Of all the compelling reading in the new 2007 PIA/GATF Forecast: Technology, Trends, Tactics, nothing is more urgent than the essay titled, "Whose Job Is Training? An Open Letter the Graphic Arts Community." The author, Larry Kroll, vice president of print media relations for Heidelberg USA, warns that the industry is "losing the fight to attract the attract the best and brightest job candidates" despite many well-intentioned efforts to recruit the next generation of operators and managers.
It's a point that's been made before, but seldom with the bluntness that Kroll employs here. He notes, among other inconvenient truths, that:
- high-level educational initiatives by industry trade associations are failing to reach the most likely candidates for careers in the graphic arts
- colleges and universities commit the same error by restricting their graphic arts curricula to degree candidates
- given the industry's fragmentation, its training and education efforts are "piecemeal" and in serious need of alignment
"We need an organized, cooperative initiative that transcends the special interests of the participants and focuses on the preparation of our next generation graphic arts workforce," writes Kroll. "It is vital that our institutions and enterprises coalesce around this fundamental goal as soon as possible."
In our opinion, Kroll's call for coalescence goes straight to the heart of what's wrong with the industry's diffuse and too often ineffective campaigns for recruitment and professional development.
There's no coordinating council: no broadly endorsed, independently operating policymaking group that identifies resources, formulates strategies, and devises implementation plans that every industry organization with a commitment to education can use.
There's no focal point for accomplishing what ought to be priority number one: sharing the industry's rich educational resources with the teachers, students, and employers who need them the most.
Here's an example. One of the industry's best and most frustratingly kept secrets is the great volume of training material that it produces, chiefly for marketing purposes, in the form of printed publications, PDFs, videos, and online interactive content. Much of it is perfect for the classroom. Little of it gets there, though, because most instructors simply aren't aware that it exists. What's frustrating is knowing that with the backing a coordinating group representing all of the vendors and associations that publish such material, a clearinghouse for promoting these valuable training aids to instructors wouldn't be difficult to organize.
If there's a CIP4 organization for JDF workflow, why can't there be a similar cooperation for the larger goal of graphic arts education? Previous initiatives tell us that it's not for lack of commitment, imagination, or financial support. As Kroll says, the time has come for a truly unified effort. He concludes his open letter with a call for a "graphic arts education summit" at Graph Expo 2007, inviting all who are interested in participating to contact him at email@example.com. We think that a summit of this kind could be historic. Your presence and support can make it so. Please send him your thoughts.