Alumni in Print—Where Are They Now?

The Print and Graphics Scholarship Foundation is publishing profiles featuring some of their more than 6000 former scholarship recipients. This series gives you an up close and personal insight into the thoughts and motivations of the former students who are a part of our industry today. As our current employees reach retirement and leave, replacing them becomes an increasingly important factor for many companies. Here is one story…

A Profile

John Pettus graduated from Clemson University with a Bachelor of Science in Graphic Communications in 2006.

How did you first get interested in the graphic arts, or decide to focus on graphic communications in school?

I was exposed to printing and packaging while in high school, and realizing the extensiveness of the industry, I decided it would be a great career path to pursue. My exposure to fine arts and machinery also gave me a comfort when learning prepress and operating printing presses. The more I learned, the more interested I became.

Did you take any courses in high school that were related to graphic communications, or that prepared you for your planned career?

At the time my school, Fort Mill High School in South Carolina, did not offer a print related curriculum. I am pleased to say that they do now.

How do you think going through your education process prepared you for the workforce?

The Graphic Communications program at Clemson University is one of the best in the United States. The preparation there for entering the professional world of graphic arts and packaging is rarely matched. I learned principles and terminology that certainly afforded me a competitive advantage. Also, the two internships in Clemson’s curriculum gave me a taste of what follows graduation. Still, the best workforce education you can receive is entering the industry.

In the Workforce Today

What company are you working for now and what types of products and services do they provide to their customers?

I am an employee owner for Wikoff Color Corporation, located in Fort Mill, South Carolina. Wikoff Color is an ink and coating manufacturer that supplies graphic arts printers and packaging converters the products that help make their products colorful and functional. Wikoff Color is focused on our customers’ success, and we give them an unrivaled level of service and a great quality product.

What job did you first have with the company when you started, what position do you have now, and/or what else have you done since joining the company?

I first started with Wikoff Color in an in-plant position. What we mean by in-plant is that I worked in one of our customer’s manufacturing sites helping their day-to-day operations as it relates to ink and coating. It was a challenging role, but an unbelievable training ground to learn our products, and how they are used in a production operation. I now have the pleasure to serve as Wikoff’s Manager of Corporate Sales and Marketing.

What do you think employers are looking for in today’s workforce and the current industry environment?

Employers are looking for talent; that is, students that are capable and can problem solve. Companies hope to find students that realize work is accomplished by the efforts of many, playing their own integral role in the production of products. There is a lot of discussion about the millennial workforce and how to manage them. If a student can come out of college, work hard and be consistent and be patient with their career growth, they can truly stand out amongst their peers.

Is there anything that you have found to be particularly different from what you initially expected, now that you’ve progressed through your work career for a period of time?

My immediate reaction is no, but I have been surprised to learn how much companies truly care about their workforce. There is a lot of misplaced emotion against companies and the profits they generate. But working for a profitable, stable company offers its workforce opportunities to prosper and provide for their families.

Have you changed your plans or ideas about what area or type of job you might like to have since you first considered the graphic communications field and began studying for a career in it?

Actually, I enjoy learning and serving in a variety of positions. The more exposure I have, the better positioned I will be to lead in the future.

What do you see yourself doing a few years from now?

What I’m told…no seriously, I’d like to continue to grow and be a leader in our organization on a greater scale. I enjoy the decision making process: where to invest capital, what programs to implement to make our workforce more prosperous, and the hundreds—probably thousands—of other decisions that it takes to build a successful company.

Was being a recipient of a PGSF scholarship important, or did it have an impact on your future or ability to succeed in the industry?

Being a PGSF scholarship recipient was absolutely important. The relief gained from that financial freedom allows you to make choices that are based on your future, not just an immediate financial need.

Anything else that you would like to add?

I am still very grateful to PGSF and Bernie Eckert for affording me a scholarship that helped me be a better college student.