By Pete Rivard There are more jobs than there are qualified applicants, especially in the emerging digital and packaging segments of the industry, and they tend to pay well. March 8, 2005 -- North Branch, Minnesota is a small, tidy town about forty miles north of the Twin Cities. The buildings in North Branch must be plenty sturdy. They have to withstand the fierce buffeting of wind gusts churned up by packed casino buses rocketing north on I-35 toward Hinckley as if the hounds of Hell are nipping at the exhaust pipes. 8:00 a.m. on Friday, the 11th of February, found your humble narrator and his staunch companion, Stacy from Admissions, at North Branch High School, home of the North Branch Vikings. We’re in front of Tom Moriarity’s first period art class, a mix of 10th and 11th graders, once again trolling for students. This is not a huge school; the art teacher and the weight training coach are the same guy. Now, a casual glance at a map of the Twin Cities area might cause one to wonder why those crazy Dunwoody people have wandered so far afield. North Branch is not exactly an inner ring suburb. Any further north and it might qualify as a bedroom community for Duluth. But Tom Moriarity invited us to come visit, and when you’re looking for emerging talent for an industry that has more jobs than qualified applicants, you don’t turn your nose up at anybody. This is my third high school visit of the year. Maybe my twentieth or twenty-first in the past three or four years. My normal experience is to be regarded as some sort of interloper, to be humored for ten or fifteen minutes by the students before they begin to write each other notes, chat amongst themselves or snore violently in mid nap. Other classes sit eerily unblinking and silent, like a congregation of the undead. At one school, after a colleague and I had finished a presentation, a young lady in the back raised her hand and said, “I have a question.” Great! Ask away. “When y’all leaving?” Oh, right about now seems like a good time. Have a nice life. At another, as I tried to go through a PDF presentation of our program, I was interrupted by a young couple not two feet away from me who were all over each other, groping and smooching and loudly exploring away, and who glared with savage annoyance when I suggested they should save some for later. The teacher, by the way, like some others in my experience, had taken advantage of our visit to slip away and take the afternoon off. So you can imagine my pleasure as I stood in front of Tom’s first period art class, and noted every student actually sitting up straight, or mostly so, with a piece of paper in front of them and a writing implement poised. And there’s Tom, ready as any of his charges, a model of respectful attention. “These are the guest speakers I’ve told you about all week,” said Tom to his class. “So please give them your undivided attention and hear what they have to say. I think you’ll be happy you did.” Whoa. A teacher who prepped his class on our visit. Pinch me. You don’t have to be artists in your spare time and grind coffee beans to pay the bills. Come work in an industry that combines your artistic aptitude with solid technical skills. Come to the intersection of art and science. Walk into the light. So, I launch into my stump speech. It has three points. Point One: the students may not know it, but they live in one of the most vibrant graphic communications areas in the country. The Twin Cities area is the western anchor of an arc of graphics, printing and related industries that run unbroken from Chicago to the east. Point Two: there are more jobs than there are qualified applicants, especially in the emerging digital and packaging segments of the industry, and they tend to pay well. Point Three: Dunwoody College of Technology is the place to earn your A.A.S. degree in Graphics and Printing Technologies and launch your career. Young folk, I tell them, you don’t have to be artists in your spare time and wait tables or grind coffee beans to pay the bills. Come work in an industry that needs your artistic sensibility and aptitude with visuals in combination with some solid technical skills. Come to the intersection of art and science. Walk into the light. Pens and pencils are scratching away furiously. These students are taking notes! They’re paying attention! Stacy is strolling around the room, passing out lead cards to interested students, filling in the class on touring scenarios and scholarship opportunities. Hands are going up in the air. “I have a question!” Please, not the one about when are you leaving. “How much do these types of jobs pay?” “What kinds of places do your graduates get work at?” “Are there many women in your program?” (Good question, son.) “Do any of your students go anywhere else in the country to work?” Stacy has five or six lead cards filled out, and we have four more classes to go. An average high school visit yields four or five cards, a real good visit eight or nine. We present to four more groups. The pottery class, the painting class, the graphic design class, the ninth grade class. Every class is the same experience. Students wide awake. Students paying attention. Students filling out their guest speaker sheets. Students asking questions, and applauding politely at the end of the hour. Students coming up to the front of the room to chat up Stacy and grab some promotional material. The final tally: twenty-five lead cards. Twenty-five! A new record! And my newest favorite high school, North Branch. My sincere admiration to all the parents, teachers and community members of North Branch, Minnesota who are raising them like they used to. Most impressive. Thank you, Tom Moriarity. And as for you art-minded students, we’d be honored to have a few of you choose Dunwoody’s Graphics and Printing Technologies program. Your careers are waiting.