SkillsUSA and Sustaining Print's Future Workforce

Skills Winners June 24 - 28 marked the 55th annual SkillsUSA National Leadership and Skills Conference (NLSC) — a national championship for career and technical trade students — in Louisville, Ky. The event holds over 100 skills competitions, including Screen Printing Technology and Graphics Imaging–Sublimation, which SGIA and industry leaders have managed for eight years.

A True Test of Skill

The Screen Printing Technology competition evaluated 30 students in tensioning mesh, using an automatic coating machine, exposing a screen, registering the final screen on a three-color print, and printing as many six-color T-shirts as possible in a given time.

The 20 Graphics Imaging-Sublimation competitors transferred images to hardboard and license plate blanks, and executed a full sublimation workflow, including:

  • Designing the front and back of an all-over-print for a polyester T-shirt using Adobe® Illustrator®
  • Printing the front and back transfers to a wide-format sublimation inkjet printer using an RIP
  • Transferring the images correctly to the front and back of the T-shirt using an oversized heat press.

Additionally, both competitions assessed how students rated several finished products with varying quality defects (none, minor, major) in their distinct fields, and included an oral assessment similar to a job interview. Along with providing a resume, students were asked questions gauging their abilities in handling work assignments, answering questions using technical terms, handling situations in a professional manner, and demonstrating critical thinking and a realistic self-concept. Lastly, each competitor received a 50-question assessment testing their knowledge.

All participants should be proud of themselves for what they accomplished, and I’d like to congratulate our 2019 winners.

A Note of Thanks

Skills ContestantSkillsUSA — a partnership of students, teachers and industry ensuring America has a skilled workforce — is a national membership association for middle school, high school and college students preparing for careers in trade, technical and skilled service occupations. To improve the quality of printing’s future skilled workforce, SGIA develops these particular national competitions and the testing plans used.

But that’s a small effort in comparison to the industry leaders who provide the required equipment, materials, inks and blanks. Though they recognize the importance of this effort, it’s a huge contribution on their part. SGIA greatly thanks:

  • The M&R Companies (two Sidewinder manual presses, an Economax D conveyor dryer, a Starlight exposure system, and four Genesis presses as prizes)
  • SAATI Americas Corp. (a Saati Top 12 Plus pneumatic stretching system and Pro-Coat automatic coating machine)
  • Vastex International Inc. (two Dri-Vault 24-screen drying cabinets and two V-100-11 presses as prizes)
  • PolyOne Corp. (screen printing inks and prizes)
  • EPSON, (F2100 direct-to-garment inkjet printer and an F6200 dye sublimation printer)
  • Great Dane Graphics (artwork and prizes)
  • Stretch Devices Inc. (prizes)
  • Easiway Systems (prizes)
  • Fruit of the Loom (blank cotton and polyester T-shirts)
  • HIX Corporation (LF4464 all-over heat press and the Swingman 20 and HT400 tabletop heat presses)
  • Beaver Paper (tissue paper)
  • Condé (sublimation blanks and prizes)
  • Adobe (prizes)

Because of this support, judges can assess students with state-of-the-art equipment, materials and consumables, while the prizes provided help further students’ and schools’ commitment to attracting skilled workers to our industry.

Skills Winners Cheering

And of course, none of this is possible without the judges who volunteer their time and bear travel expenses. Their two-plus days at the NLSC are long and tiring as each is assigned to a specific testing station, but every one of them knows what this means to the competitors, and for the industry. Thank you again:

  • Lon Winters (
  • James Ortolani (PolyOne Corp.)
  • Betty Cannon Bassett (retired; formerly Classic Designs Screen Printing)
  • Matt Marcotte (T&J Printing Supplies)
  • Tiffany Rader Spitzer (Roeder Industries)
  • John Kupka (Saati Americas)
  • Dennis Slutzky (The M&R Companies)
  • David Gross (Condé)
  • Henri Coeme and Michael Wickham (HIX Corporation)
  • Aaron Montgomery (Pic the Gift consultant, owner and “2 Regular Guys” co-host)

Engaging Print's Next Generation

When asked why he’s been involved for so many years, Winters said, “I wouldn’t miss it. You know how involved I have been with our community over the last 20 years, and SkillsUSA is far and away the most important activity I support! Our industry must act to support, cultivate and develop its future workforce.”

Truer words could not be said. Our industry needs everyone to engage and educate their local schools on printing and its importance in our society.

The No. 1 issue we hear is, “I can’t find skilled workers.” Cultivating the future workforce requires commitment to get involved, but it doesn’t require much else. Offer a tour of your facility, or see if you can present to a class. If you sit and wait for young adults to find you, they may just find another industry trade to pursue. Contact me today to sustain print’s tomorrow!

Also Tagged: Production,Students