By Bob Hivish Manager, Managed Print Services Offerings & Public Sector Programs, U.S. Large Enterprise Operations, Xerox
Imagine that someone created a live version of the Food Network’s cooking competition television show, Chopped, and simultaneously staged similar competitions for 100 other trades, crafts and professions—in the same space.
That’s approximately what took place in Louisville’s Kentucky Exposition Center this summer, when more than 6,000 of the nation’s best career and technical education students competed in the SkillsUSA Championships. The Xerox Large Enterprise Operations (LEO) helped to stage it by providing six digital presses for the graphic communications competition and additional equipment for advertising and administrative use. I was one of three Xerox staffers onsite to support our presence, and I also served as the judge of the digital printing component of the graphic communications competition.
SkillsUSA is a national partnership of students, teachers and industry representatives who work together with a goal of preparing today’s students to be tomorrow’s workers and leaders, ensuring the United States has a skilled workforce. The championships are a highlight of the organization’s annual, week-long SkillsUSA National Leadership and Skills Conference.
By supporting the championships, Xerox is helping train the next generation of graphic communications workers—providing opportunities for students and a trained work force for employers. This is especially important today, as production printing operations are adopting efficient new digital systems, but are often challenged to find people who know how to run them.
An Impressive Spectacle
The SkillsUSA Championships are quite a spectacle, requiring a space as large as six football fields and supported by more than 1,500 contest organizers and judges. Experiencing it is mind boggling and a little hard to describe, like the difference between someone showing you a picture of the mountains of Maui and seeing them yourself. Being there is so much more impressive.
And it’s not just the remarkable size of the competition, it’s the wide range of activities. Competitors qualify through a series of local and state-level competitions in about 100 fields as diverse as culinary arts, crime scene investigation, carpentry and computer programming. My colleague Danny McCray is a learning development instructor in the U.S. Learning and Development of Xerox Human Resources, and he specified the competition’s digital workflow tasks and was onsite to help orient competitors to the digital equipment. He noted that everything you can imagine is there. People are building robots, repairing motorcycles, building houses, you name it. He says it looks like controlled chaos, because there’s so much going on.
The digital press operations portion of the graphic communications competition required students to use the Xerox presses to print three jobs that are common to the industry: a multi-page booklet, personalized business cards and personalized postcard mailers. Each job required set-up steps, such as programming the personalization for the postcards, and finishing steps, such as cutting the business cards to size. Competitors also took a written test that included estimating the cost of printing, finishing and mailing a specified job.
The Xerox team instructs student participants at the SkillsUSA competition in Louisville, Ky.
The competitors had 50 minutes to complete these tasks, which comprised one of seven components in the SkillsUSA graphic communications contest. The others were a technical knowledge test, an oral professional assessment, and tasks in production planning, digital workflow, offset press operations and finishing.
The top three performers from among the dozens of competitors won gold, silver and bronze medals in each of two divisions: college and high school. Danny noted that everyone did well, and that many student competitors were enamored of the image quality and the technology, because most work with less sophisticated equipment at their schools. The gold medalists were Kristina LoVerso from Riverside Community College, Riverside, Calif. in the college division and Brittney Whitestone from the Carroll County Career & Tech Center, Westminster, Md. among high schoolers.
Xerox LEO has supported the SkillsUSA graphic communications contest for three years. This year we provided a Xerox® Versant® 80 Digital Press and five Xerox® Color 570 Presses. The three Xerox executives on site—Danny McCray, Jackie Stewart Dillon, who is technical marketing manager, Production, and me—were joined by two from EFI, which provided the digital front ends and Macs for the students. More than two-dozen Xerox people contributed to the overall effort—and all are to be lauded for their efforts.
SkillsUSA support is one of several ways Xerox LEO helps train the next generation of workers. Another is a robust learning and mentoring platform—the Xerox Digital Career Pathway Program (XDCPP)—which provides digital production printing curriculum and hands-on training, and teaches skills that align to competencies defined in the National PrintED Accreditation process. Currently in use in about 20 states, the Xerox program supports building the future print industry workforce through education (K-12, community and technical colleges), state and government agencies, and corrections and juvenile facilities.
Several teachers who accompanied their student to the championships expressed interest in the XDCPP program.
A four-year college degree may not be right for everyone, but opportunity is. And that’s what SkillsUSA and our Digital Career Pathway Program provide.