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Addressing the skills gap

Eva’s Print Shop offers hands-on training for at-risk youth

August 12, 2021  By Ian Howard

Eva’s Print Shop in Toronto trains homeless and at-risk youth for jobs in the printing industry. Photo courtesy Eva’s Print Shop

Many printing companies are struggling to attract skilled labour. Further, as explained by Bob Dale and Heather Black in the Insider column, skilled technical operators are nearing retirement and fewer people are being trained to replace them. One of the few places training youngsters to enter the printing sector is Eva’s Print Shop.

Located in downtown Toronto, Eva’s Print Shop is a social enterprise and a digital printing company. The print shop also trains homeless and at-risk youth for jobs in the printing industry. It is a part of Eva’s Phoenix, a transitional housing and employment training facility. Both of these initiatives come under the umbrella of Eva’s Initiatives for Homeless Youth—formally known as North York Emergency Home for Youth—that was founded in 1989.

“At-risk youth and those experiencing homelessness face additional barriers in accessing education and employment opportunities,” explained Jonathan Gault, manager of Eva’s Print Shop. “Eva’s provides housing and wraparound supports to help our young people break down these barriers and build brighter sustainable futures,” added Gault, who has been the manager for five years. He also has 10 years of prior work experience in the industry.

Training program

Eva’s Print Shop offers the Graphic Communications and Print Training Program, a 17-week course that’s divided into three sections to help students develop a sense for the craft and be ready for employment. Each section is the foundation for the next one, and they are divided into:

  • work and employment skills training for five weeks;
  • six-week training in Adobe Creative Suite; and
  • six weeks of real work experience including supervised training in bindery, digital printing, prepress and customer service.

The program serves to give at-risk youth an opportunity to learn and gain work experience while earning a stipend. “All 17 weeks is paid, and participants receive an hourly wage,” said Gault. Eva’s also offers an Adobe training program with stipend for youth who do not want to attend the entire 17-week class.

Job opportunities

Additionally, the print shop helps students get jobs with some of their employment partners, such as Marquis Books Toronto, Symcor, Inc., and Staples Canada.

“This program helped me a lot. At my first interview, I was able to express myself and talk about my experience, which led me to obtain a position at a well-established printing company,” said a past participant of the program.

Industry needs

Since the program’s goal is to empower at-risk youth to succeed in the labour market, it offers training in the skills the printing industry needs. The students are trained to operate a digital printing press, wide-format mounting, laminating and trimming of a variety of paper products on a guillotine machine.

“It provides a good combination of soft skills, technical skills and real-world work experience,” said Gault. “The extra time spent problem solving, working with clients and completing hands-on work helps build our participants’ confidence.”

The print shop

Eva’s, like many companies, has been affected by the pandemic. However, the team managed to continue some aspects of the training.

“The work experience module continued partially online, as well as in-person with small numbers in order to maintain social distancing and keep our staff and participants safe,” said Gault.

Further, by implementing new measures, the print shop has been able to weather the economic downturn.

“New services, such as fully featured neighbourhood mail, personalized mailing, kitting, floor safe decals and stickers were able to make up some of the revenue we lost since the start of the pandemic,” explained Gault. “The continued support of our long-time clients has been essential to our survival as a business.”

As the world begins to recover from the pandemic, Gault plans to strengthen and expand Eva’s Print Shop’s ties with industry leaders and education partners in order to help provide employment options for at-risk youth.

This article originally appeared in the July/August 2021 issue of PrintAction.

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