Slightly Different Angle, But Mostly the Same Challenges…

This last week I had the opportunity to attend a conference of Graphic Arts educators out in Reno, NV. Actually it was my wife Julie’s conference, and I was just along in a support role. Julie was elected as a 2nd Vice-President of IGAEA (International Graphics Arts Education Association) and is looking forward to an opportunity to increase membership in this worthwhile organization.

It is no secret that both of us are pretty well tied to the world of print – myself in the business end, and Julie as a department chairperson at Rock Valley College. Our conversations at dinner tend to center on this industry, and especially about the challenges and transformations that we are seeing. And that was really what I found to be interesting at this conference.

Just as I find myself keyed in on the challenges of how the printing industry is changing – and how to find the opportunities therein, so do the educators. We may be working from different angles, but the challenge is still the same – how do we reinvent ourselves and prepare for the future. Interestingly though, the educators need to be planning on what to teach over the next several years even before we as an industry figure out exactly what we might need! The key is flexibility and in preparing students with a focus on digital technologies that will fuel our growth long-term. And, perhaps the most important thing they can teach, is that the students will need to continue to learn over and over again throughout their careers.

Perhaps the biggest challenge that the printing industry faces (and many others as well), is that all of us need to first learn, then unlearn and re-learn again. This makes no difference if we are in our 50’s, 30’s, or just graduating from college. In fact, what is really scary for those just entering the workforce, is that the rate of this transition will be so much faster than what we are all experiencing now!

Which brings me back to what I really found inspiring at this conference. The group of teachers that attended were from all across the country, some from high schools, technical programs, and college level schools. There were a few younger aged instructors – in their 20’s, as well as a large group of middle age educators – some who very much were the mentors of those younger instructors. There were also several retired teachers, including one – Zeke Prust from Arizona State University, that is in his mid-80’s! Not only was Zeke a valued resource for the organization, but also his understanding of the change within this industry was enlightening even to myself!

So maybe what this group of teachers really need to be teaching, is a class just on how to deal with change?

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