Creating opportunities for township printing

The vast majority of people employed in the printing industry work for companies which employ less than 50 people. However, printing is not really a grass-roots industry, primarily due to the fact that there are special skills which are required and the additional element of the cost-of-entry – which can be high depending on the technology and printing method used. There is a vast portion of South African society which has not been exposed to the services of the printing industry and, with the right assistance, printing can even offer ground-level people the ability to earn an income. Printing SA is offering just such assistance. A pilot project has been formulated to offer a two-tiered approach to rural/township people to make a living from screenprinting. Screenprinting has the lowest cost-of-entry and it is therefore, the most accessible form of printing. The first tier of the course is to identify and train five facilitators in the basics of screenprinting. This two-week course will give the facilitators an understanding of how screenprinting works. This will be followed with a three-day entrepreneurial training course designed to teach the facilitators basic business practises and principles. Thereafter they will have one-on-one facilitator training. The Screenprinting course will address: history and basic principles of screenprinting; applications; art and design parameters; creating and preparing screens for stencils; setting up for production; post-production clean-up and equipment care and; introducing colour. The facilitator training will enable them to train and assist the second tier of people. Due to the fact that they will be required to have more in-depth training, the candidates for this level of training will need to be more educated and have a good command of the English language. Said Tania Rhode, national training manager at Printing SA, ‘The aim is to educate ladies as this type of work is more suited to homebound ladies. It also gives them the opportunity to work at home which means that they will still be present to care for children, which has additional benefits for the community as a whole. The programme will uplift the lives of all of the participants.’ The second tier of the training will be provided to 15 ladies and will cover the same elements as the main course and the accompanying entrepreneurship course, but will not include the facilitator training. Once the second tier of training has been provided, all the participants will receive a starter kit comprising: a wooden frame with pre-stretched mesh, a small squeegee, a small coating trough, two small hinges and screws, a roll of masking tape, a bottle of pre-sensitised emulsion, a few sheets of A4 clear base, an opaque pen, three art brushes and small jars of textile ink in blue, red, black and yellow. The starter kit does not include any lamps for exposure as the ladies will be taught how to expose their screens using sunlight. One might think this would take an extremely long time, however, the strength of the African sun combined with the pre-sensitised emulsion means that, on a sunny day, exposure can take as little as two minutes while, on an overcast day, it will take less than 10 minutes. The starter kits will be supplied and partially subsidised by Chemosol. In order to be able to offer this training course and to put the initiative in place, Printing SA applied to the FPM SETA for funding which was duly granted. Once the training courses have been completed, the group of 15 ladies will be able to print place mats and other items of a similar size using the frames which they have received. They will be able to sell the products which they make. As they develop their micro businesses they will need to purchase more materials and consumables from the five facilitators. The facilitators will also receive training in the cleaning and rescreening of the meshes in order to allow new prints to be done. They will offer this as a service to the 15 ladies. In this way, all links in the chain are able to make a living from screenprinting. Rhode added, ‘Once we have the first group of ladies trained and actively printing materials for sale, we will be able to determine whether it is viable to offer this in other areas. We do not want to place the printing ladies in the same areas as we want them all to be able to make a living from their efforts.’ Through programmes like this, Printing SA is actively working to try to reduce the levels of unemployment in the country while bringing viable sources of income to the very communities which need them most.