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Shop Talk: Call It Education

(June/July 2018) posted on Wed Aug 22, 2018

We all know the nuances and intricacies of the printing industry – but how do we get everyone else in on the secret that print is everywhere?

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By Andy MacDougall

I’m sitting here conflicted. The Skills Canada national competition is going on around me, with 550 kids from across the country, provincial winners in an array of skilled trade categories, everything from cooking to carpentry, electronics to animation, plumbing to pastry – and nothing to do with print. Any kind of print. 

I’m going to get off my screen printing horse and trade it for a Ford – a “Bowers edition” 2018 version of the print community, that big swirling mass of screen, digital, flexo, 3D, offset, pad, and whatever else is out there. We are gigantic, in Canada, the US, and around the world. So why is there no print at a skilled trades event? 

My homies from the Academy who have gotten involved with Skills USA told me they had nothing going on until a few years ago as well. They had to pitch a mock competition at an event, and, according to James Ortolani, tricked the organizers into checking it out by printing dye sub mugs with each committee person’s image, which they had to come get from the demonstration. After that, it became part of the competition, and now over 25 states compete and send finalists to the national championships in screen printing. I’ve never been to the event in the US; I’m sure it is larger than ours, but how well are the various print trades represented?  

Here we are, this large sector of the economy that actually had the most employees of any industry in North America at the end of the 1990s. And although offset (and screen printing) have shrunk since then, the gains in digital printing have probably more than made up for the loss. Look around you. All those buses and buildings, sports arenas and events, T-shirts and printed garments. All those cell phones and solar cells. More print than ever is on display. Somebody is making it, but somehow the education and awareness around it is not connecting our industry with the bright kids coming up. 

Is print boring? No. Young people flock to it. 


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