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Shop Talk: Structured Learning

(October/November 2018) posted on Mon Dec 17, 2018

Formal organized training moves the best and the brightest up the ladder.

click an image below to view slideshow

By Andy MacDougall

Ah, you’re back… Where were we? If you recall, my last column looked at how the typical person learns how to screen print:

1. They were self-taught.

2. They were taught by the guy leaving.

3. They took a seminar or short training course. 


This month, we’ll look at #4: Learning through a structured training program/apprenticeship at a company run by skilled personnel.

I know one printer who was not just a proponent of structured training, but put it into practice. Bron Wolff was production manager at some of the largest screen printing operations in the US, and instituted training programs at a number of plants in which he worked. He taught at SGIA and is a member of the Academy of Screen and Digital Printing Technologies (ASDPT). He’s an avid art and history buff, a Navy veteran, and shoots “high power and black powder.” Whether he’s carrying a musket or a densitometer, you listen when Bron speaks.

“I worked in several large plants with multiple UV in-lines printing small and large format,” he says. “We printed halftones up to and including 172 lpi. We printed 127 lpi fairly often. We printed probably 95 percent four-color process or vignettes, or simulated process jobs. Some ‘Eat at Joe’s’ type signs, but those were a small percentage of our work. We had several training programs in plant, and yes, they were written programs. One plant had a book they gave to all press operators and new hires. We had one for project managers in the office as well.”

Bron made the manuals process- and machine-specific – details about running each machine were separate, so personnel were cross-trained on all the different presses. Some of the press operators were trained to use CTS units as well.

Instruction was semiformal in small classes, with usually one or two crews at a time from all shifts. Bron talked and demonstrated press setup, registration, substrate variability, stability, etc. during these sessions. And he used a concept I love on how to learn from mistakes.


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