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FLEXO Magazine : June 2012
FIRST Operator Certification Program: 3 Years Later, The Numbers Speak to Success By Sharon Cox FTA TODAY The numbers don’t lie. Since its inception in 2009, FTA’s FIRST Operator Certification program is arguably the association’s most successful educational and training endeavor in its 54-year history. The program operates under the umbrella of FTA’s Technical Education Services Team (TEST) business unit, founded in 2007 through a $1 million grant provided by Ron and Katherine Harper. Twenty-nine companies now proudly showcase Press, Prepress or Implementation Specialist certification plaques in their office vestibules. Many display all three. Regardless of how many plaques adorn their walls, there is a common thread among them: they realize the skill of their employees is paramount to success. As their best asset, these compa- nies know that employees must be encouraged to grow, stay ahead of the curve, and be comfortable with change. The fact remains, without smart, dedicated and well-trained staff, even the best equipment will not live up to expectations. Echoing that mantra, Adam Snell, printing supervisor, Wal- ter G. Anderson (10 certified press operators) said, “We like to invest in our employees. They are the experts, and the way to ensure our customers receive the best quality is to make sure our employees are up-to-date.” All told, some 300 individuals lay claim to one of the three FIRST Operator designations (Press, Prepress and Implemen- tation Specialist). These professionals proudly don their FIRST Certification hats, which are presented as part of the wel- come package into this elite group. And one company, Best Label, Inc., Union City, CA, has undertaken the entire process to become the first company to acquire a FIRST Company Certified status. Moreover, approximately 370 active users – all in various stages of the program – are working toward obtaining their certifications. FOSTERING CUSTOMER RELATIONSHIPS According to Duane Woolbright, training specialist, FTA, it sometimes takes external factors to push businesses toward the training. “ We are finding more and more that the consum- er products companies (CPCs) themselves are encouraging their converters to take the training. They want to do business with those who can prove that they follow FIRST. This really hits home for many of the companies that are evaluating the program.” Customers must have faith in the process. Internal, Adding it Up • 192 certified Press Operators • 100 certified Implementation Specialists • 10 certified Prepress Operators • 29 companies displaying FIRST Certification plaques in their facilities • 1 FIRST Company Certification • 3 companies currently working on their FIRST Company Certifications • 370 active virtual campus users working to attain certification 28 FLEXO juNe 2012 www.flexography.org joey Teague, Plastic Packaging Inc. checks and rechecks FIRST guidelines.