation to enter one of several printing fields, depending on interest and ability. After graduating from their program, they are prepared to recognize the major printing processes, the advantages of each, and the types of products they are best suited for. They learn the skills needed for positions in layout and design, copy preparation, desktop publishing, film assembly and plate processing, direct-to-plate applications, press operations, and bindery operations.
In-depth knowledge of print management software and business operations is an integral part of the Graphic Communications and Printing Technology program, so to create more of a real-world learning environment, they started an in-house print facility, managed and run by their second-year students. Through a grant and other company support, they were able to acquire a digital press and in turn they researched the software needed to run a print operation.
One of Thaddeus Steven’s committee members, Shannon Mosser, suggested that they investigate PressWise, the popular all-in-one Print Estimating, Workflow Automation, Print MIS solution used by so many in the commercial print industry. Shannon is the Print Operations Manager at local Marketing Services Provider Reminder Media. He uses PressWise to manage their print workflow and knew what an incredible fit the software would be for TSC’s print program needs. “Using PressWise as part of the curriculum gives students a taste of a real-world production environment. It’s easy to learn, yet powerful enough to support complicated products and workflows. Our belief is that students will come into the workplace more prepared, and ready to integrate into our team.”
PressWise has now become the main software and learning tool for TSC’s Printing Processes courses, helps to prepare its future print leaders by giving them experience with production and workflow function across all phases.
“Through the support that we get from PressWise we’re able to have our students engage with content that was previously inaccessible,” said Michael Brady, Course Instructor. “Students are estimating, batching, moving jobs through production and invoicing. On a larger scale, they’re learning how the back end of PressWise works, such as setting up presses, inputting papers and managing storefronts. Students now learn how the business side of the industry is handled, which is an invaluable experience.”
Since the introduction of PressWise, TSC students have become more engaged in the education and the printing industry through this new production-based education. TSC is now able to bring a new set of skills into the classroom to best prepare and motivate students for the ever-evolving print industry.
Tyler Richards, a graphics intern in the Development Office, designs various products to be used for the office and then uses PressWise to quote the project and send the files into production. “I have found PressWise to be a strong asset in the workflow for our in-house print facilities and curriculum,” said Tyler. “It allows the entire graphics class to keep our production running smoothly, and not just having one person doing all the work. With PressWise I am able to see the progress of my project and ensure that all deadlines are going to be met.”
For Veronica Thomas, a student in the course, working hands-on with the software in a production-type setting has been a game-changer. “I found a love of running the digital press, managing jobs and overseeing work orders. PressWise has been a large part of seeing the printing industry as a career. It’s an amazing tool for our class to stay on schedule and aware of the workflow. With 20 students, we are able to communicate what is happening and when it’s happening at every stage of production. We’re learning how to use software that will actually be necessary for us to understand in the field post-graduation.”
As the print industry continues its evolution, and as new generations enter the field of technology, we can continue to expect a change in the landscape of print production. In response, both Thaddeus Stevens and PressWise have joined forces to provide the kind of hands-on education that is invaluable to those looking to advance their careers in the world of print.
To learn more about Thaddeus Steven College’s Graphic Communications & Print Technology Program.
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