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Graphic Arts Educators & Employers Around the World Wrestle With Evolving Educational Needs

October 29, 2014

Harvey LevensonGRAPH EXPO 14 marked the debut of “Educators/Associations Day.” The event replaced the long-standing GASC/Printing Industries of America Teachers Conference which was canceled this year due to lack of funds. “We needed a focused session respecting the important role that educators and associations play in furthering our industry through the preparation of our industry’s future leadership and the professional development of those already in the field,” says CalPoly’s Harvey Levenson. “Educators/Associations Day was one last-minute attempt at such recognition. While this first event was small, I trust that it will be the foundation for future Graph Expo events of this nature. It would be a perfect part of the Teachers Conference should funding be reinstated for next year and beyond.”

Wednesday, Oct. 1, 2014, was also “Student Day” when students and educators from graphic communication programs in high schools toured GRAPH EXPO and had the opportunity to visit the “Education Main Street” pavilion, where they observed exhibits for some of the nation’s leading colleges and universities having graphic communication degree programs, and ask questions for faculty, staff, and students present from these programs.

A Fresh Look at Faculty and Students
The day concluded with a special presentation led by Professor Emeritus Jesus Rodriguez of Pittsburg State University (Pittsburg, Kansas) on “The Graying of Graphic Communication Educators.”

The premise of this discussion was that the present group of graphic communication educators, nationally, are aging and it is worthy to discuss where the next group of graphic communication educators will come from and what their background and experience should be.

Meeting participants also pondering the structure of the graphic communication industry today and what it might look like in the years to come Questions asked included:

  • What type of scholars do we need to best prepare students for viable careers in graphic communication?
  • To what extent should such scholars have been prepared in traditional graphic communication disciplines or in other disciplines?
  • What role should STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) play in the experience of entering graphic communication professors?
  • What role should a liberal arts education play in entering graphic communication professors?
  • Once entering the academy, what professional development track will best serve new graphic communication professors?
  • To what extent should future graphic communication professors have industry experience prior to entering the academy?
  • If previous industry experience is desired, what industries would make sense that reflect the interests of graphic communication today and in the future?
  • What terminal degrees should future graphic communication educators have?
  • To what extent should future graphic communication professors be able to help prepare undergraduates to enter graduate school
  • What role should laboratories play in graphic communication education, and to what extent should professors have industry relations that will help support laboratories through donations and overall software, hardware, supply, and equipment installations?
  • To what extent should future graphic communication professors be resources for industry as opposed to relying on industry being a resource for them?

Future SkillsThese are tough questions and one the group will continue to debate. On a related note, Intergraf, UNI Europa graphical & packaging, and EGIN, the European Graphic/Media Industry Network recently commissioned a project to pinpoint best practices in identifying skills in the printing industry across the European Union. Over the last year, the project partners distributed a questionnaire in English, French, German, Italian and Spanish and received  more than 200 responses from companies and industry professionals across Europe. These replies were then compiled into a report called “Future Skills in the Graphical Industry.”

Some Familiar Challenges

For me, the most interesting part of the 56-page report is a series of case studies that detail how some EU printers—and the industry—have evolved over the years. “Vocational education in the initial stages, as we have it now, can hardly keep up with the developments,” says one UK printer. “That means they have to focus on the basic skills, the foundation skills of the jobs. They cannot keep up with specialization that new technologies bring. It is impossible for regular schools to become a substantial part of the innovation processes of companies that are in the process of change.” One of the company’s training strategies is to send one or two employees to external courses and then have those employees train their colleagues. You can download the report here.

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