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Printing Programs at FVTC

Printing Programs at FVTC

Fall 2011

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FVTC is a premier national trainer for many areas of printing, publishing and packaging.

Predictions of a paperless and printer-less world make Ron Jape, Printing and Publishing program department chair at Fox Valley Technical College, simply chuckle. “Look around and you’ll see that printing is still a growing industry,” Jape states. “The next time you’re in a grocery store, take a moment and look at how much printing there is on all the products. While book publishing may be on a decline, packaging is thriving and providing more job opportunities than ever before.”

Even in a down economy, there are more job openings in the upper Midwest for experienced printers than professionals to fill the positions. Working with industry leaders, FVTC has responded with three programs that feature technology and instructors who are experts in all aspects of their craft. The result is that virtually all graduates from FVTC’s printing-related programs find career positions. The online job board currently has 30 more openings than there are FVTC graduates to fill them.


The associate degree program in Printing and Publishing provides a hands-on overview of all aspects of printing preparation, equipment, and software. Recent graduate and advisory committee member Larissa Salmon is currently a graphic technician at Bemis Graphics in nearby New London, where two of her classmates were also recently hired. “I know that without Fox Valley Tech, I would not have this great job. I enjoyed my classes and finished school with very little debt,” she says. “For me, this program was very valuable, and I joined the advisory committee to help them continue providing the same value to future students.”

Packaging and Label Printing programs focus more on flexographic technology. Department chair Mark Keller believes that flexography is the key to future growth in the printing industry. “Flexo allows printing on almost any surface from cartons and soda packs to foils, plastics, labels, and corrugated boxes,” he states. “This opens the door to many industry employment opportunities.”

Scott Gehrt, instructor in the Package and Label Printing diploma program, agrees. “No matter how bad the economy gets, people are always going to need packaged goods,” he says. “Right now we are working with two local companies that want to hire some of our students as interns and possibly pay for their education.”

Trevor Jacoby, a recent Package and Label Printing graduate, is currently a press operator at Belmark Inc., a De Pere-based company that specializes in label printing solutions. “I actually started at Fox Valley Tech a week before I graduated high school,” he says. “Managers here at Belmark offered me an internship half way through the program and then hired me full-time after graduation. I’m now putting in overtime because we’re so busy.”

All FVTC students benefit from a well-coordinated internship program. “We get our students out in the workforce so they can see what is expected of them,” says Gehrt. “We teach the latest technology to meet the demands of employers.”

To keep up with current trends, the printing instructors at FVTC maintain constant contact with equipment manufacturers. They work with MacDermid Printing Solutions, for example, a global developer of flexographic technology headquartered in Atlanta. Dr. Kyle Baldwin, a research chemist at MacDermid, relies on FVTC’s high-tech equipment to test new plates and inks. “It’s about efficiency and timeliness,” Baldwin explains. “By going to Fox Valley Technical College, we have the ability to bring a new product to market faster and with a high level of confidence that the product will perform as it was designed.”

Baldwin also appreciates FVTC’s experienced staff. “The largest benefit of working with the college is Mark Keller’s experience,” he states. “When things go wrong, it is nice to have Mark there to help us troubleshoot.”

As technology advances, some may question whether printing will remain a high-growth career field. Shana Farrell, FVTC’s Printing Services and Distance Learning manager, predicts the future will hold even more opportunities because of advanced technology. “I expect we’ll continue to see print being reinvented through the online environment,” she states.

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