Chris Pinborough, Precision Printing Production Director
Considering an apprenticeship in print and not sure what they are about? I'll break it down for you as honestly as I can.
Simple, I did not know what I wanted to do for a career, no different from the majority of teenagers (excuse the cliché). I had no idea and the thought of university did not appeal to me. I was in my final year at college doing a course I was not really interested in having underachieved in my GCSEs, a combination of not taking them to seriously and exams not suiting my learning style. A friend had a meeting with a careers advisor and could not be bothered to attend so I took his place as it was requirement prior to finishing college. Nothing offered appealed to me, I was happy enjoying my social life and in general life was fairly simple. Pressure from home was mounting, pressure to give my life some direction coming heavy from my parents. The career advisor had given me a sheet of paper with potential opportunities and on this list was a printing apprenticeship at E T Heron. E T Heron was one of the largest magazine printers in its time that employed 250+ staff.
Only because I went to the career advisor instead of my friend did I know about apprenticeships and from there I fell into print for two reasons. Firstly a friend who was a year older, he was in the third year of his apprenticeship at Heron's, explained what it was about and what was involved. That didn't get me though, the fact he was driving a brand new BMW Z3 (15 years ago this was unheard of for a 19 year old where I was from!) and dating a different girl each week did! Secondly, there were two apprenticeships up for grabs and my best mate and I had both applied (both for the first reason). Somehow, we got both places.
The working environment is difficult to explain unless you experience it. You have to understand that an apprenticeship is almost a rite of passage. From a school environment you are thrust into a working world where there are all different ages and backgrounds. However, they all have something in common, all have earned the respect of each other from undertaking an apprenticeship. Not to be fearful of, but appreciation of entering into a proud industry, one that brilliantly sets you up for life in many ways.
The apprenticeship - 3 years, work based with day release to college. NVQs; no exams, just project work and evidence building:
Rubbish money (however still more than anyone that goes to Uni) and general dog's body. The reality is, it will be the foundation for developing you as an individual, may sound funny now but you will appreciate it in a few years. Doing all the unsavoury jobs, not knowing whether you are coming or going, but within this first year you will learn the basics and you'll start to earn the respect from your mentors. Complete year one and you have made it through the hardest part.
Year two/NVQ 3
Completing the level two is a good grounding, level three develops you to go into greater detail giving you more experience and responsibility. Understanding the science and mechanics behind print. Money also improves and the general dog's body element starts to waiver.
Final year/NVQ 3
Putting what you have learned into practice and gaining experience. I was brought out of the apprenticeship a year early, I still had day release to college to complete the coursework and I still needed to complete the NVQ but I was put on shift as a press No2. I was treated as a printer and managed to complete the apprenticeship almost immediately.
For those that know me I am not flash in any sense, but the rewards from print were unparalleled in comparison to what was open to me. I had a nice car, I got on the housing ladder and whilst most were holidaying in the canaries I was off to the Caribbean with the girlfriend twice a year, not bad for 21. If you are career driven, apprenticeships are aimed at allowing the candidate to progress as quickly as they would like as long as they achieve the standard. These years flew by for me, I had learnt a trade (no one can take that from you), developed as an individual and worked in a great environment with equally great people. The sense of pride you get for completing your apprenticeship is unrivalled, it gives you confidence to see what you are capable of.
I worked in the pressroom for seven years, progressing from apprentice to running a 16-page web press through to a 72-page press, gaining experience and responsibility. I absolutely loved my time, working with some great characters and I treat it as privilege to have done so. Another cliché, but my grandad had said, "You need to be off the shop floor by the age of thirty or you'll be there forever". An opportunity to move from the pressroom presented itself in the form a performance supervisor, it felt the right time and luckily I got the position age 25. It involved me monitoring key jobs through production and communicating the performance, giving me the first taste of management.
This is where it changed for me, I felt I needed to support my progression the same way as my apprenticeship had supported me to become a printer. The BPIF could do this and offered the opportunity for me to do an NVQ Level 3 in Management which supported my development as performance supervisor to shift manager. From here the Level 5 degree supported me from Shift Manager to Manufacturing Manager and now Production Director. The BPIF supported my development and progression every step of the way, in a style that was academic but not based on exams; development through knowledge, experience and providing evidence. The fact is, I still get frustrated when I make mistakes or when I don't know something, but I have confidence in the experiences that I have gained and qualifications I have to support them. The reality is, print is an exciting and ever-evolving industry where you always have something to learn or experience. Reading this, you do not appreciate how many forms of print influence you daily. Print is everywhere.
If you are driven by career, I have a degree in Management and Leadership which I never thought I'd get and I'm currently working on a Master's degree which can be transferred into any industry. If you are driven by money, ignore those that suggest there is none in print - print supports my family and my life and I have at least thirty years of working left in me which I intend to spend every one of them in the print industry.
For me, every person who takes on an apprenticeship in print has the opportunity to experience what I have, which is fantastic.