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FLEXO Magazine : September 2014
Phoenix Challenge Pays Dividends for J.R. Cole Industries Cecilia Vigliaturo Fifteen years ago, J.R . Cole Industries decided to invest time and money in the Phoenix Challenge. That annual investment has paid off in a lasting way—with highly trained employees. Following the lead of Bob Cole, founder and president, the indepen- dent full service packaging company committed to developing flexo education in high schools and colleges nationwide. Cole decided that he and his company would support the Phoenix Challenge. “Students who participate definitely have an advantage,” said Pam Robinson, director of human resources for the 35 year old company. “They’re extremely well prepared to meet the expectations of any industry employer. And our company has definitely benefited from our support and involvement.” Indeed. Three of the J.R . Cole’s 212 employees are veterans of the Phoenix Challenge. TASTE OF REAL LIFE Jason Reid, graphic artist with J.R . Cole, fell in love with all aspects of printing after he took three years of graphic arts classes in high school. “In my senior year, I participated in the Phoenix Challenge,” said Reid. “It was a huge learning experience.” He went on to earn an associate degree in graphic arts and imaging technology from Central Piedmont Community College, participating in three Phoenix Challenge College competitions. “The challenges took a lot of hard work, but were worth it,” he said. “I’m not sure I would have been able to find a job so quickly if it wasn’t for the con- nections I made through the Phoenix Challenge.” After three children, four grandchildren and 20 years as a professional picture framer, Margaret Threatt returned to school to study interior design. Four years after snagging her dream job as an interior designer for a global architecture firm, the recession hit and she was laid off. Friends suggested she pursue graphic arts. Threatt entered the program at Central Piedmont Community Col- lege and was the school’s team leader for the 2013 Phoenix Challenge. That year’s problem required each team, over the course of the school year, to research, develop, design and produce up to three items using narrow web flexographic printing for labels and packaging for concession food items. “We learned the step by step processes required to produce a packaged product,” said Threatt. “And we got the chance to network and meet with potential employers.” She started as a planner in the label division of J.R . Cole and is now working as a customer service representative. Chris Beasley had to overcome using equipment as old as he was when he participated in the Phoenix Challenge in 2011 (both were born in 1989). Representing Appalachian State University, Beasley and his team were tasked with creating three pieces of printed materi- al and packaging for the annual Phoenix Challenge Golf Tournament. After starting as an intern at J.R . Cole, Beasley moved up to produc- tion supervisor and now is assisting the vice president of manufac- turing as special projects coordinator. He’s also pursuing a master’s degree in business administration f rom the University of North Carolina-Charlotte. “The Phoenix Challenge made me ready for the flexographic indus- try,” he said. “It really accelerated my learning process.” “Seeing the process come full circle as our students from years ago, who are now working in the industry, come back as volunteers to as- sist younger students—well, that’s the best part of Phoenix Challenge,” said Robinson. n About the Author: Cecilia Vigliaturo is a freelance writer. She is currently doing promotion work for J.R. Cole Industries and at the com- pany’s request, the Art Lithocraft Company. ABOUT THE PHOENIX CHALLENGE Founded in 1998, more than $54,000 in scholarships have been awarded through the Phoenix Challenge to encourage students to pursue a career in flexography. With a mission of promoting the growth of the flexographic printing process in the educational system throughout North America, the challenge is sponsored by an all volunteer, not for profit foundation. THEPHOENI X CHALLENGETHEPHOENI X CHALLENGE L-R: Jason Reid, Margaret Threatt and Chris Beasley—former Phoenix Challenge competitors on both the high school and college level—now employed at J.R . Cole Industries, pictured with CEO J.R. “Bob” Cole. 76 FLEXO | SEPTEMBER 2014 FTA TODAY