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Fresh Start: Package & Label Printing

Fresh Start: Package & Label Printing

Fall 2008

Wendy Eick found a promising new career path and a powerful sense of self-confidence in FVTC’s Package and Label Printing program. 

Some FVTC students soon discover that when it comes to learning an exciting new trade, age is nothing but a number. Wendy Eick of Seymour recently graduated from the one-year Package and Label Printing program at FVTC’s Appleton campus, and the rewards have gone beyond job opportunities.

“I’m a braver person from going through this program,” she says. “I’ve been on the Dean’s List every term since I returned to college, and my parents tease me and say, ‘They must have you mistaken for someone else.’”

Ready for the Challenge

Package and label printing—known in the industry as flexography—is a method of printing most commonly used for packaging on such surfaces as labels, tape, bags, boxes, and banners.

It’s a complex series of processes to learn, but if anyone was ready for the challenge, it was Eick. By her own admission, the 47-year-old mother of four was not a stellar student in high school. She devoted much of her adulthood to raising her kids and eventually getting out of a bad marriage. “I was working in a grocery store and I didn’t really care for it,” she says. “I was at a dead end, and not getting ahead at all. So I figured, OK, all my kids are going to be grown soon, what am I going to do? My youngest child was a senior in high school. I knew I had to do something--and I had to do it now.”

On a whim, Eick visited FVTC counselor Sandi Moore and took a career choice evaluation test. Not surprisingly, given her background, Eick’s results pointed toward food service and child care. After attending an open house at FVTC’s Graphic Arts Center, however, Eick thought some more. She remembered that earlier in her life she enjoyed working at B&J Supply, a now-defunct Fox Valley-area paper converting mill. The sight and sounds of paper production again resonated with her, and further conversations with FVTC counselors led her to the college’s Package and Label Printing Technician program. “I loved my job at the converting place,” she recalls. “I’m more comfortable in a hands-on work setting than I am at a desk, anyway. I read about the flexography program and thought I could do it.”

Facing the Fear

Once the decision was made, Eick still faced a significant obstacle: a lack of confidence. “I hadn’t been to school in a while,” she says. “It’s scary going back to school at that age, and not really knowing which way to go. But the more students and counselors I talked to, the more relaxed and confident I felt.”

Eick’s strong work ethic and her growing confidence helped her ease into the program, which contains about 25 students at any one time. While attending classes, she worked odd shifts in the folding packaging division at Green Bay Packaging in DePere to help make ends meet and bolster her printing and packaging knowledge. “They worked around my schedule,” she says of her supervisors at Green Bay Packaging. “They’ve been great.”

Any fears she had about returning to school as a “nontraditional”—that is, older—student, quickly evaporated. “At FVTC there is no age factor,” she says. “The young kids will talk to you like they’re your peers, because everyone is there for the same reason: to learn. The instructors welcome any question, no matter what it is.”

“Wendy’s enthusiasm was at the top of the charts,” says Scott Gehrt, an instructor in the Package and Label Printing Technician program. “Many of the students we get in the program are 25, 35, and older, so this was just right for her.”

Right Place, Right Time

According to the Flexographic Technical Association, the North Central region of the United States accounts for more than one-third of all flexographic printing plants and presses in the country. One of the largest concentrations of printers using flexography in the country is located in the Fox Valley area of Wisconsin.

Eick realizes that after years of struggling, she’s chosen the right career in the right place at the right time. She loves her current job, but also realizes that with degree in hand, her options have expanded immensely. “With this degree, there are a lot of different directions I can go,” she says. “There are a lot of printing places I can look at. There are actually a couple of places in my hometown of Seymour that do the kind of work I’m learning. So I’ll just keep my eyes and ears open.”

More importantly, she’s developed a reservoir of self-confidence, and given her children a tremendous example of resiliency and perseverance. Even old acquaintances at her high school are amazed by what she’s accomplished with a second try. “The counselor at Seymour High School tells me, ‘You’re my hero,’” Eick says proudly. “He uses me as an example of what kids can do if they keep bouncing back.”

Just the Ticket for Success

FVTC’s Package and Label Printing Technician program can position you for a career in one of the area’s hottest industries.

Careers in flexography are growing at an 8% rate every year, making it the printing industry’s fastest-growing job sector. Between that and the Fox Valley area’s position as the printing capital of the upper Midwest, FVTC’s Package and Label Printing Technician program is also a great choice.

Training for the two-year associate degree program is provided in FVTC’s state-of-the-art, nationally recognized Flexographic Training and Research Center. In the program, certified technical instructors train students in all areas of the flexographic process, from electronic prepress, platemaking, and plate mounting to ink management, printing press operation, and more. Students are also trained in team building, quality, process control, and technical reporting. The program also instills valuable “soft skills” like leadership, teamwork, time management, and continuous process improvement.

FVTC flexographic instructor Scott Gehrt says press operator and press helper are the two positions most in need with this certification. “Each student typically has up to four career paths to choose from once he or she completes the program,” he says. “Companies are competing for students with these skills. There is great job potential in the printing and converting industries.”

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