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Commentary & Analysis

An Insatiable Appetite for Digital Graduates

By Pete Rivard June 20 ,

By WhatTheyThink Staff
Published: June 20, 2006

By Pete Rivard June 20 , 2006 -- Another school year came to a close last Friday (June 9th). Once again, every graduate was snapped up and employed. That makes five years in a row. I was thinking for a while I was going to have to say every graduate but one. That particular student failed to heed our annual warnings about drug testing and was shown the door when his pee test came back positive during the first week of his internship. However, such is the demand for new talent that another operation called him in, gave him a stern lecture, and hired him, albeit conditionally. So, if the kid keeps on the straight and narrow he'll be fine. Of those 125 postings, over two dozen were specifically digital print opportunities A while back my colleagues and I looked at the numbers regarding job postings for our graphics students for calendar year 2005. We had 125 job requests for roughly 24 second-year students. Of those 125 postings, over two dozen were specifically digital print opportunities: color digital press operators, wide format inkjet specialists, ink jet press operators, service technicians, product support specialists, R & D technicians, omnidigitalists, programmers, Insty-Print production help, project managers, production supervisors. This year's list of graduates shows an aggressive tilt toward direct digital printing. That doesn't count the forty or so normal prepress, graphic design and web design requests on the list. Or the customer service opportunities, which are becoming increasingly digitized. And a look at how this year's list of graduates with our A.A.S. in Graphics-Prepress shows an even more aggressive tilt toward direct digital. * Two are Photoshop ninjas, one at the photo retouching and short run memoir publishing business profiled here at OnDemandJournal.com in Restoring Faded Memories, the other with R.R. Donnelly. * One is at Kodak Polychrome in their color lab creating and deploying custom ICC profiles for color printers and presses. * One is with Xerox running an iGen at a large legal publishing house. * Another is holding down the omnidigitalist seat at a label house, doing both color correction and running an Indigo Press. * One is managing the Insty-Print where he worked part time through school. * Two are prepress technicians at a local prepress house. * One is an output technician at a large direct mail printer. * One is running a variety of digital presses and pre-flighting incoming documents at a local service bureau. * One is doing a combination of print and web design for a large financial operation. Those are the prepress track students. In addition, every last student in the press track was snapped up from their customary paid internships and hired outright upon graduation. The packaging industry took care of all of those. No re-grooving going on Interestingly, it seems that the digital shops prefer to snap up prepress students and teach them how to run digital presses than try to retool or re-groove existing analog press operators. That tells you something--that operating a digital press is viewed as more analogous to a prepress output device than a traditional press. Plus, our students graduate with enough color management and asset management savvy to fit right in to either the new and cutting edge businesses or the expanded digital departments of more established print operations. Operating a digital press is viewed as more analogous to a prepress output device than a traditional press. An argument can be made that the recent graduate is relatively cheap labor. However, we have documented a continual annual rise of just over a dollar per hour per year for our graduates since 2000. They averaged about $16.00 to start (the highest at $22.50 and the lowest at $12.00) this year. After three years our average graduate is at or above $20.00. We recently hired two Dunwoody graduates (class of 2000) as teachers, and both were north of $27.00/hr. I saw their pay stubs. Such is the local demand that Target Corp. and Xerox now come in and cherry pick the most promising first year students in their first quarter and get them working after school right away. Other companies book class time weeks in advance of our annual InternExpo to lobby the second years. InternExpo is a sort of inverted job fair, where the students are the booths, not the businesses. HR types and Production Managers circulate from student to student, examining resumes and portfolios, and each student is dressed professionally and ready to sell their best features. Offices are set aside on that day for job interviews and students are excused from class any time the following week if they have follow up interviews set up. One more year wrapped up. One more class placed on their career paths. I wish I had more students. Spread the word, everyone. Print, like Generalissimo Franco, is still dead. Or so we are told.



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