A High School Career Center Reinvents Education in the Graphic Arts
For many years I’ve heard from printing and related graphic communication companies about the need for skilled entry-level employees. The concern is that while college and university programs focus on educating students to become managers, high school graphic arts programs have nearly disappeared in educating students with operational skills for immediate employment.
This situation has become exacerbated with the national decline of available skilled employees in nearly all fields, with the printing industry being no exception. We are at a crossroads when it comes to trained, engaged personnel. Experienced journeymen are approaching retirement, and even the most modern presses and bindery equipment require expert operators.
Fortunately, I may have found a “dream come true!” A vocational training center, the Cuyahoga Valley Career Center (CVCC), offers a great model for addressing the problem.
Located in Ohio between Cleveland and Akron, CVCC offers a variety of career-technical high school programs, adult education, K-12 career education, and community services. One of the premier training programs offered at CVCC is Graphic Imaging Technology run by Patrick Ruebensaal, an industry professional who found satisfaction in guiding young people to successful career opportunities in graphic communication.
Ruebensaal became a high school teacher after a 25-year career with Xpedx and Xitron. He is a specialist in Postscript, workflows, computer-to-plate systems, and flexography and holds certifications in print production workflow from AGFA, Esko, Kodak, RYOBI, Xitron, and on MacDermid Flexographic Printing Plates.
Reinventing Graphic Arts Education
Once joining CVCC, Ruebensaal realized that a reinvention of the school’s graphic arts program was needed and became the architect of the Graphic Imaging Technology curriculum. He wasted no time in upgrading equipment, incorporating the latest technologies, and creating a curriculum that enabled students to maximize their learning potential.
With rapidly changing technology and the growing demand for personnel in nearly all segments of the graphic communication industry, Ruebensaal understood the benefits of students developing industry credentials and the impact of solid and varied work experiences. He engages students with learning opportunities that mirror industry standards. His program not only enables students to be gainfully employed upon graduation. For those wanting to move on to higher education, it also serves as a seamless transition to the Visual Communication Technology Department at Bowling Green State University.
In redesigning the curriculum, Ruebensaal insisted that his classroom have equipment reflecting current technologies used in the industry. With the help of an industry advisory board and his professional contacts, Graphic Imaging Technology at CVCC has obtained and uses an extensive array of modern industry tools — quite unique for a high school program. Ruebensaal said,
Graphic communication is a cornerstone industry in our nation. Commerce stops without print. The need for quality, trained employees are outpacing the amount of available candidates. My primary motivation in training students for careers in the graphic communication industry is providing those who go through my program a lifetime of employment. ‘Learning by doing’ is my motto.
The Impact of COVID-19
The widespread COVID-19 virus has impacted and disrupted industry and education alike. Because of COVID-19, nearly all schools had to quickly adapt to 100% online teaching and learning. This required an immediate shift in teaching methods.
To ensure students were still learning and remained engaged, Ruebensaal adopted the interactive textbook, Introduction to Graphic Communication, the first ever to use Ricoh’s Clickable Paper app. The book was instrumental in bridging the online learning gap for his “hands-on” learners. It uses a variety of online and video platforms to observe technology at work and to learn from prominent industry leaders. To Ruebensaal, the book was instrumental in meeting state standards. He said,
Online learning is likely here to stay. Introduction to Graphic Communication, and its Clickable Paper app, is an excellent method for fostering student engagement online or in the classroom. It is the MUST HAVE resource and exactly what was needed for the Graphic Imaging Technology students at CVCC during this transitional time. I will continue using it once we return to face-to-face learning.
The CVCC program is a model for other schools to follow in revamping their graphic arts curriculum. It shows us that the future of print looks bright as long as young people acquire the passion for print that many of our industry leaders have had for decades. How we teach is crucial in developing that passion.
ABOUT THE BOOK
Introduction to Graphic Communication is a PRINTED book that provides access to videos, websites, chat groups, social media, and industry experts with a simple “click” using a mobile device such as a smartphone or tablet. Each chapter is interactive, with videos of the technology described, and includes video lectures by some of the industry’s top authorities.
ABOUT CUYAHOGA VALLEY CAREER CENTER
CVCC offers 30 career-technical training programs for high school students and adults. It serves more than 25,000 students (K-12 through its Career Development Department), 1,000 high school students, and nearly 3,000 adults from 25 different communities. The school provides training for area employers and year-round options for daytime, evening, and weekend classes.
ABOUT GRAPHIC IMAGING TECHNOLOGY AT CVCC
The Graphic Imaging Technology curriculum at CVCC includes five major printing processes including digital, flexography, offset, screen, and wide-format. The program also teaches Adobe Creative Suite, Xitron Navigator RIP, EFI XF, Kodak Preps, and platemaking using Fujifilm’s Luxel T-6000 as part of the prepress curriculum. Variable data is taught using Adobe InDesign and XMPie. Presswork is taught on RYOBI one- and two-color offset presses, a Comco Cadet 800 flexographic press, and on a Xerox Versant 80 digital press. The Cuyahoga Valley Graphic Imaging program also teaches bindery/finishing using Challenge and Graphic Whizard equipment. Screen printing is taught using four-color presses from M&R. Wide-format printing is taught using a ROLAND TRU-VIS640 eco solvent printer, HP Designjet and EPSON printers. “Soft skills” are also taught such as customer/workplace relations, customer-service, time management, leadership, resume writing, and interviewing. Active membership in industry organizations is all part of the curriculum.
Dr. Harvey R. Levenson is Professor Emeritus and former Department Head of Graphic Communication at Cal Poly State University in San Luis Obispo, Calif.
Dr. Harvey R. Levenson is Professor Emeritus and former Department Head of Graphic Communication at Cal Poly State University in San Luis Obispo, Calif. His research and teaching specialties are communication, intellectual property, media, printing, and technology. He is often called upon as an Expert Witness in these areas. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org