Digital technology is revolutionising the printing industry in the West Midlands, a leading academic has said.
Mukesh Kumar, director of creative and performing arts at Matthew Boulton College (MBC), said more than 500 students are on courses which give them an insight into the sector.
He acknowledges the huge influence the newest printing methods are having.
Mr Kumar, who also heads the printing department, said: "These changes have had a huge influence on traditional print processes.
"The digital revolution has meant that we can now effectively turn around a print job in half the time, enabling the print industry to meet the customer deadline more effectively."
"For our part MBC has a rich tradition and history in print and this has continued as digital technology and design has advanced."
The college boasts a #40 million state-of-the-art facility in Birmingham's city centre which embraces developments within the industry.
Mr Kumar is confident that the future of the trade is in good hands.
Government Office for the West Midlands figures showed 11,973 people worked in the printing sector in 2002. However, the latest figures - for 2004 - showed 10,960 people working in the industry.
Digital advances have star-tlingly changed an industry which has seen stencils or plates forming an image as the basis of the vast proportion of printing processes.
Today, firms can choose not to use the analogue methods.
Instead they have the option of using digital technology to provide a direct link from the layout and to control the process more effectively.
Printing in its various forms has always been a significant industry in the West Midlands, but like many aspects in the region's economy, there have been changes in employment levels.
MBC, which is now based on the site of the former Birmingham School of Print, aims to give students the best possible chance of securing work in the industry.
Mr Kumar continues: "At the college we deliver print related curriculum to over 500 students giving an in-depth knowledge of traditional litho printing methods as well as leading the way in digital imaging."
"Our department special-ises in vocational qualifications enabling students to gain a focused but wide range of industrial experience. To facilitate this, we timetable our courses to fit around the needs of the employers as well as the individual. We offer a range of courses including work-based City & Guilds, NVQs in print and national diploma courses in graphics, multimedia and photography where the latest Apple Mac technology crosses with traditional print making techniques to give our students the best of both worlds."
"Students learn how to use the print facilities in house and, as their course progresses they will print their own work."
Students at MBC are producing its student magazine.
Mr Kumar said: "Our experience shows that the college has a major role to play in the training and collaborating of the printing and design sector in West Midlands."
"Our aim is to ensure that the students are taught all aspects of the printing process."