Howie Blanks, BPIF Training Co-ordinator
I stumbled into the print industry as a seventeen year old, because my father was a printer by trade and I had no idea what career path I wanted to follow when I left school.
An apprenticeship worked for me, because I had not engaged at school for various reasons and going to university or college was never likely - besides I wanted to get a job and the opportunity to be able to support myself whilst building a career.
A four year apprenticeship in a local newspaper as a Compositor really gave me the opportunity to get an early 'leg up' in the printing industry. At the time the industry was going through turbulent times because of a changing political climate between the print unions and Tory government.
The loss of many jobs in the print industry in the early 80s due to new technology, had led to an early opportunity to become a team leader after my apprenticeship had ended. I had always had a really good work ethic and enjoyed having a good rapport with people, so the opportunity to become a team leader was a comfortable one - albeit under difficult circumstances at the time due to mass redundancies in the industry.
As I matured, having taken on the responsibility of a young family, the completion of my apprenticeship had given me the confidence to look at some further opportunities and I completed an NVQ Level II and III in Customer Service.
An NVQ Level V in Management gave my career a further boost and the opportunity to see the wider picture and the confidence to manage larger teams. I went on to have a long career in the Newspaper industry, becoming a Production Manager and finally a Newspaper Sales Manager going on to study towards an Open University degree.
Other members of my family did not follow the traditional university route either. My son started an electrical apprenticeship when he was 17, and is now working in the City managing electrical installations on large building projects and doing very well. Once again demonstrating what can be achieved via an apprenticeship.
My advice to apprentices is patience - don't run before you can walk. Have a good work ethic and bide your time, whilst looking for opportunities to learn new things from your mentors. Gain experience ready to follow your own path that will lead to bigger and better things - anything is possible.
The future cannot be achieved without you. The printing industry will continue to evolve and change with technology. One thing that won't change is that education will always make the path towards reaching your potential possible.