By Patrick Henry, Liberty or Death Communications
Solutions: Partnership Programs – Part 3 of the White Paper: Recruitment, Retention, and Pathways to Employment in the Printing Industry
Solutions: Partnership Programs
When business partners with philanthropy in the interest of both, much good can be done for people who need a head start and a helping hand. The printing industry is standing behind just such a venture in its quest to support workforce development.
Team Play for the Mariano Rivera Foundation
Sports fans need no introduction to Mariano Rivera, the record-setting New York Yankees relief pitcher who in 2019 became the first and still the only unanimous inductee into the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Today, the printing industry is getting to know the legendary game-saver as a nurturer of talent for its own lineup – a cause that his namesake foundation is pursuing in partnership with some of the industry’s best-known technology vendors.
Established in 1998 by Rivera and his wife, Clara, the Mariano Rivera Foundation provides educational resources and career opportunities to children and youth from impoverished families. Its mission includes preparing young learners for careers in high-demand fields through mentorships and hands-on vocational training.
The foundation made its connection with the printing industry through Atlantic Tomorrow’s Office, a provider of office printing systems, wide-format printers, and managed print services. According to Luis A. Villa, vice president of the company’s production print group, the relationship got started through a relative of an Atlantic employee who was a friend of Rivera’s. The Yankee great, says Villa, wanted to know if Atlantic could develop training in its specialties for the young people the foundation exists to help.
A presentation by Villa and Atlantic president Larry Weiss became the germ of a plan that was joined by EFI, Konica Minolta, Ricoh and other supporters and was formally announced at EFI’s Connect customer event in January. EFI had come into the effort through its relationship with Atlantic, a member of its national network of equipment dealers.
The plan presented by the sponsoring vendors “was really well received” by the Mariano Rivera Foundation, according to Frank Mallozzi, EFI’s chief revenue officer, who says EFI is fully committed to its success. “We need as many programs as we can to stimulate youths to participate in the industry.”
Offered: Competitive Credentials
From the start, the emphasis was on making sure that the program would impart highly competitive job skills – a key objective for the foundation. “We understood that there was an opportunity to provide a level of certification and training to our students that would be beneficial for them,” says Lisa Vega, executive director. “Because that would provide them with career paths that they probably would otherwise never consider.”
This was to be accomplished by setting a high bar for professional instruction. What training for digital print equipment technicians often doesn’t include, according to Villa, are “certifications that are recognized in the printing industry”: for instance, the widely respected front-end and color management credentials that Atlantic’s field technicians hold.
Without these top-level abilities, he says, an equipment tech can be no more than a “nuts and bolts” repairman who doesn’t have the skills it takes to help users leverage the more sophisticated functions of their devices. Those who possess them are more employable and better positioned to command premium salaries.
Thus, the core idea was to build these career-enhancing certifications into the training being developed for the Mariano Rivera Foundation. Villa says that the curriculum, dubbed the Print – Design – Packaging Development Program, will let learners choose from among EFI’s Fiery Professional and Expert Certifications; Color Management Professional certification from IDEAlliance; product-related and other certified training from Konica Minolta; Ricoh’s Digital Literacy curriculum, designed by CalPoly; certification in the industry’s most widely used Adobe applications; and training in Lean Six Sigma Project Management, led by Six Sigma Black Belt instructors.
The program is under way with classes in session at the foundation’s headquarters in Gainesville, FL, where participating manufacturers have supplied equipment for training purposes. Premium Color Group, an Atlantic customer in Carlstadt, NJ, is hosting a satellite training center for the program in classrooms within its commercial printing plant.
New Start in New Rochelle
The program will be the main attraction at a 40,000-sq. ft. learning center in New Rochelle, NY that the foundation hopes to break ground for this summer and open by the end of next year. Villa says the plan also calls for offering classes at a college in or near New Rochelle while the learning center is being built.
EFI’s main contribution is access to its Fiery Professional Certification courses, which cover all aspects of operating one of the industry’s most widely used families of front-end controllers for digital printing systems. EFI showcased the program and the foundation at Connect, where Rivera’s keynote address was the high point of the event.
Promotion and media exposure, notes Mallozzi, are among the most meaningful forms of support that EFI can provide. He says that through its connections to the commercial print industry, the company can act as an “on ramp” to the program for others who want to help – including those with jobs to offer to its graduates.
According to Vega, all of this is consistent with what the foundation hopes to accomplish on behalf of its students, who will receive the training free of charge. “By partnering with amazing industry professionals and corporations, we are giving them access to curriculums and opportunities that they would never be able to afford,” she says. This includes connecting students to local print companies who can potentially can hire them when they complete their certifications.
The Virtue of ‘Longevity’
Vega acknowledges that neither she nor the foundation had much acquaintance with printing before joining forces with Atlantic and EFI. But, she says that there now are strong personal reasons to be impressed by what it has to offer the young people whose futures Rivera and his current teammates are playing extra innings to assure.
“It’s obvious that there has been longevity in the industry,” says Vega, referring to the multi-generational ties that so many of its members have to the craft of printing. “What that signifies to me is a community that I think is excellent for our boys. Because we are exposing them to an industry that is providing them opportunities that they never even thought of. Or maybe, as myself, they had very limited knowledge of the print industry and all that it encompasses.”
“And we’re grateful to have the opportunity to expose them to it, to get them started in the industry, with the hope of them wanting to continue and expand their horizons in it,” Vega declares.
To keep reading, download the Recruitment, Retention and Pathways to Employment in the Printing Industry White Paper.
Contact me at tfreeman@PIAlliance.org or (716) 691-3211 with any questions.
Tim Freeman, President
Printing Industries Alliance