Building bridges to the future: wide-format and sign-making educational resources
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By Nick Smith
10 November 2011
Training and education establishments like the Roland DG Academy are informing the wide-format and sign-making industries
Like any smart industry in times of financial hardship, the wide-format and sign-making sectors are looking at education and training solutions to improve the skillsets of existing sign-makers and printers as well as to encourage innovation in the next generation. A look at some of the UK institutions supporting these educational schemes can tell us much about their respective goals and what you can expect should you decide to sign up.
Provider of off-site vocational courses as well as traditional academic qualifications, The Sheffield College offers a range of full- and part-time courses designed for those looking to enter the sign-making industry as well as practising professionals who want to improve their skillset and knowledge of the market.
On the sign-making front, the college offers one part-time course requiring no entry restrictions or prior knowledge to entrants. Units for this course, called Carrying out Sign Making Operations Level 1, include Personal Work Skills and Carrying Out Sign Making Skills which incorporate practical activities such as brush, roller and spray painting, grit blasting, sign design, sign-writing, stencilling, applying self-adhesive vinyl and T-shirt printing.
Another course called Signwork, a full-time programme of study which lasts one year, targets mature students with no industry experience looking for new employment opportunities. The Signwork course is designed to put pupils in a position to gain full technical level 3 certificates once employed. Meanwhile, Signwork and Environmental Graphics incorporates a broad base of industry knowledge into an ASET Level 1 certification which includes training in sign-writing, sign design, materials technology, 2D and 3D sign fabrications, CAD/CAM sign production, computer cut designs and more.
Given the curriculums of The Sheffield College's sign-making courses, there is certainly value to be garnered for beginners and professionals alike. However, because the college services more industries than sign-making and its overriding goal is to provide students with qualifications and transferable skills, the overall focus of these courses might not be suitable for professionals already immersed in the industry or individuals certain what particular patch of sign-making they wish to enter or to advance.
When it comes to wide-format training and education opportunities available within the industry sphere, the Roland DG Academy offers a number of courses, with Walsall College. Courses offered include intermediate digital print, basic application finishing, interior décor, introduction to Sign Lab, advanced Sign Lab, Adobe Photoshop for digital print, vehicle wrapping and insight into metallic and white inks.
The advantages offered by the Roland Academy are focus and facilities. Each course covers a mixture of theoretical, practical and technical points around a specific area of wide-format print and its applications. Roland's 'campus' offers a print room which houses the latest Roland printers and media, a laminate room for print finishing practice, a vehicle wrapping room, computer rooms with high-spec training PCs, and traditional classrooms. From this perspective, you'll be hard pressed to find a better-equipped facility in the wide-format industry that's dedicated entirely to training.
The Sign Training School, meanwhile, operates out of a facility in cooperation with a functioning sign company in Hertfordshire. Being on site is integral to The Sign Training School's immersive, hands-on approach. The school markets itself as both an entry-point for laymen looking to break into the signage industry – its five-day courses focus on basics and first steps in the business – as well as an educational resource for experienced sign-makers, with 'top-up courses' designed to enhance existing skills and knowledge in a particular area. "You can learn about how to start out in the sign industry, or you can choose to enhance some of the skills you already have, be they sales, marketing, design or installation," The Sign Training School states. It also offers a basic start-up package, which it says provides 'everything you need to start up your own sign business'.
Additionally, the institution offers online tutorials on a number of topics and a support package, which includes 24-hour access to training staff. If slightly more personal attention is what you're looking for in an educational offering, The Sign Training School may be a good place to start.
Of all the new institutes and educational schemes in the industry at the moment, the ones mentioned here only scratch the surface. As American essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, 'education is all a matter of building bridges', and it appears the worlds of sign-making and wide-format print are looking to build those bridges to the industry's future.
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