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Firsthand Experience — Made in China

May 2007 By Regis Delmontagne
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THERE SURELY is agreement in the United States, as well as in Western Europe and elsewhere, that China is quickly building up its technology and equipment levels to become the dominant supplier of printed products for the Chinese market and a major supplier for the world market.

I just returned from spending several months teaching Business English at the University of Wuhan’s Printing and Packaging School. I taught future leaders of the Chinese printing and packaging industry a course in Business English, which included business terminology, Website development, how to handle inquiries from prospective foreign customers and how to furnish quotes to foreign clients.

I experienced firsthand the dramatic effort under way at the university level to increase the knowledge of students about the various printing processes and how to conduct business over the Internet with Fortune 500 companies, as well as many other mid-sized companies around the world. Total enrollment at the university’s printing school is more than 350 undergraduate students, plus another 100 at the graduate level. (Enrollment at China’s other major universities: Beijing Institute of Graphic Communications has 6,986 students; Shanghai Publishing and Printing College has 4,900 students; and Xian University School of Printing and Packaging Engineering has 1,500 students.)

If determination and stamina can transform these students—many from the rural and farming sections of China—into first-class practitioners, then the world should stand up and take notice. First of all, they are in school for two 20-week semesters; classes are held seven days a week. They live in unheated and uncooled dormitories with no hot water. During the winter months, they attend classes in unheated buildings. During the summer, when temperatures hit 105°, their dorms and classrooms have no A/C.

They are more intense than anyone could imagine. Classroom attendance and homework would be considered “cruel and unreasonable punishment” in the West. As a result, they are completely focused on improving their knowledge of the printing and packaging world. And, the government notices them because many of them will find a career in one of the thousands of state-run and/or privately owned printing factories.

Why is this important to the United States and Western world, and what does it have to do with the educational systems at RIT and Cal Poly, for example?

First, the Chinese government identifies industries that it wants to grow and employ a large number of Chinese—and one of those industries is printing/packaging. Secondly, once the industry is selected, financial assistance is provided in various forms, one of which is scholarships to deserving students. Finally, while RIT and Cal Poly are years ahead as far as teaching, and are more than adequately equipped with state-of-the-art equipment, both schools are not exactly overflowing with students. The opposite is true in China today. (When I was president of NPES, we spent hundreds of thousands of dollars via the GAERF to entice and encourage high school students to consider a career in printing…without much success.)
 

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