In today’s knowledge based economy, education and competence management are key to the future success of any business, and the label industry is no exception. This applies to all levels and functions in the company, from management to operations. At the end of 2012, the FINAT (finat.com) Board endorsed a new initiative designed to align education and training programmes for operators in the label industry. Two years later, the Label Academy is ready for take-off.
Historically, the printing industry was regarded as having one of the best education and training schemes of any industry within the developed world, with a good apprenticeship system, excellent printing colleges, experienced trainers, and a wide range of printing textbooks on a whole variety of printing processes, typesetting, pre-press, bookbinding and finishing operations. Printing was regarded as a highly skilled industry with some of the highest industrial-skill wages.
Growing pressure on education
Themore printing has moved away from a craft-based to a technology, service and communications-based industry, the more high-end sectors such as self-adhesive have developed and grown and the higher the pressures on costs and margins, the less high quality and knowledge-based education and training we seem to do.
Dedicated printing colleges in many parts of the world have all but disappeared, or they are not seen to be relevant to training for the self-adhesive sector.
Knowledge challenges and opportunities
Indeed, the self-adhesive label sector seems to have suffered perhaps more than many other sectors of printing, and it is perhaps not too difficult to see why. It has some of the widest ranges of materials to print on, it has the widest range of printing processes being used (often in combination on one press line) and it has the widest range of in-line finishing operations. There has been an increasingly sophisticated origination and pre-press processes and significant more challenges in terms of sustainability (adhesives and silicones, matrix and liner waste, etc.). Not to forget about the greater diverse selection of bar code types, QR codes, augmented reality and other interactive labels.
Each week seems to bring new industry knowledge challenges, and opportunities. And the demands are increasing all the time, from new digital technologies, interactive labels, brand protection solutions, to new developments in intelligent and active labels.
Enhanced education and training: transferring knowledge to the new generation
This enhanced level of education and training needs to be done sooner rather than later, as many of the existing skilled and knowledgeable people that have grown with the industry over the past 20 or so years come towards retirement. We need to utilise their knowledge before it is too late. We need to bring in new skills and abilities to tell employees about the new demands on labels. We need to re-build a new and dedicated education and training base for the industry’s future.
The Label Academy
This is why the publishing, internet and marketing team at Tarsus, supported by a small group of knowledgeable and skilled industry specialists, are planning the launch of The Label Academy. Over the coming months the team will be working on finishing the first six or more (out of the first 20 proposed) education and training e-learning and support modules that aim to provide the basic knowledge requirements of the label industry employees of today and tomorrow.
Initial e-learning modules will cover topics as diverse as Label Substrates, Label Printing processes, Die-cutting and Tooling, Origination and Pre-press, Digital Label Printing, Environment and Sustainability, the History of the Label Industry. The first of these Modules are scheduled to be available later this year for purchase or downloading through a new Label Academy website that is currently being developed.
Over the coming months, a dedicated Advisory Panel will additionally be working on how best to establish an internet-based industry testing scheme and moving towards an industry-wide on-line certification process.
The Label Academy: a supporting resource for existing education schemes
It is also planned that existing industry suppliers, associations, colleges, training and employer schemes and programmes will be able to apply to become accredited training organisations using the new learning modules. The Label Academy is not looking to take over or interfere with existing label industry training, but rather to become a resource provider and support body for the global label industry – with global resource material written for training providers to use in any country or market.
FINAT Board endorsement
At the present time the proposed education and training resource being developed under the banner of The Label Academy has already been endorsed by the FINAT Board and is currently being studied by other label industry associations around the world.
Who are involved in The Label Academy?
In planning for a number of years, the new label industry education and training scheme has been developed and pioneered to-date by Mike Fairley, widely known as the label industry ‘Guru’. Perhaps not so widely known is that before founding Labels & Labelling he spent several years as a further education lecturer before joining PIRA, the Paper, Printing and Packaging Industry Research Association as Deputy Head of Training. In this capacity he acquired extensive experience in lecturing and writing training manuals and materials on many areas of printing, papermaking, labels and packaging. He further developed his educational credentials at the UK Government sponsored Paper and Paper Products Industry Training Board as Head of Information, and as a consultant to the International Labour Office, the Economist Intelligence Unit and to the EU.
Complementing Mike’s undoubted training and industry knowledge in writing the new e-learning Modules are a team from 4impression (author of the FINAT Educational Handbook) under Paul Jarvis and Netherlands-based Converting Technology InternationalofSietze de Kievit, who have been piloting training material and courses on label substrates and tooling. They are also members of the Academy’s Advisory Panel. Other global specialists are likely to be co-opted as required for specific subjects or markets.
Official Launch: Labelexpo Americas 2014
From now onwards the first results of the work that has been undertaken to-date and the first e-learning modules to be produced will start to be announced and initial training and testing materials become available. The aim is to then have the official launch of The Label Academy at Labelexpo Americas in September.
It is certainly hoped that the global label industry will support this exciting new initiative and strive to produce the better-educated and trained employees who will be needed for the successful and long-term future of the industry.
The past brings future perspective
Another way of learning is to have insight and an understanding of past accomplishments. A good way of gaining that knowledge is reading 'The Evolution of Labels and the Label Industry in Europe.' This book is the result of several years of research and writing by Michael Fairley and Tony White. Over 240 pages of text and historical illustrations they trace the history of labels and label production from early wooden presses printing on hand-made paper, through all the changes brought about by the Industrial Revolution during the 18th and 19th centuries – including continuous papermaking, cylinder presses, ink-making and inking rollers, early color printing, the first cutting punches and dies – right through to the 21st century innovations of self-adhesive label materials, printing and converting, computerized origination and digital printing. The prestige limited hard cover edition book should be a must-read title for all those who have an interest in how the world of labels and label production has grown from its early origins to the present time.