Exploring Eva’s Print Shop, a commercial printer and social enterprise that prepares youth experiencing homelessness for employment in the print and graphics sector
By Alyssa Dalton
Nestled in downtown Toronto, Ont., Eva’s Phoenix – one of three locations operated by Eva’s Initiatives For Homeless Youth – provides transitional housing for 50 youth, aged 16 to 24 years, for up to a full year. It also houses Eva’s Print Shop, a commercial printer and social enterprise that provides print and graphic arts training and life skills to youth experiencing and at risk of homelessness.
Over a 7-week paid employment training course, the students – often referred to as cohorts – learn digital printing, bindery, large-format printing, prepress and design fundamentals using Adobe Creative Suite, designing items such as business cards, logos, booklets and greeting cards, all to be produced on-site in the fully digital print shop. With a Xerox Versant, a Xerox E95 black-and-white machine and two Konica AccurioPresses, the nearly 7,000-square-foot shop doubles as a training lab for the cohorts and a commercial printer for local clients, with all profit redirected into supporting Eva’s Initiatives. The print shop also features a full bindery, complete with a creaser, a booklet machine, a cutter and a Morgana folder, as well as a growing wide-format department with Mutoh and Summa machines.
Now in its 18th year, the Graphic Communication and Print Training program runs four times a year, with spots for up to eight trainees – aged 16 to 29 years – in each session. Along with the required 27.5 hours of print skills training per week, the cohorts also receive job readiness training such as workplace expectations and effective communication skills, and are paired with a job coach for on-going support as they take up work placements.
“Our print shop program is very unique. Since my time working in the sector, I’ve never seen a similar program. It really resonates with our youth,” Jonathan John, Manager of Training & Employment, Eva’s Initiatives for Homeless Youth, says. “For a lot of our youth, their lives have changed because of the workforce they’ve gotten into. Often times they end up pursuing higher education in the field or set up their own business. The impact it has on their lives is tremendous.”
Beginning this February, the print shop will pilot a new program that reimburses employers that take on the job-ready graduates for up to 13 weeks of paid subsidized work placement, equalling just under $6,000 in wage subsidies.
“Print is one of the few industries where you can start with a ‘foot in the door opportunity’ and it can turn into anything,” Jonathan Gault, Manager of Eva’s Print Shop, says. “There are countless examples of individuals who started as operators and went on to become managers or run their own shop. While not everyone will have that same career arc, [these placements] can lead a young person to step into print.”
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Symcor of Mississauga, Ont., has been providing annual bursaries to Eva’s Print Shop since 2015, and in 2018 renewed its commitment for another three years. “Some of our most significant social and environmental accomplishments have come from our employee-led initiatives, engaging their fellow colleagues and family in support of their communities and beyond,” Jeannie White, Senior Manager, People & Culture, Human Resources, Symcor, says.
“The skills [I’ve learnt] have allowed me to add some more sparkle to my resume, create amazing designs for my own brands and others, and have opened new doors to opportunities I probably wouldn’t have been able to access [otherwise],” says 26-year-old Brooke Write. Since graduating last August, Write has been designing and selling notebooks, cards and other items, and plans to pursue a career in graphic design. “I’ve always loved design and after [taking the course], my passion just tripled.”
John explains some of the youth who enter into the program initially have no interest in the industry, but come to test out the options as part of their case plan. “It always leaves me with a good feeling when someone comes through the door and is apprehensive at the start, but ends up finishing the full program and working in the print sector. It ends up sparking an interest in someone who would have never thought of pursuing a career in this field.”
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“Before starting the program, I didn’t have the slightest idea as to how big, and how necessary, the print industry is. After learning so much…it was like looking at the world in a whole new way,” Joey Huff, a March 2018 program graduate, says. “My favourite part was the process. That transition from a blank-white screen to holding a product in your hands that you’re proud of, that you created, is one of the best feelings I’ve ever felt.”
Eva’s Print Shop estimates more than 70 percent of its program cohorts gain full-time work after graduation.
“It’s always been a mandate of the print shop to develop a community around the industry,” Gault says. “There’s been a considerable amount of legacy, dedication and hard work that has gone into developing the print shop and the training program. It’s an essential part of Eva’s Phoenix.”
Ways to get involved with Eva’s Print Shop
• Sign up to be a print shop employer. When a position opens in your organization, notify Eva’s Phoenix and you’ll be connected with candidates or recent graduates to consider.
• Take on cohorts for a placement, giving them hands-on training experience.
• Invite the group for open houses, tours and site visits at your facility.
This article was originally published in the January/February 2019 issue of PrintAction, now available online.