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Making the Workforce Transition from Analog to Digital Prepress

(January 2008) posted on Mon Jan 07, 2008

As prepress technology evolves, so must the capabilities of a screen shop's workforce. Find out how to ease your employees through the changes that come with a digital prepress workflow.


By Mark A. Coudray

This leads us to some very interesting information recently released by SGIA in its Wage and Salary Survey Report. It’s a compilation of dozens of positions within the industry as supplied by volunteer companies. The wages and salaries for each position are presented in a number of different formats. These include company size (by sales and employee), geographic location, and production specialty (graphic, industrial, or textile). Wages and salaries are only part of the equation. They must be paired with the appropriate position descriptions. If you’re an SGIA member (and I highly recommend you become one if you’re not), you have access to all of the position descriptions that go along with the report. If you participate in the survey, you get a complimentary copy of the compilation; otherwise, there is a small fee to get it.

As I was reviewing the wage data and the position descriptions, I was struck by the very obvious and stark reality of the analog vs. digital worlds. All of the positions for screenmaker, photostencil maker, screen reclaimer, and so on, required only a high-school diploma or GED and minimal writing skills. These positions are clearly seen as a vocational, hands on, work requirement. More importantly, the wage range was roughly $9.00-$13.75 per hour, depending on the position. With that level of education and experience, there is little in the way of possibility for advancement. The traditional requirements are seen as entry-level skill sets.

On the digital side, the positions associated with CTS were RIP operator, digital production artist, and electronic prepress operator. The salary range for these positions was $12.50-$20.67 per hour, depending on the specialty, region, and size of company. Most importantly, the recommended education level was a minimum of an Associated Arts degree from a two-year community college or technical school and a thorough knowledge of PC and Mac operating systems. These positions are seen as technical, requiring a higher educational level, and consequently a higher reasoning level. The wage range starts at the upper end of what the traditional screenmaker might earn. There is a clear, upward path for growth, extending beyond the imaging position to management in those areas.


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