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How To Meet the Obligation To Do Right by the Industry: A Conversation with John Berthelsen, Chairman of PGSF

All this week,

By Cary Sherburne
Published: November 7, 2006

All this week, WhatTheyThink is featuring The Print and Graphics Scholarship Foundation (PGSF) in a series of articles aimed at raising awareness about the important work this organization does in attracting new talent to our industry. PGSF is a not-for-profit, private, industry-directed organization, housed under the same roof as PIA/GATF, that dispenses undergraduate college scholarships and graduate fellowship assistance to talented men and women interested in graphic communications careers. The mission of PGSF is "to strengthen the print and graphics industry by providing scholarship assistance." PGSF has coordinated the printing industry's largest scholarship program since its inception in 1956. We hope our readers will consider supporting the work PGSF does to attract the best and brightest to our industry.  Our future depends on it!

Today, WhatTheyThink speaks with John Berthelsen, president, Suttle-Straus, Inc., Waunakee, WI, and chairman of PGSF, to learn more about PGSF strategic initiatives and how graphic communications professionals can get involved.

WTT:  John, thanks for taking the time to speak with us today.  How did you initially get involved with PGSF?

JB:  I had some familiarity with some of the people on the PGSF board, and I was becoming increasingly aware of the need in the industry for helping some of the younger folks with scholarships to help them get through school. As an industry, we are challenged with attracting new talent to our businesses. I felt the work PGSF was doing was an important element in making it possible for young people to get the education they need to contribute to the future of our industry. Additionally, PGSF works to build awareness about the exciting careers the graphic communications industry offers these days. Attracting students to graphic communications programs is also challenging. By being actively involved with PGSF, I felt I could contribute on all these fronts.

WTT:  How many scholarships have been granted over the years and how many are generally granted annually?

JB:  Over 8,000 scholarships have been awarded since 1956.  The average annual number of scholarships awarded is 250.

WTT:  You are just beginning the second year of a two-year term as chairman.  What are some of the key initiatives you have planned for the coming year?

JB:  We are continuing to build the trust fund through fundraising to be able to fund as many scholarships as possible. Our typical scholarship is $1,250, but with the cost of education increasing, it is difficult for a $1,250 scholarship to be meaningful.  With that in mind, we have established a new level of scholarship at $5,000, called the Gutenberg Scholarship.  That means that we will be granting fewer—but more meaningful—scholarships within the context of this new program. Initially, four or five of our endowments will be granting scholarships at this higher level. As time goes on, we hope we will have more donors who will be interested in endowing that level of scholarship. 

WTT:  What are we talking about in order for an endowment to be able to support a Gutenberg Scholarship?

JB:  It requires about $100,000 endowment level to fund a Gutenberg Scholarship.

WTT:  Are these typically individuals or companies that donate at this level?

JB:  It is a combination. Some are individuals, typically a legacy from an estate.  Suttle-Straus created an endowment a couple of years ago that we are converting to a Gutenberg Scholarship.  We had been doing four scholarships annually at the lower level and now will be granting a single larger one.

WTT:  What types of programs are eligible for these scholarships?

JB:  When people think about scholarships, they typically think about four-year colleges and universities. And there are lots of great programs in those institutions. But scholarships can also be designated for vocational/technical schools and many of our scholarships are so designed.  These programs are often overlooked, and there are a lot of students who need help getting through those types of programs. It is valuable for them to have scholarships, and these students have a role to play in our future as well. 

WTT:  What is the Foundation doing relative to outreach, to educate students and their parents about career opportunities in graphic communications?

JB:  High school students may not even think of our industry when they are considering their career options, and that continues to be a problem. So we are doing everything we can do to put our industry in front of guidance counselors and others in the high school environment to make them aware there are scholarship and funding opportunities as well as lots of exciting career opportunities for those that are interested.

To further this aim, the Foundation has produced a booklet that is available on a CD in PDF files that local printing companies can reproduce and distribute to schools either as a PDF or a printed booklet, however they choose to distribute it.  We have found it to be effective and valuable, and it has gotten quite a wide distribution over the last year and a half.  Over 800 CDs have now been distributed. Based on production commitments from those that have printed the booklet, there are probably 250,000 in circulation. In the case of Suttle-Straus, we have put our own information on the back page, and we distribute it when we conduct plant tours as well as give it to local schools. We use it as an effective recruiting tool.

WTT:  What is the booklet called and how can people access it?

JB:  It is called Careers in Graphic Communications: A Student’s Guide, and you can place an order online or call or email Bernie Eckert, (412) 259-1740.  The brochure can be provided on a CD or be downloaded electronically. It is readily adaptable for production on a digital or offset press, and is a simple 12-page, 5.5" x 8.5” full color booklet that can be easily customized and reproduced.

WTT:  In addition to using the booklet, what else do you recommend to graphic communications service providers in terms of attracting talented people?

JB:  It is always a challenge finding people, and you have to use a lot of different vehicles to recruit and to stay visible.  Some of those vehicles include plant tours, keeping your name visible in local media and in trade magazines, and working with local schools.  We do all of that at Suttle-Straus. Offering internships is another avenue companies could consider.

WTT:  John, thanks for sharing information about PGSF with us.  Is there anything else you would like to add before we close?

JB:  I would like to encourage both companies and individuals to consider getting involved with PGSF—sponsoring a scholarship, distributing the booklet, and working to raise awareness about the career opportunities the graphic communications industry offers. I consider it an industry obligation. If you stick your head in the sand, you are not fulfilling your obligation to do right by the industry.  It is a large and diverse industry, and we all have to do our part.  You can’t expect other people to carry all the water.  If we all do our part, it benefits everyone. To get more information, your readers should feel free to contact any of the officers of the PGSF board, or Ted Ringman, who is our point man on development.

Cary Sherburne is a well-known author, journalist and marketing consultant whose practice is focused on marketing communications strategies for the printing and publishing industries.

Cary Sherburne is available for speaking engagements and consulting projects. To get more information contact us.

Please offer your feedback to Cary. She can be reached at cary@whattheythink.com.



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