General awareness is low

Get involved in National Apprenticeship Week, say print trainers

Print apprenticeship completion rates are above the national average
Print apprenticeship completion rates are above the national average

National Apprenticeship Week has kicked off, with a number of print organisations celebrating the crucial role of apprenticeships in print’s future – and encouraging printers to get involved in their community.

The BPIF has launched a weeklong social media campaign called ‘Apprenticeship in Action’. 

The association has challenged apprentices to upload a photo or video that tells the story of their apprenticeship, offering a £100 voucher and workshop ticket to the most inspiring story.

Karly Lattimore, the BPIF’s head of training, told Printweek that printers have a strong track record of retaining apprentices – in 2023, the industry was 13 percentage points ahead of the national average for completion – so printers would do well to bring them on board.

She said: “If you look at [the BPIF’s] trainers, they all started as apprentices. 

“I think [print] employers really value that aspect of learning on the job – and when they find an apprentice that is committed, motivated, and hungry to learn, they want to look after that apprentice, keep them, and keep them in the industry.”

Despite print’s high success rate, Lattimore said, too few organisations offer apprenticeships. The BPIF, which accounts for around 80% of the print apprenticeship market, usually has only around 40 apprenticeship vacancies – far below what it could be, she said.

“If you consider the size of our industry, it’s not a lot,” she said.

“There needs to be more awareness, and the message needs to go out to employers that apprenticeships are a really good route.”

Part of the problem is that many young people do not even realise that print is a viable career path, according to Berkshire Labels' Charlie Cox, Trainee of the Year at the Printweek Awards 2023.

He said: “People just don’t ask about printing. It’s more common to find out [about the industry] through other people.

“If [print companies] went to schools and explained what we did, what they offer – people just don’t know [what printing is]. When I first joined, I thought printing was similar to an office inkjet, like the ones you get on desks – obviously, when you turn up, it’s a whole lot different, and there are machines worth millions of quid.”

Matteusz Sapko, apprentice digital operator at Shaftesbury printer Blackmore, agreed.

He told Printweek that he too had expected a small, high-street type operation when he first rang up Blackmore.

“It’s much better than I expected, I had no idea these machines would be so big,” he said.

For Jonathan Bray, managing director of training firm Learn2Print, it’s important that printers get out into their local communities.

He told Printweek: “It’s not a subject that’s talked about in schools, it’s not built into the curriculum.

“So we link up with a lot more schools now to come in and talk to pupils about the printing and graphics industry.”

Giving young people a good idea of what the industry is like is vital to getting a good success rate, Bray said: the more educated they are, the more likely that both parties are going to look to the same goal.

At Learn2Print, candidates typically come on board for eight weeks with the firm, to make sure that they’re keen and committed.

According to Bray, this kind of work experience would help many printers build links with their local communities.

He said: “I think the industry could do more work experience, to be honest.

“Employers, despite all the adverts they’re putting out, are struggling to incite people to come in, because they don’t know about it. It’s not talked about, so printers have to be more proactive. 

“We need to pick the phone up, and call the schools – they’re quite happy to send young people out.”

Learn2Print revealed its Apprentice of the Year in early February, Geneve Gurr from MacroArt, who has also been shortlisted for Trainee of the Year at 2024's Printweek Awards in March.

The training firm will reveal its Employer of the Year on 15 February.