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Training in the Screenprinting Industry

Posted on Wed, 8 Jul 2009 at 22:23

Because I operate the School of Screenprinting, I get a great number of calls from screenprint shop owners looking for trained employees. Most shop owners wait until someone quits or gets fired before they start worrying about replacement. Why is this?

They also believe that there are a great number of out of work people attending the School of Screenprinting and that I probably have a list of those trained individuals looking for work. They aren't and I don't! You would think that people would research the industry and find that it is almost recession proof and thus it would be a good place to look for a job.

And, why not? Most screenprinters that I know could work until retirement at one shop, if they just showed up on time, sober and ready to work. The work is there but where are the quality employees? Why are so many employees in the screenprinting industry so mobile? I believe it is the employers with the problem - not the employees. I know - let me explain!

As I stated up front, most employers wait until they "really" need someone before hiring. At this point they would hire pretty much the first person that walked in the door that had as least 10/10 vision, two arms and bus money for the first week. My question is, "How long is that person going to work for you before moving up the ladder?" The answer is usually until payday or maybe until the worker gets his nest egg set for the next job search.

It doesn't have to be this way, folks. Most new employees will stay where they are if the wages are not slave wages. And, if they see promise of a better future, they probably won't move on. Of course, I am not talking about bottom of the barrel employees, but decent people who need a job. And, right now, there are vast numbers of people looking for work. Right now, you have your pick of them. If you start looking today, you can find replacement employees that are willing to work twice as hard as the ones that will be walking away from your shop when that nest egg gets fat. Today, you can find the right employee that can be trained and become your next shop manager.

But, let's talk about training. Why is it that so few shop owners don't train their employees? Is it because they are know that they will be walking away in a few weeks and they don't want to spend the money on a lost cause? Maybe so, but if you don't train them, they certainly have no reason to stick around, do they?

It is because you believe that all that training will be going to the competitor's shop when he offers them more money? Maybe so, because I get this as a response all the time when I ask the question of shop owners. But, at the same time, isn't a well-trained employee worth more money to you than one that has not been trained? If so, why not train them and pay them more.

You surely have heard the story of the employee who goes in to ask for a raise. The boss asks them, "What have you done in the last 90 days to increase your value to the business?" No answer - no raise! But, the story is backwards, folks. Employers should be asking themselves, "What have I done in the last 90 days to increase my employee value to the business?" The answer should be, "All that I can!"

I’m not talking about on-the-job training, where someone in the company teaches the new guy to “do as I do.” This only produces stagnation. How are things going to improve if the training doesn’t improve the status quo? I am of course talking about sending an employee to an off-site training facility where they learn from instructors that have kept up their training and learned from thousands of other shops what works and doesn’t work – then chose from the very best techniques to pass along.

Let me ask the shop owners a few questions:

1. Have you tried training employees on-the-job? How did that work out? How many hours did you (or a manager) spend away from the running of your business to accomplish the training?

2. Did the trainee actually learn more than the person presenting the training or were they simply job ready?

3. Would a fully trained print technician that knew techniques that would double your production, improve your quality, and increase your bottom line have a job at your company? Isn’t that the job of all employees?

4. Do you run a systematic training program in place at your shop for all new hires? Do you have a training manual to get them started?

5. Will you be hiring at least one employee in the next year? Shouldn’t that employee be trained to surpass the current level of technical skills in your shop?

6. If there were an effort in place to offer accreditation so that employers would know what skills an individual possessed before hiring, would you be interested? Would it interest you, if screenprinters could receive Continuing Education Units (CEUs) that would coincide with the move up in the company and pay level?

Now a few for employees:

1. Have you received any formal education either out of pocket or paid for by an employer?

2. If you received on-the-job training, was it helpful in assisting you with job security and pay level increases?

3. What do you think your chances would be of getting a higher-level job at more pay, if you attended a training program? Would you be willing to fund this on your own?

4. If you received formal training by your employer and your salary was increased as your knowledge and ability increased, would you be less likely to leave his employment?

5. What training resources from your employer are most important to you?

6. And the same question asked of employers: If there were an effort in place to offer accreditation so that employers would know what skills an individual possessed before hiring, would you be interested? Would it interest you, if screenprinters could receive Continuing Education Units (CEUs) that would coincide with the move up into the company and pay level?

I would really like to hear from both shop owners and employees on this. I think we have a real problem in the screenprinting industry today with far too many unskilled workers performing jobs that could be done quicker, be of a much higher quality, and together these mean that most employers are making too little money and unable to pay better wages. I see offset presspersons making $20 and hour and up and wonder why this is. I see construction equipment operators making $37.50 an hour and wonder likewise. I dare say that if, as screenprint shop owners, we could afford to pay $37.50 an hour to our employees, we’d surely be in high-cotton!

Let’s hear your comments.

Bill Hood
School of Screenprinting -

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