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Careers in Print: The Finishing Touch

Dan Pellett

Production Manager-Finishing Suttle-Straus in Waunakee, WI Two weeks before he graduated from High School, Dan Pellett’s was offered a job in a print shop by his girlfriend’s father. The company needed a jogger on their web press. A jogger needs strength and energy to handle loads of paper. Dan showed enough ambition that he was hired fulltime after one month to become an apprentice in the bindery department. The part-time opportunity has turned into a 32-year career in the Print Industry, with all of his experience in Bindery work.  In the past 8 years, he has managed the Finishing department at Suttle-Straus.  His career testifies that production work in the printing business are good jobs that can support a family and have room for advancement.

What education or training is required to be qualified for this position?

The good thing about a bindery position is it does not require any education, it is all on-the-job training. We hire apprentices for the bindery with a high school education or equivalent.

What are the physical demands of the work?

This job is physical, it requires standing for long periods of time and a significant amount of lifting.

Are there safety issues to consider for this type of career?  What are they?

All machines now are equipped with safety devices and guards that help prevent injuries. A good example is working with paper cutters, you must hold in two buttons for the blade to come down, ensuring your hands are away from the cutting area.

Do you work shifts? What is the typical shift requirement of an entry-level person?

At Suttle-Straus we staff three 8-hour shifts per day, five days per week. Usually, an entry-level person will spend time on first shift training, then move to 2nd or 3rd shift for a full-time role.

What do you enjoy about your workday?

I enjoy the variety of work that we do. We do not do the same thing over and over like a lot of printers. We do a lot of unique, high-quality projects involving intricate die cuts or interesting folding techniques.

It is rewarding when you hear how happy a customer is with the final product they receive. It is also interesting to see work you helped create out in everyday life.

What kind of basic interests or skills fit well for this position?

Basic math and mechanical skills are a good fit for this role. If you like to work on cars, motorcycles or anything mechanical, this is a good fit. Many of the machines have a computerized component now, so experience with computers is also a good skill to have.

What are the most demanding requirements of the position?

Being able to be on your feet 8 to 10 hours a day and lifting 30 to 40 pounds of paper on a regular basis. You won’t need to lift weights at the gym!

What is the income range from beginner to seasoned person in this type of position?

For those that want to research salary range by geography, the bureau of labor has data in regards to average pay by region, experience etc., which can be found here.

What changes do you foresee coming in the next 10 years that might affect this role or industry? 

I think technology changes will only improve our industry. When I started 30 years ago, computers were almost non-existent. Now, what used to take days to do takes only minutes, which means we can get a lot more work done with less effort. This helps our industry thrive and be more attractive to potential customers. It used to take a week to get a job ready to print. Because of technology, it can be done in a day.

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