By Olivia Cahoon
Part 2 of 2
Colleges, trade schools, universities, and even high school programs prepare the future print workforce for an industry of evolving technology. Print education programs include curriculum, technology, and support services to enable effective digital production printing training.
Printing Since 1946
Founded in 1901, the California Polytechnic State University is in San Luis Obispo, CA, with 18,762 students. 423 of those students are enrolled in the university’s print education program.
In 1946, the program started as the School for Country Printers and was developed to handle the shortage of technically trained linotype operators and printing technicians needed for newspapers in CA after WWII ended.
Dr. Kenneth L. Macro Jr., professor and chair, graphic communication department, California Polytechnic State University, says that according to an article by The California Publisher, “a graduate of the course will have technical training in composition, both hand and machine, training and experience in making-up and running forms on various makes and sizes of presses.” This included simple stereotyping and the fundamentals of color work, paper cutting, folding, bindery work, and general print shop management.
At the time, California Polytechnic was the second school in the country with a degree course in printing—the other being Carnegie Tech.
Albert Melvin “Bert” Fellows launched the program as the first department head. The first class consisted of nine students. Located in between Los Angeles and San Francisco, Macro describes San Luis Obispo as a beautiful and highly desirable area. However, its location was not easily accessible in the 1940s.
Today, Polytechnic’s graphic communication department (GrC) offers basic and advanced courses in all analog and digital printing technologies, application design, business management, color management, design reproduction, methods for print and digital technologies, packaging design, printed electronics and function imaging, user experience user-interface design, web development and design, and workflow.
“California Polytechnic’s motto is to learn by doing, therefore, every class has a laboratory or activity associated with it in which students integrate theory into application,” says Macro. The university houses over 30,000 square feet of laboratory space and partners with the print industry so students have hands-on interaction with printing technology used in today’s industry.
“California Polytechnic GrC graduates have the ability to literally set foot into any operation and be at full productivity within days,” says Macro. The program covers offset lithography, gravure, toner-based, digital, screen, and flexography. GrC uses state-of-the-art technology including Canon, Epson, HP, Konica Minolta, Ricoh, Roland, Xanté, and Xerox.
The department currently uses several digital presses for hands-on learning including HP 4000WS and Deskjet 3050, Konica Minolta bizhub PRO 1100 and C360, RiCOH Pro C5200, Xerox Color 1000i, and several wide format devices. According to Macro, the department chose these presses because they are used in many of the graphic communication and printing communities that employ students.
GrC also has a full bindery lab with Heidelberg Windmill, Kluge Letterpress, MBO folder, Muller Martini Presto Saddle Stitcher and Amigo Adhesive Perfect Binder, POLAR Mohr cutter, and manual binding equipment. For workflow, the department has all application software applications including EFI, Esko, and Kodak.
The objective of digital printing programs is to turn students into skilled workers prepared for advancing digital technology. Macro says part of the department’s strategic plan is to advance the curriculum even further to meet demands for short-run, high-quality, fast turnaround production.
The program has a student-managed, student-operated graphic communication enterprise within the GrC where ten students dedicate a year to running a company within the university. “They make daily operation decisions and facilitate all the production through the use of other GrC student labor,” says Macro.
Students are now moving further into implementing EFI digital storefronts and product development in the variable data printing. They are also integrating marketing communication world using XMPie software from Xerox and Konica Minolta EngageIT in addition to consumer interactive technologies like Ricoh Clickable Paper.
“GrC students and graduates have an understanding of the entrepreneurial bend needed in today’s ever-changing and nimble manufacturing environment. I’m excited about the future and more so now that they will be driving it,” says Macro.
To attract the best and most knowledgeable skilled workers, Macro suggests print providers reach out and form a strong partnership with their local community colleges and universities offering programs in printing and graphic communication. “There are fewer institutions than once before, but those remaining are strongly committed to embracing the change and reinforcing the scaffolding needed to see this respectful giant of an industry prosper and grow,” he offers.
According to Macro, there is a phenomenal talent coming out of digital print education programs and institutions that are just waiting to navigate the future. Print providers seeking new, skilled employees can partner with print education programs to scout for the future of the printing industry’s innovators.
Dec2017, DPS Magazine